Becoming Human is Adoring God
I. What does it mean to become Christian?
What does it mean to be enrolled as a Catechumen? What does it mean to be on this journey called Holy Church? When asked these questions in the past, I often thought of the practical things. The lessons, education, and formalities are all important. However, they’re just the surface. What does it mean to become Christian? It means falling in love.
I don’t mean anything sentimental. I’m not talking about emotional love or intellectual love. Becoming Christian is a process of becoming human, a journey we are all on. It means becoming fully awake, fully alive, fully one with God.
How then does one become Christian?
We learn by adoring Him.
II. Jesus Christ was on the road when he met ten lepers.
Ashamed of their ugliness and too diseased to associate with men, they kept their distance and cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Christ looked at them with compassion and spoke saying, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” So the lepers obeyed him and every one of them was cured of his disease. Then one returns to Jesus. “When he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.” Christ looked at the man and wondered about the others, perhaps with a little irony in his voice, he asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God?” Then Christ blessed the man saying, “Your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:11-19).
The lepers were cured. They’d come to Christ with a hideous disease. They prayed for His help. He saved them. It was a miracle. So shouldn’t the story have ended just there?
That it how we like to handle God, isn’t it? We come to Him when we have a need. We ask for help in order that we can get on with our own life, to be comfortable and self-satisfied. But if that is all there is then it’s all pointless. So the lepers were healed, but then what? What kind of existence did they go back to? They continued to live in a world of poverty, crime, war and injustice. How long was it before they became sick again, grew old, and eventually died. So Jesus can heal the sick, but if that’s all he can do then it still comes out the same. You might as well sum it up in the words of Shakespeare, “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
But that’s not how the story ended. One leper saw through it all. He wasn’t satisfied with being merely cured. He wanted a relationship with God.
III. He turned back, praised God, and fell down at the feet of Jesus.
The Psalms urge: “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in holy array (29:2). Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him (33:8). Isaiah describes the heavenly host as praising God, saying eternally, “Holy, Holy, Holy” (6:3). The Scriptures commend us to worship unceasingly will all our heart, soul and strength. So it is no shock that Jesus Christ commends this one man for returning and falling on his face.
Why is it so important to adore God?
IV. Adoration is life.
In the Benedictine prayer rule, the morning service called Lauds always includes Psalms 148-150. “O Praise the Lord of heaven: praise in the height. Praise him, all ye angels of his: praise him all his host. Praise him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars and light...” The psalms go on to tell the heavens, waters, fire, hail, cattle, fowls, the young men and maidens, and old men and children to praise God. It’s a long prayer and can feel monotonous at times. Why bother starting our mornings by telling the wind and cattle to praise God?
The point here, I think, is to knock a little truth in our heads. Everything in the universe adores God. We are the only ones out of sync. We’re the only part of this world that doesn’t get it. Everything else is in harmony. We’re bogged down in our self-focus and self-worship. We don’t really begin to live until we lift up our hearts and start adoring God.
V. How then can we become adoring people?
We begin with all the little things. The man in our gospel didn’t do anything extreme. He simply saw the blessings in his life and went to worship.
How has God helped you? What pleasures has He given you in your life? Do you take time to appreciate his goodness everywhere? Whether our eyes are open to it or not, God’s brilliance fills our lives infinitely more than we will ever know. Can we see His finger in it all?
In a letter, C. S. Lewis once described the difference between mere gratitude and adoration. Gratitude, he suggested, is saying “How good of God to have given me all this.” The emphasis is on your self. Adoration, on the other hand, is looking at the beauty of the painting and then longing to look at the beauty of the painter. It follows the sunray all the way up to the sun. We can begin by being thankful and must end by marveling, “how much more beautiful must the God be who made all this beauty. I’d give the whole world to simply gaze at him.’
VI. We learn to adore by prayer.
When we rush through our prayers we miss the whole point. That’s how religion becomes stale. It becomes about form rather than relationship. Rather, when we pray we have to take time to be still and cherish the time with God. As I’ve mentioned before, our Benedictine monks have created a method for doing this. They pray their psalms deliberately and slowly, and in between each verse take a long, held out breath, forcing themselves to put their mind into their heart. Breathing becomes a means for adoration. You could probably sum up the whole purpose of our life with this goal: learning to pray. When we can adore, then and only then are we truly alive.
Here’s how St. John Climacus tells us to pray:
“Rise from the love of the world and love of pleasure. Put care aside, strip your mind, refuse your body. Prayer, after all, is a turning away from the world, visible and invisible…What have I longed for on earth besides You? Nothing except simply to cling always to You in undistracted prayer. Wealth pleases some, glory others, possessions others, but what I want is to cling to God and to put the hopes of my dispassion in Him.”
VI. So what does it mean to become Christian?
We have to fall in love with God. We have to learn to adore.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.