“Just do it” is a famous ad slogan for the Nike company referring to the development of physical disciple in sports and fitness. Nike is an interesting company at many levels however, whatever one might think of their product or practices, their very name is reminiscent of our ancient and traditional Christian inscription IC XC, NI KA, which is the Greek letters that form an abbreviation for Jesus Christ Conquers. Nike just leave out the Jesus part and in so doing one might get the impression that if one has physical discipline, one had the potential to become a conqueror—a winner. Philosophers from time immemorial have extolled the virtues of self-discipline and self-control so that might be part of the answer but it is not the complete one. Looking at today’s gospel reading we are given a different take on the need to “just do it”. We read:
Gospel – Luke 8:16-21
“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a vessel, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, that those who enter may see the light. 17 For nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light. 18 Take heed then how you hear; for to him who has will more be given, and from him who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” 19 Then his mother and his brethren came to him, but they could not reach him for the crowd. 20 And he was told, “Your mother and your brethren are standing outside, desiring to see you.” 21 But he said to them, “My mother and my brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it.”https://mailchi.mp/2bd812589c87/scripture-reading-and-reflection-for-december-9?e=c9e19fc65f
What does this mean? You may be wondering…What is this word of God that we are to hear and do? Aren’t we part of God’s family just by virtue of being baptized? Who knew there were things we had to do, to maintain this relationship?
To answer these questions, it is probably most fruitful to look to the Mother of God, Mary, the Theotokos whose conception we celebrate today. She is first and foremost the one whose willingness to do God’s will, to follow the word of God, was responsible for bringing us the saviour, whose arrival we await during this nativity fast. Jesus, whose arrival will be a perfect 9 months from the date that marks Mary’s ‘yes’ to doing God’s will, is brought forth into the world by all those who will echo this ‘yes’, those who choose to “just do it”.
But what about my yes? It seems very weak. Often it seems more like a “yes, but….” Often, I do not even take the time to come to Divine Liturgy, let alone pray, study, and reflect on the word of God. Did Mary ever feel this way?
Well, probably not, as what we know of her life, she did take the time and made the effort to study and know God’s word, and by all accounts she had holy parents who took the time to teach her as a child. As an adult however, how do I get to that place, particularly if I want to pass the faith on to my children? Where do I start? Well, prayer and regular church attendance are probably that is the first steps I need to take…. and of course, for all who have tried to be disciplined in a rule of prayer or study of God’s word, and regular attendance at Divine Liturgy, we know this is not always easy.
Probably the first prayer that we need to pray is the prayer of humility, of weakness. We know God blesses the humble heart. Mary understood this. (Read Luke 1:46-55) God will answer the humble prayer of the heart as he honours honesty and even the smallest, weakest desire to do His will. He has answered my prayers, and he will answer yours, as he answered the prayer of St. Anna. As we read her words in the prayers from last night’s vespers….” He heard my prayer and healed the pains of my yearning heart.” https://lit.royaldoors.net/?event_id1=5140
God will do the same for us if we offer Him our problems, suffering and our desires…Maybe we even need to ask God to give us a greater desire to follow him in our lives. For we know that just being born into a family does not create real deep family ties, only time and relationship can do this. Baptism is just the start of the life of a Christian and becoming a disciple (an adult member of the family of God), does require discipline… and so on this feast day we are left with the words of the gospel, find out what God is asking of you and then…by the grace of God and an act of choice… “Just do it!” and start formulating a plan –not just a New Year’s resolution—to find out how to become a true follower, a disciple of Christ. You can do it, if you want to….
“O Virgin, the shadow of the Law passed away* with the realization of grace. * For as the bush had burned without being consumed, * so you gave birth while a virgin* and you remained a virgin. * Instead of the pillar of fire there rose the Sun of Justice. * Instead of Moses, Christ God came forth, * the Saviour of our souls.”
Royal Doors, Kathisma Reading from Great vespers, Conception of St. Ann