Daily Reflection for August 8, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  AUGUST 8  •  St. Emilian the Confessor, Bishop of Cyzicus


Moses spoke to the sons of Israel: “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life…that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19). There are some decisive moments in the life of men when, indeed, it is left up to man to choose between life or death. Judas, in a decisive moment, was corrupted by silver and he chose death, i.e., the sin of avarice [greed]. When the general wanted to elevate Marinus the soldier (August 7) to the rank of an officer (centurion), envious men accused him of being a Christian. The general permitted him only three hours to contemplate and to choose between life or death, i.e., either to deny Christ or to die. Marinus, hearing the words of his superior, went to the local bishop, Theotechnus, and asked him for advice. The bishop led Marinus into the church, stood him before the Gospel and pointing his hand, at first to the Gospel and after that to the sword which hung from Marinus’ waist, said to him: “Choose courageous man, one of these two; either to wear the sword and serve the earthly king temporarily and, after death, be lost eternally or to become a soldier of the Heavenly King and lay down your life for His Holy Name which is written in this Book and to reign with Him in eternal life.” Marinus immediately decided, kissed the Book of the Holy Gospel and departed through death into life eternal. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.
            For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
(Romans 14:6-9)

The lectionary selection from Romans for today is a wonderful and brief exhortation from St. Paul. The words are simple after a couple of examples (observing the day, eating with thanks): no one lives to himself and no one dies to himself. Then the powerful lesson — “whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” It is said in a “matter of fact” type of way. That is how Christians are called to live. We tend to think that we are “just normal, not like the saints who did great things.” That would be wrong, as each of us are called simply to live offering ourselves and all that we do to the Lord. That is “great.” Whatever we choose to do (or not do), we stand before the Lord in those choices. “Saint” (i.e., the holy, the elect) is the term St. Paul uses for all Christian believers. He sees us as set apart from the rest of the world and called to something much higher. Thus, the simple fact stated simply, “whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

There is great liberation in that realization. If we begin each day remembering that “whether we live or die…” it frees us from the anxieties and worry of the world. In these days of pandemic, suffering, economic hardship, and civil unrest it is incredibly freeing to simply know that we belong to God and our lives are in His hands. Someone said to me the other day about “the virus” and all the worry, bandwidth, and air time fretting over it and the directives, etc., surrounding it: “There’s a part of me that just says, ‘I belong to God, and if it is my time, then it’s my time.'” That sounds on the surface fatalistic, but it’s not. It is the voice of one liberated from finding (and searching and searching and searching for) true meaning and value in this life, and rather looking to the life to come in anticipation which frees us from anxiety and worry. We are not to be careless or cavalier about the necessities and concerns of our lives. We certainly should not tempt God. But we are to remember that underneath all those cares and worries we are held up by the hand of the Lord, and whatever the circumstances of my life at this very moment, I belong to Him. There is no greater freedom than this remembrance.