Daily Reflection for July 15, 2020

Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Great Prince Vladimir, Enlightener of the Russian Lands


Hospitality is respected in other faiths but Christianity emphasized hospitality as an obligation and responsibility. On the other hand, gratitude for hospitality is no less an obligation and responsibility for Christians. He who learns to be grateful to men for hospitality will know how to be grateful even to God for hospitality. For what are we here on earth except as guests of God? What are angels in heaven except as guests of God. The story is told about Emperor Philip of Macedonia, how he severely punished one of his courtiers for ingratitude. The emperor sent his courtier overseas to fulfill a task for him. The courtier accomplished this task and returned by boat. A tempest destroyed the boat and the courtier found himself in the waves. Fortunately, it was not too far from the shore. A fisherman saw the man drowning, hurried to his assistance with his small boat and brought him ashore. After he recovered and rested, the courtier returned to the emperor and related the misfortunate incident about the tempest on the sea. The emperor wishing to reward the courtier asked him what does he wish the emperor to give him? The courtier mentioned that fisherman and said to the emperor that he would like most of all if he would grant him the property along the sea belonging to the fisherman. The emperor granted the courtier his wish. When the courtier settled on the estate of his greatest benefactor [the fisherman], then the fisherman in great despair went to the emperor, related all and complained. He said that he saved the life of the courtier and now he ousted him from his home. Upon hearing this, the emperor became furious with the ungrateful courtier and ordered that he be branded on his forehead with the words: “ungrateful guest.” (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

“But if you trust in lying words from which you cannot profit, and you murder, commit adultery, steal, swear to do wrong, burn incense to Baal, and walk after foreign gods you do not know so as to do evil, and come and stand before Me in the house wherein My name is called, and say, ‘We have not abstained from doing all these abominations,’ then is this house, called by My name, a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I have seen it.” (Jeremiah 7:7-10)

Most who only casually peruse the Scriptures are shocked when they come across the famous story (related in all the gospels) of Jesus cleansing the temple and driving out with fury and a whip the money changers. Hardly a story of the sweet and gentle baby Jesus, huh? But there are two ways to see this event. The first is that it echoes the prophecy given through Jeremiah above in the seventh chapter. The Lord, through His prophet, says that He “has seen” the temple of His name turned into a den of robbers. Thieves, murderers, liars, adulterers, wrongdoers, and idolaters all come to His temple and boldly announce they have not abstained from any of those behaviors. This is part of the prophecy about Israel facing exile. They will be removed by the Babylonians and the temple destroyed because of their disobedience. They proved for generations that they deserved exile. Historically speaking, they got it. But we see that even some 600 years later, after a return from exile and the rebuilding of the temple, Jesus found the very same situation in His days on the earth.

But the second way to look at these corresponding events is through spiritual eyes. Spiritually speaking, we know that the thievery, murder, lying, adultery, wrongdoing, and idolatry all still exist not only in the Church, but in our hearts. The spiritual life is a constant battle with temptation to all those things, and the reality is we are all guilty of all those things. We stand before the Lord in our temples with hearts and souls we have given over to passions, some passions more than others. We may not literally murder anyone or commit adultery, but we must remember that gossip is called murder and lusting with our eyes is adultery. Christ comes through baptism to take that all away from us, but it is not magic. He cleanses the temple of my soul and body by driving out all the evil passions and creates space for repentance.

Israel of 600 B.C. and my person, soul and body, are not much different. We both stand in His temple in need of cleansing. Dare we be exactly like the Israelites of Jeremiah’s day and, standing in our churches, proclaim to the Lord that, “We have not abstained from doing all these abominations”? God forbid.