In this weekend’s readings, we will hear about the Holy Spirit being poured out on Gentiles for the first time (Acts 10:44-48), and about loving God and keeping His Commandments (1 John 5:1-6 and John 15:9-17). These ideas are central to the Gospel and the Body of Christ.
Most of us over the age of 40 are taking prescription medication for something or other. And most of those drugs have some side effects. I take statins for high cholesterol. I’m allergic to some statins—they give me headaches. But I can take Crestor and have no real side effects.
My 82-year-old mother has had a pacemaker since 2008. She was prescribed a blood thinner called Coumadin. Coumadin sometimes has pretty severe side effects—skin discoloration, sudden and severe leg or foot pain, sudden headache, dizziness, or weakness. Getting the dosage right is also a tricky thing. Indeed, my mother got so tired of the trickiness, that she told the doctor she wasn’t going to take the drug any more. The doctor advised against it, but Mom’s still going strong, and she feels better than when she was taking the Coumadin.
In the Bible, we are introduced to a truly miraculous medicine; it is called the Gospel. The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ is the only antidote to sin and death. It is the medicine of immortality. There are a myriad of other prescriptions which claim to cure the ailments of this life— sex, drugs, and rock and roll come readily to mind—but the Gospel is the only immutable cure for the deadly diagnosis of our sin addiction.
Like most medications, the Gospel also has its side effects. It may affect the way we think, the way we spend our money, and the way we spend our time. Certain kinds of jokes may no longer seem funny. Movies we saw years ago and enjoyed, may no longer be enjoyable. Even some sporting events or athletes may no longer appeal to us as they once did.
Over time we may find we are doing a lot of things we never liked to do before. Perhaps even more surprising, we may find we are not doing a lot of the things we did like to do before.
The Gospel transforms us into different people. Family members and old friends may marvel at the changes they see in us. Some may even find these changes offensive. These are just a glimpse of the side affects of the Gospel.
Years of Gospel living will reveal it is impossible to ever get enough of it. We will continue to leave behind other pleasures—some of which we have enjoyed all our lives—to seek out ways to ingest more of this medicine of immortality. The Gospel consumes us. It is habit-forming in the best possible way.
Like all medications, the Gospel comes with very clear instructions on the label. Cutting the prescription in half, or maybe just popping a few from time to time, or as needed, is ill-advised. Side effects from irregular use can be worse than the ‘side effects’ of taking the prescription strength; we risk masking the symptoms and therefore prolonging the illness.
Jesus says, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love”
St. John writes, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”
The word “commandment” was used four times in those two verses. That’s a word that is sometimes hard to swallow these days, isn’t it? Yes, the Gospel is hard to swallow. And the side effects may be a cross to bear. But where else would we go? (see John 6:66-69)
Dietrich Bonhoffer writes, “The command of Jesus is hard, unutterably hard, for those who try to resist it. But for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy and the burden is light.” (See Matthew 11:28-30)
This article was written by parishioner Ben Conarroe.