Daily Reflection for July 29, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  JULY 29  •  Holy Martyr Callinicus of Gangra in Asia Minor

REFLECTION

By true repentance with tears, prayer and good works the most defiled soul can be completely cleansed and changed. Therefore be careful that you do not maliciously mention the sins of a repentant sinner but offer thanksgiving to God and be astonished how from darkness, light is made and from slime, pure water. The Egyptian Pharaoh Amases was of lowly birth and when he became king, men respected him very little, remembering his origin. In order to outwit the people and to gain their respect, he took a metal basin in which, according to custom, the feet of the visitors to the palace were washed. He ordered the basin to be melted down and from it to make a likeness of a certain idol. The pharaoh then placed this idol on the street. Seeing this idol, the people began to worship it and to render it divine honor. Then the pharaoh revealed what this idol was made of. The people then understood that, by this, the pharaoh wanted to show that they need not think anymore about what he once was but what he is now. Then the people began to render the pharaoh the respect due to royalty. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
            I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread. Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?
            What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?
(1 Corinthians 10:12-22)

St. Paul continues this passage with the last verse (12) of yesterday’s reading. In speaking of temptation, we were reminded not to revel in the overcoming of a temptation or passion, because that just sets us up for a fall. In continuing teaching about temptation, Paul reminds us that no one (none!) has unique temptations. All are common to every human being. But God has never abandoned us, He is always faithful, and no temptation is without a “way of escape,” and none are stronger than our ability to withstand them. Two points must be made, however. One is we must believe we are stronger than temptation and actually try to do battle. And two, God does not tempt us. There is a huge difference between God allowing something into our lives and actually sending it. God does not tempt us in some sadistic little game to see if love Him. But He does allow tests and trials that come our way to enter our lives to strengthen and sharpen us. We can be strengthened, chastened, purified, humbled, and allowed to reflect Him:

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4:12-13)

St. Paul then speaks of Holy Communion (the preface to a more detailed lesson in chapter 11), and teaches that the one Bread and the one Cup are not only the Body and Blood of Christ, but the source of our unity in faith — “we, though many, are one bread.” The sacrifice to idols is the sacrifice to demons. That is the temptation and passion with which we must battle. We offer sacrifice to idols all the time; the way we spend our money, our time, our talents, our efforts. If Christ and the Church are not first, then what we place first in the hierarchy of priorities in our lives (and the lives of our children!) — sports, money, job, social life, etc., are all sacrifices to idols. Then the final and frightening admonishment: you cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. It’s either/or. In summary, Paul reminds us that we can never be tempted beyond our strength, but a basic (maybe the first, if not only) temptation is to offer sacrifice to idols. When we do that, we drink the cup of demons. We need to be very careful about the cup that we pick up.

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