Daily Reflection for July 22, 2020

Holy Myrrhbearer and Equal-to-the-Apostles Mary Magdalene


“Blessed are they that mourn” (Matthew 5:4), said the Lord. Blessed are they who mourn asking for the Kingdom of God. Blessed are they who mourn suffering for the Faith in Christ. Blessed are they that mourn repenting of their sins. There can be no true repentance without tears. With what shall we wash away our sins if not through tears or through blood, the blood of martyrdom? The monks of Nitria sent a petition to St. Macarius the Great asking if he would come to them rather that they all come to him. Macarius obeyed and came to them. All the monks gathered around St. Macarius and begged him for a word of instruction. Macarius began to weep and through his tears said: “Brethren, let tears flow from your eyes before you go over there where our tears will fry our bodies.” Then all the brethren began to weep.
(St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
            Listen, my beloved brethren, Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?
(James 2:1-7)

The epistle of James, the brother (cousin) of the Lord, and my current discipline in daily reading, does not get enough attention in my humble opinion. It is full of profound, yet understandable, lessons of faith and faithful behavior. These first verses of the second chapter speak to the Church about the Law of Love. Using the example of a man dressed in finery and outwardly rich and a man dressed poorly (filthy, actually!) and outwardly impoverished, James condemns hypocrisy and teaches that a Christian never behaves toward another based on looks, lot in life, or any other external thing. Very simply, aren’t we sometimes guilty of that very thing not only in life as we travel around our daily lives, but even in the Church? James even notes that it is the rich man who will oppress you, blaspheme Christians and “drag you to the courts.” The poor are more likely to see the emptiness of wealth and possessions, and to be appreciative of the blessings they do have. Of course, this passage also raises some simple, yet difficult to answer, questions for Christians: What makes a man “rich” or “poor?” How does the stereotype of looks contribute to our behavior? The Lord always identified with the poor, the beggar, the prostitute, the abandoned. The world hardly ever does.

A long time ago (early 90s), I had a funeral in the summer before our church was air conditioned. It was a very, very hot day. All the doors and windows were open to try to get some type of relief. The woman’s family was all gathered along with some other parishioners for the funeral. A short time before we began, a man came in off the street. He was obviously not a parishioner, was disheveled, open shirt, and holding a large drink from “Jack in the Box.” He came in and sat down in the back pew. The family saw him and immediately brought the “danger” to my attention, worried that we were going to be robbed, or at the very least, disturbed. I told them the man obviously wanted to get some shade and, as hot as we were, it was more comfortable than being out on the street. The family was not happy, and kept glancing back every few seconds, hardly paying attention to the funeral of their loved one. The service went off without a hitch, and we began the “last kiss.” Well, lo and behold, the man got up from the back pew, came up and kissed the cross, then paid his last respects to the departed (never letting go of that drink), and walked out of the church. The eyes of the family members could not have gotten bigger! St. Paul says to the Hebrews: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” (Hebrews 13:2)

Never was I so convinced of the truth of Paul’s words as that day, nor of God’s sense of humor and timing. I’m not sure the visitation “took” with the family. But I never read this passage of St. James without hearkening back to that day of a very special visitation.