Daily Reflection for August 25, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  AUGUST 25  •  Holy Apostle Bartholomew


The superhuman courage and readiness of our Christian foretellers to endure all sufferings and voluntary death for Christ, evoked fear on their tormentors. Emperor Maximian, a fierce and merciless persecutor of Christians, ordered his pro-consul in Antioch to release St. Andrew Stratelates from prison to freedom out of fear that the people, who respected Andrew more than they did the emperor, would rebel. Emperor Valens ordered his eparch in Edessa to slay all Christians who opposed Arius. The eparch had more human compassion than the emperor and secretly warned the Christians at night not to come out of the city the following day into the field where they usually held services (since the Arians had seized all the churches in the city) so that they would not be killed. The next day, contrary to this warning, all the Christians set out happily to the field, rejoicing that they will suffer and die for the True Faith. The eparch, going with the soldiers from the city, saw a Christian woman with a child in her arms as she hurried past the soldiers toward the field. The eparch said to her: “Have you not heard that the eparch, with his soldiers, will come and kill all that he finds there?” The woman answered: “I heard and, because of that, I am hurrying that I may die for Christ with the others.” The eparch further asked: “And why are you taking this child with you?” The woman replied: “I also want my child to become worthy of martyrdom together with me.” Hearing and seeing this, the eparch became frightened and returned and informed the emperor. The emperor became greatly frightened and revoked his order concerning the massacre.
(St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
           When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him. Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught. And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
(Mark 1:16-22)

The Church lectionary has moved from Matthew into Mark. The passage about Jesus’ first call of the apostles has always interested me as it relates to us today. Simon (Peter), Andrew his brother, then James and John, the sons of Zebedee were all fishermen. There was nothing special about them — they weren’t learned, they weren’t powerful, they weren’t influential. But when Jesus called them, they left everything immediately. James and John even left their father, not just their boat and livelihood. We are often tempted to be minding our own nets, just making our way in the world and thinking that God “really doesn’t call people like me to anything special.” Yet, He does. He calls all of us in whatever capacity we are in, and with whatever talent we have, to follow Him. We have the same challenge to faith that the apostles had. What about my work? What about my needs? What about my father (parent, child, loved one, etc.)? To follow Him means to give all that to Him. The immediacy that the first apostles showed in their responses is the example for all of us.

The other thing that always fascinated me was the reaction of the people when Jesus entered the temple and began to teach: “… they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” The scribes were the learned ones, and supposed to have authority in teaching and leading. And yet, when Jesus spoke, He did not teach them “as the scribes did.” His teaching “had authority.” What does that mean? Were the scribes lousy speakers? Did they not know how to teach? Were they corrupt? All of the above? The fact of the matter is the people were 1) looking for true authority and teaching and had not found it in the scribes; and 2) immediately recognized it in Christ. After probably years of listening to the scribes drone on and live lives incompatible with the Law and their teaching, how refreshing it must have been to hear the Lord! The “authority” was so clear that it probably led people to obey. Peter, Andrew, James and John sure did. We spend so much time exposed to the life of the Church. We must constantly see the authority of Christ through the sometimes foggy lens of faith and struggle. When we see the authority, we must respond. Lord grant!