A group of men raising their hands together in the air

Just Hold on and Climb!

I believe it is part of the ‘fallen’ human condition. Generally speaking, we do not like to take blame for our shortcomings, let alone our mistakes. Take any young child caught eating something forbidden. With total confidence in the ‘blame,’ a typical child with either blame the dog, claim that what was eaten was not what was eaten, or go so far as the deny eating anything! They do all this with powdered sugar covering their faces. The same holds true in our spiritual shortcomings and mistakes.

When it comes to our spiritual life, we blame God and the devil, and sometimes we blame our friends and neighbors. As far back as Adam and Eve we humans have been playing the blame game. We just don’t like taking blame.

And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Genesis 3.11-13

I have had the blessing to hear confessions for nearly fifteen years. One common thread is for others to go through contortions just to blame someone else for sin. The same isn’t true for the good things in our lives. We never give credit to others for the good stuff, only the bad stuff. So, why do we constantly think God is out to get us?

Brethren, the scripture says, “No one who believes in God will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For, “every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ. But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” Again I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.

Romans 10:11-21;11:1-2

As Saint Paul teaches us in today’s passage from Romans, God is on our side. He has sent us prophets, evangelists, teachers, martyrs, spiritual fathers, holy elders, and simple faithful yiayias. We have heard the Gospel for sure, but we still fight against it. “God has not rejected his people.” I think it has to do with the blame game.

Deep down we know our weakness. We know it would be much easier if God just made things happen. If God wants something like love, why doesn’t He just ‘force us’ to love. Why did He have to give us free will if He knew we were going to screw it up? I hear this groanings all the time. They are groanings of pain. We suffer knowing we ‘just can’t seem to get it right’ when it comes to how God wants us to live. So, we blame God for giving us free will.

The worst part of the blame game is, we can never win. The more we blame, the more we fall. The more we fall, the more we blame, and we fall deeper and deeper. The only way out is to finally realize God is on our side. He has never rejected us. He will forgive us, no matter how many times we fall. We just need to get back up and take responsibility for our shortcomings.

The Church has offered us a way out of the hole. Through prayer and fasting we learn to take blame for our shortcomings and give credit to others for the good stuff. We learn to discipline our souls while controlling our mouths.

With the Nativity Fast upon us (it started yesterday) we have the perfect opportunity to start climbing out of the hole. We don’t have to fall any deeper. God is reaching out His hand. We only need to take hold of His hand and climb. As with any climb, it won’t always be easy, but His hand never goes away.

If we let go of His hand, we will begin to fall deeper again. It won’t do any good blaming God is we were ones who let go. He has sent all sorts of help over the centuries. There is no reason to believe He will stop helping us now. Just hold on and climb!

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