Daily Reflection for August 24, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  AUGUST 24  •  Hieromartyr Eutychius, disciple of St. John the Theologian


If you were to ask many people why they do not go to Church to pray, they will generally answer you: I have no time, I have to work! Just look at those people who only work and do not go to Church, placing their trust only in their work and compare them with those who divide their time between work and prayer and you will quickly be convinced that the latter are more well off and, what is more important, they are more satisfied. It is said about two neighboring tailors how unequal they were according to their work and prayer and according to their wealth and satisfaction. One of them had a large family and the other was a bachelor. The first had the habit of going to church every morning for prayer and the bachelor never went to church. Not only did the first work less but was even less a skillful master than the other. He had enough of everything and the other lacked everything. The first one asked the other how is it that he has everything although he works less? The one who prays to God [a devout person] responded that he attends church every day and, along the way, finds lost gold and he invited his neighbor, the bachelor, to go with him to prayer and they will share the discovered gold. Both neighbors began to attend church regularly and soon both became equal in abundance as well as in satisfaction. Naturally, they found no gold along the way but the blessing of God multiplies the abundance of true devout men. Those who: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (St. Matthew 6:31), God adds and multiplies all that is necessary for their physical life. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences. For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. (1 Corinthians 5:10-12)

This passage from today’s lectionary begins with the frightful reminder of something that most of us don’t think of enough — each of us will appear before the judgment seat of Christ. The fathers tell us that it is a great sin to do good things just because we are afraid of the punishment if we don’t. Fear by itself can never be a righteous motivation for living a pious life. Ultimately, a “piety” based on fear would be revealed as not pious at all, but a hypocritical fallacy. Nonetheless, at each service of the Orthodox Church we pray for a “good defense before the dread judgment seat of Christ.” Being aware, and reminded, of our eventual standing at that seat is the beginning of piety, not the end. Growing up, there were things that I was punished for as correction by my parents. But the worst punishment I ever got was when I did something wrong and my parents didn’t punish me with actions, but with a simple, “I’m so disappointed in you.” I would have given anything for a spanking or, later, a grounding (we didn’t have phones to take away!). I knew my parents forgave me, but to know that they were disappointed in me — that crushed me. We love our Lord and know that we transgress against Him in many ways, and we know He forgives us. But as we contemplate standing at that Judgment Seat, perhaps the healthiest way for us to live as Christians is not to be afraid of Him, but to simply live in a way that won’t disappoint Him.

Paul then reminds the Corinthians that, knowing the judgment to come, the apostles preach to men. Because they do, we “have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart.” Again, he cuts right to the heart. First of all, we know the teachings of the apostles and the Lord Himself in the Church. So, we must never boast “in appearance.” If we want to use today’s vernacular, we’d better “walk the walk if we’re going to talk the talk.” All true piety and righteousness come from the heart, not from externals. There are plenty of people, inside and outside the Church, who are all talk and little action. That’s why silence is the language of God. As we contemplate standing someday at the Judgment Seat of Christ, a “good defense” will be a life steeped in the words of the Lord and His disciples, faithful and good works, and founded on the simple principle of wanting to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord,” and not, “I’m so disappointed in you.”