Daily Reflection for August 22, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  AUGUST 22  •  Martyr Agathonicus and his companions


When a man once truly repents, he need not think any more about the sins he committed so that he will not sin again. St. Anthony counsels: “Be careful that your mind not be defiled with the remembrance of former sins and that the remembrance of those sins not be renewed in you.” Again, in another place, St. Anthony says: “Do not establish your previously committed sins in your soul by thinking about them so that they not be repeated in you. Be assured that they are forgiven you from the time that you gave yourself to God and repentance. In that, do not doubt.” It is said of St. Ammon that he attained such perfection that from much goodness he was not aware that evil exists anymore. When they asked him what is that “narrow and difficult [sorrowful] path” (St. Matthew 7:14), he replied: “That it is the restraining of one’s thoughts and severing of one’s desires in order to fulfill the will of God.” Whoever restrains sinful thoughts, does not think of his own sins or the sins of others neither of anything corruptible nor of anything earthly. The mind of such a man is continually in heaven where there is no evil. Thus, in him, sin gradually ceases to be, even in his thoughts. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, even with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the excellence of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the excellency of our God….
            Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water; in the habitation of jackals, where each lay, there shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
(Isaiah 35:1-2, 5-7)

This morning, we had a project to clean up the back lot of our church property. We have done this before, and just like all the other times, it was hot, dry, back-breaking work. It was, in the deepest sense of the word, desert work. When we work outside in the desert, I’m always brought to mind of the reading from Isaiah that speaks of the re-creation of the world when the Messiah comes. This reading is given to us for the feast of Theophany at the Great Blessing of Waters. All of creation is filled with the presence of Christ. The images used by Isaiah speak to us here: the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose, waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert, parched ground becomes a pool, and thirsty land becomes a spring of water.

Two things always amaze me. One is the persistence of everything that grows in the desert. We yank something out, dust flies from the dryness, and we are satisfied that we “got it.” Yet, in a very short time the blank tableau of dust begins to show sprouts of the very same type of pests with which we just waged war. We haven’t had rain in Las Vegas in almost 150 days as of this writing. And yet, things grow. I always think that we could learn something from these desert pests. They grow in spite of everything in their way — heat, lack of water, assaults from various human forms that attack them. They grow anyway. Perhaps in the desert of our lives and this world we can take a lesson and persist in growing anyway. Perhaps when we feel like something or someone has yanked us from our comfort we should just grow anyway. No doubt those stubborn desert plants are fortified by God; we need to remember that it is not just plants that He fortifies.

The second thing that amazes me about desert plants is the very formidable defenses they display. If you try to go after a desert plant, even one you’ve never seen before, you’d better not use your bare hands unless you’re ready to donate blood on the spot. When you try to dig up some of the plants, you need to really get into the ground and hack the roots. They kick, bite, and fight when you’re trying to kill them. It’s really hard work that ends up with scratched arms and hands, even while wearing gloves. Perhaps in the desert of our lives and this world, we can take another lesson and put up a better fight than we sometimes do with the powers of this world that are trying to kill us. The Lord and His Church have given us our own defenses: prayer, fasting, repentance, turning the other cheek, loving each other, etc., that turns away the Evil One. The demons have come into the courtyard of our lives, seeking to destroy us. The least we can do is put up a fight as formidable as a scrawny little desert weed.