My first job after electronics servicing school was at Marvel Turkey Processing Plant. I was a young buck, just full of vinegar. I had been hired on to troubleshot the electronic things that had just started to evolve into the workplace, after all, we were just barely leaving the years of vacuum tubes and huge relay clusters. One day I was shadowing one of the chief maintenance mechanics who was troubleshooting the new pride and joy of the processing plane, the turkey sausage maker. The machine had some glitches and was delaying the product from going to market.
One of the problems with this machine was that it was equipped with a metal detector that would shoot out any meat with the tiniest bit of metal in it, and it continually thought it sensed metal, stopping production. The plant manager with his new white lab coat walked into the room to check on our progress when don’t you know it, the metal detector thought it sensed a metal particle in the meat, and WHAM, the ball meat shot across the room and splattered all over the plant manager, from head to toe. His lab coat and face were peppered with pink tidbits of turkey meat. I cast my eyes downward to hide my face as it wanted to bust out in laughter. He was my boss and he had a bit of an attitude about him, but his expression was now one of humility, mixed in with a little anger. In turns out the machine was false alarming due to moisture in the pneumatic source input and we finally were able to fix it.
I was reminded of this story as I was thinking this week it sure would be nice if my body had a device similar to that metal detector. Every time a sinful thought or action entered into my day, WHAM, it would remove it. Well, you know we sort of do! Yes, I am speaking about our conscience and repentance. I think every time I let a thought dance around in my mind criticizing someone I am actually trying to hide my own sinfulness. I need to look inward and repent of my surplus of shortcomings! I always try to negotiate with my conscience rationalizing my course of action. I might think: Well, at least I didn’t do that; or, this choice is not as evil as…, WHAM!
An Orthodox Christian conscience is created by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ acting within us. Saint John tells us: “If anyone should say, “I love God,” and be hating his brother, he is a liar; for the one not loving his brother whom he hath seen, how is he able to love God Whom he hath not seen? (I John 4:20) Saint Mark the Ascetic writes: “Rain cannot fall without a cloud, and we cannot please God without a good conscience.”
Here the words of Saint Andrew in his great cannon: “There has never been a sin or act or vice in life that I have not committed, O Savior. I have sinned in mind, word and choice, in purpose, will and action, as no one else has ever done. Therefore I am condemned, wretch that I am, therefore I am doomed by my own conscience, than which there is nothing in the world more rigorous. O my Judge and Redeemer Who knowest my heart, spare and deliver and save me, Thy servant.” (The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, Mon 4.4) There are a lot of “WHAM” moments in the cannon of St. Andrew!
The season of lent is slowly shadowing our daily life. Will you choose to clothe yourselves in a white untarnished lab coat and waste yet another golden opportunity of being a Christian, imitating the One who gave His life for others? Or will you look inward and rid yourself of another sinful selfish behavior separating you from the life hereafter? It takes a little work but the task can be accomplished one day at a time, just look at our cheering section of saints who breathed the same air you and I do! I pray you will attend most of the Lenten services, especially if you are truly interested in salvation and remember: “for everyone who exalteth himself shall be humbled, and the one who humbleth himself shall be exalted.” [Lk. 18:13-14]