Daily Reflection for July 13, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  JULY 13  •  Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel


A man adorns simple clothing and ornate clothing adorns a man. Simple clothing calls attention to the man, but ornate clothing calls attention to itself. The passion for ornate clothing simply drains and withers the soul of man. This is the real reason why the Church from time immemorial stood against opulence in dress and recommended the simple and plain. Among the countless Christian saints there is no mention of one for whom ornate clothing helped to attain sanctity. Many great and wise kings, not only Christians but also heathens, loved simplicity in dress. Thus, it is said that the Emperor Augustus Octavius, during whose reign the Lord Christ was born wore only simple clothing which was woven for him by his wife, sister or daughter. Of King Charles V, it is said, that he wore such simple clothing that even ordinary citizens, his subjects, were better dressed than he. A man once invited the glorious Greek military general Philopomenes to dinner in whose home he had never previously entered. Philopomenes arrived at the home of his host a little early. The host had not yet arrived and, the hostess not knowing Philopomenes personally and seeing him attired in simple clothing, thought that he was a servant of Philopomenes who was sent in advance to inform her husband of the coming of the military general. Because of this, she ordered him to chop wood. Philopomenes willing acceded to her command and began to chop wood. When the host came and saw what this honored guest was doing, he was horrified and asked him: “Who dared to give this type of work to Philopomenes?” Quietly, the military general answered: “My clothing.”
(St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Thus the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I sanctified you. I established you a prophet to the nations.” Then I said, “O Lord and Master, behold, I do not know how to speak for I am a youth.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,” says the Lord. Then the Lord put forth His hand to me and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. Behold, this day I am setting over the nations and kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy, to rebuild, and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:4-10)

The call of the Prophet Jeremiah is one of the most strikingly beautiful and meaningful passages in the Old Testament. Given in the very first verses of the Prophecy of Jeremiah, he relates how the Lord came to him. In these brief verses, a few eternal and divine truths are revealed not only to the prophet but to all who are created by the Lord. First, the Church has always looked at this passage as one of the revelations about the creation of each human being. When He says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I sanctified you,” He shows that each human being is created by the will of God, that He knows each and every one of us before our created existence, and we each have a calling upon our birth. It is a profound repudiation to those who would have us believe that life does not begin at conception. Life not only begins at conception — it exists before conception!

Then He says that Jeremiah has been established a “prophet to the nations.” Classically in Scripture, a prophet is not someone who tells the future. A prophet is someone who reveals the word of God and His will. Jeremiah is called by God to do so to the nations. But every human being has something of a prophetic calling. God knew me before I was formed in the womb. I might not be called to reveal the word and will of God “to the nations,” but I am certainly called to discern that word and will in my own life and to reveal it to the world in the way I live. Parents raise up their children to know God and His word. Husbands and wives learn to discern the word and will of God in marriage and family life. We all have a prophetic vocation within the life that God has given us.

Finally, Jeremiah asks the Lord how this can be because of his youth. The Lord tells him not to worry about it, because He will place the words he needs into his mouth. And so Jeremiah begins his ministry, yes, to the nations. Enduring life can lead one to also confront God: “how can You expect me to do Your will and to know Your word” when I am trying to get by? God reminds us through the prophet not to depend upon ourselves and our own strength and will, but to let go and trust Him. He will put the words that we need into our mouths. He will strengthen our hearts with His Spirit when we falter. He will always be with us in good times and bad. God touched the lips of Jeremiah. He also touches ours if we let Him.