Daily Reflection for July 1, 2020


Holy Wonderworking Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs at Rome

Through their prayers and alms for the deceased, Christians display the relationship between this world and the world to come. The Church in this world and the Church in the other world are one and the same – one body, one in being – as does the root of a tree beneath the earth comprise one organism with the trunk and the branches of the tree above the earth. It is clear from this how we who comprise the Church on earth can receive help from the saints and the righteous ones from the Heavenly Church as well as the deceased sinners in the other world can receive help from us on earth. St. Athanasius says: “As it happens with wine inside a barrel which, when the vineyard blooms in the field, senses it and the wine itself blossoms together with it, so it is with the souls of sinners. They receive some relief from the Bloodless Sacrifice offered for them and from charity” performed for their repose. St. Ephren the Syrian cites that same example with wine and the vineyard and concludes: “And so, when there exists such mutual sensitivity even among plants, is not the prayer and sacrifice felt even more for the departed ones?” (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, LORD, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life? But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”
            Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. (Romans 11:2-7)

We continue our “on again off again” reflection on grace and works in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. He begins with an important truth: God does not cast away His people, but His people can cast Him away. Paul uses the story of Elijah, who thought that he “was the only one left,” after the people of Israel turned away from the Lord, killed His prophets, tore down His altars and were actively seeking to kill Elijah. Difficult moments indeed. But what does the Lord tell Elijah? He has “in reserve” (the divine bullpen if you will), 7,000 men who refused to bow down to Baal. These were men that Elijah didn’t even know about. Then Paul says that, just like then, at the present time there is a remnant of faithful by grace ready to stand up to idolatry. Then the Apostle teaches that it is both grace and work that has given the prize to those who are “the elect” in the body of His people. The elect are those who remain faithful to Him.

This wonderful narrative of the words of Elijah and the response to him by the Lord is paralleled in the life of the Church today. So many people have turned from the Lord in our culture, our society, even within the Church, that we can feel like Elijah, “I alone am left.” But Paul reminds us God has always had a remnant in reserve of faithful believers and doers who do not forsake Him, who do not reject Him, and do not worship other idols. There are saints and wonderworkers walking among us at this moment, standing tall in the face of the winds of culture and change. That should not surprise us. What should surprise us is that the Lord asks each and every one of us to be one of the remnant, refusing to bow down to the idols of our culture and society. Even if quietly, a holy and pious life, filled with the Spirit and shining with the works of grace, will transform the world around us. Israel did not obtain the prize prepared by God. The New Israel — the Church — invites all of us to join the elect. We must stand up to idolatry and the slow poison of a culture devoid of His presence. St. Paul says that we will obtain what we seek. The only question is: what (or better, Who) do we seek?