Through no fault of our own, we find ourselves living in a modern world. This time and place in history is ours. We find ourselves surrounded by and bombarded with Facebook, Twitter, Smart phones, iPhone 4’s, iPads, iPods, Bluetooth, ADSL, HDTV, MTV, CCTV, Megabytes, Gigabytes, Google, Xboxes, Sound blasters, Wii; Hybrid cars, Tracker, GPS, MP3’s, MP4, AM, FM, Digital… the list is never ending. Technology continues to advance at mind boggling speed. No sooner than a product is out on the market, than a competitor has already made something different, new, or improved and that which you have just acquired it but old hat. It is hard for us to keep up with technological developments – the younger you are, the easier it is, or at least, so it would seem.
In many senses, the world around us, amid these advancements, is alien. Perhaps, this is more so, even for us, as Christians. It is a setting that provides for deep and unique challenges and temptations. Attachment to earthly ‘things’ is an example. The love of the world and its ways, another. Having the latest and wanting the best, is the driving force that propels the ‘desirer’ to follow any means deemed necessary to ensure material and financial freedom, strength and success. These are the goals, of the modern world, shallow as they may be.
Many people even suffer from what one might call: a digital addiction. The first waking thing done in the morning, thanks to our Smart phones – and smart they are – is check our e-mails. Then it’s off to the social network sites. As others rise, so does the amount of traffic and communication via Facebook, Twitter, Skype and / or sms: ‘What are you wearing today?’; ‘What did you do last night?’; ‘How was the movie?’; ‘Did you see what John did?’… Endless compulsive conversations filled with grammatical errors and atrociously distorted spelling. But the phones are not just for interaction. With them we can take photos, videos, upload to You Tube, download applications, games, blogging, posting, Mix-It, flirting. It is estimated that the average person spend two hours a day using the Internet in one form or another. The Internet revolutionised the world. One day they’ll replace that too, with something, faster, smaller and fancier.
Lost amidst this chaos – because if you step back for a minute, and reflect, you will realise that that is all modern day living is – is the quiet, silence, simplicity and withdrawal. I got off the plane the other day and walking to the terminal, the majority of people were texting, not even bothering to look where they were going or at the glorious setting sun.
A Johannesburg Granny was on the news this past week and she had just turned 106. Ask the secret of her longevity, her easy response was: ‘by living a simple life’.
We know that our Lord followed and advocated a simple life. In our Gospel lesson today, we catch a glimpse that life with His withdrawal to Galilee, and the calling of the first disciples who were but unassuming fisherman. And theirs was a world, far removed from ours – they lived close to the earth.
Many of the early Saints followed that example. They chose to withdraw culturally from the surrounding society so as to devote themselves more fully to God. St Anthony of Egypt was such a man. Choosing to live out in the desert, of him, one commentator writes:
In an age that smiles at the notion of devils and angels, a person known for having power over evil spirits must at least make us pause. And in a day when people speak of life as a “rat race,” one who devotes a whole life to solitude and prayer points to an essential of the Christian life in all ages. Anthony’s hermit life reminds us of the absoluteness of our break with sin and the totality of our commitment to Christ. Even in God’s good world, there is another world whose false values constantly tempt us.
So what do we do? Certainly, we are not all called to go live out in the Karoo. But there is something really spiritual about taking time out from the chaos of the world. It’s a way of finding peace. It’s a way of getting closer to God. It’s a way of avoiding that which so easily distracts us from Him: Ringing cell phones; TV’s always on in the background; blaring rock music; chatter, chatter, chatter…
But how does one find peace, here in our average middle-class suburban lifestyle?
First and foremost is seeking the Holy Spirit. He is the comforter. To be in harmony with Him is needful and He is the satisfier of the spirit. So if you feel that there is disorder in your life, the then chances are good that there are spiritual needs that are lacking. And no amount of Facebook, Twitter or Skype will ever satisfy them.
So what to do? Well allow me to suggest, in conclusion, that we return to the most basic of principles of Christian living. Here I’ll give you ten suggestions. They are taken from the book, The Spiritual Life (pp 95-96):
1. Praying Daily
Have a regular prayer rule that includes morning and evening prayer.
2. Worshiping and Participating in Sacraments
Attend and participate in the Divine Liturgy receiving Holy Communion regularly as well as regular participation in Confession.
3. Honoring the Liturgical Cycle of the Church
Follow the seasons of the church and participate in the fasts and feasts of the Church.
4. Using the Jesus Prayer
Repeat the Holy name whenever possible throughout the day or night. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”. This prayer has the potential to transform you.
5. Slowing Down and Ordering Your Life
Set priorities and reduce the stress and friction caused by a hurried life.
6. Being Watchful
Give full attention to what you are doing at the moment.
7. Taming the Passions
Overcome your habits, attachment to your likes and dislikes, and learn to practice the virtues.
8. Putting Others First
Free yourself from your selfishness and find joy in helping others.
9. Spiritual Fellowship
Spend time regularly with other Christians for support and inspiration.
10. Reading the Scriptures and Holy Fathers
Be inspired by the lessons of the Holy Scriptures, the wisdom of the Holy Fathers and the lives of the Saints of the Church.’
These are but some of the ways we can use to break from the world and its things, and focus more on God our Father, through our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ as enabled so to do by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.