Let's Bring Each Other Back!
Clement of Alexandria tells the story of the apostle John, very old at this point, who arrived back in a city to find a young man he had known to become a disciple of Jesus - to have gone back into the world. “He’s living in the hills and has joined a band of robbers.”
John: “SADDLE MY HORSE!” John went after him and brought him back to Jesus, and to the body of Christ, His Church.
Isn’t that what we do for each other? How is that ANY different than what we do for each other - EVERY DAY?!
Clement’s account: “Time passed, and some necessity having emerged, they send again for John. He, when he had settled the other matters on account of which he came, said, Come now, restore to us the deposit which I and the Saviour committed to you in the face of the Church over which you preside, as witness. The other was at first confounded, thinking that it was about money which he did not get. But when he said I demand the YOUNG MAN, the soul of the young new brother. The old man, groaning deeply, and bursting into tears, said, He is dead. How and what kind of death? He is dead, he said, to God. For he turned wicked and abandoned, and at last a robber. Rending, therefore, his clothes, and striking his head with great lamentation, the apostle said, It was a fine guard of a brother’s soul I left! But let a horse be brought me, and let some one be my guide on the way. He rode away, just as he was, straight from the church. On coming to the robbers’ outpost; neither fleeing nor entreating, but crying, It was for this I came. Lead me to your captain; armed as he was. But when he recognized John as he advanced, he turned, ashamed, to flight. The other, John, followed with all his might, forgetting his age, crying, Why, my son, do you flee from me, your father, unarmed, old? Son, fear not; you have still hope of life. I will give account to Christ for you. If need be, I will willingly endure your death, as the Lord did death for us. For you I will surrender my life. Stand, believe; Christ has sent me.
“And he, when he heard, first stood, looking down; then threw down his arms, then trembled and wept bitterly. And on the old man approaching, he embraced him, speaking for himself with lamentations as he could, and baptized a second time with tears, concealing only his right hand. The other pledging, and assuring him on oath that he would find forgiveness for himself from the Saviour, beseeching and falling on his knees, and kissing his right hand itself, as now purified by repentance, led him back to the church. Then by supplicating with copious prayers, and striving along with him in continual fastings, and subduing his mind by various utterances of words, did not depart, as they say, till he restored him to the Church, presenting in him a great example of true repentance and a great token of regeneration, a trophy of the resurrection for which we hope; when at the end of the world, the angels, radiant with joy, hymning and opening the heavens, shall receive into the celestial abodes those who truly repent; and before all, the Saviour Himself goes to meet them, welcoming them; holding forth the shadowless, ceaseless light; conducting them, to the Father’s bosom, to eternal life, to the kingdom of heaven.
“Let one believe these things, and the disciples of God, and God, who is surety, the Prophecies, the Gospels, the Apostolic words; living in accordance with them, and lending his ears, and practising the deeds, he shall at his decease see the end and demonstration of the truths taught. For he who in this world welcomes the angel of penitence will not repent at the time that he leaves the body, nor be ashamed when he sees the Saviour approaching in His glory and with His army. He fears not the fire.
“But if one chooses to continue and to sin perpetually in pleasures, and values indulgence here above eternal life, and turns away from the Saviour, who gives forgiveness; let him no more blame either God, or riches, or his having fallen, but his own soul, which voluntarily perishes. But to him who directs his eye to salvation and desires it, and asks with boldness and vehemence for its bestowal, the good Father who is in heaven will give the true purification and the changeless life. To whom, by His Son Jesus Christ, the Lord of the living and dead, and by the Holy Spirit, be glory, honour, power, eternal majesty, both now and ever, from generation to generation, and from eternity to eternity. Amen.”
Let’s bring each other back. We need each other. We HAVE each other.