Daily Reflection for July 30, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  JULY 30  •  Apostles Silas and Silvanus of the Seventy and their companions


One needs to distinguish a sinner from a penitent. If you have taken upon yourself the role to rebuke the sinner, guard yourself well, that you do not rebuke the penitent also. How dear the repentant sinner is to God, call to mind the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Therefore, let it be very dear for you, he who has become dear to God. At one time it happened that a monk succumbed to sin for which he was banished from the monastery. This monk went to St. Anthony, confessed his sin, repented and remained with Anthony for a period of time. Then Anthony sent him back again to the monastery but they did not receive him and, again, they banished him. Again, the penitent came to Anthony. Again, Anthony sent him back to the monastery with a message to the fathers of the monastery: “One boat experienced shipwreck and lost its cargo; with great difficulty did that boat arrive in the harbor and you wish to drown even that which was saved from drowning!” Hearing this wise message, the fathers received with joy the penitent brother into the monastery. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed. Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
            Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (cf. Proverbs 3:34)
            Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
            Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
(1 Peter 5:1-11)

St. Peter concludes his first catholic (meaning to the whole Church, not just a local community) epistle with an exhortation to the Church. First, he addressed the elders, a title used for those we would call today priests and bishops. “Elder” does not mean those older in age; it means those given the responsibility of oversight, and the charism to exercise a ministry that is Christ’s alone. He urges them to a holy oversight of their communities, being willing, eager examples of Christian living to those entrusted to their care. A pastor should not be serving under compulsion, nor for “dishonest gain,” but in humility trying to emulate the presence of Christ. Elders who care for their flocks in holy oversight will receive the crown of glory from the Chief Shepherd when He comes again. These words are not just written so that the elders should see them and be guided and encouraged, but also that the faithful see them to encourage and exhort their elders; to be thankful when they see such an example in their midst, and to pray for those who don’t quite measure up. Any “elder” today reads these words and cannot but be humbled, and awestruck at the same time that any human is entrusted with such a burden.

Then he turns his attention to the flock. The “younger people” are not those young in age. They are those who have not been given the task, nor the charism, to lead the flock. If you will, they are all the “sheep,” no matter the age. They are called to be submissive to their elders. This is not a call to blind obedience. This is a call to humble trust that God is guiding His Church through His elders and to submit to them is holy submission. Indeed, Peter reminds us that we all are to be in submission to one another, never just seeking my will, my desires, my wants, but rather, those of the other, for it is in the “other” that we see the Other.

Finally, though, he addresses both elders and flock. The Church must always be vigilant, for the devil “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” We sometimes forget that the demons know who we are, where we are, what we are, and every single weak spot in our souls. They attack those weak spots with whatever is necessary to create a fall. It might be an image, a thought, a word from someone, an event in our lives — whatever is necessary. When we fall, the demons rejoice. When we resist, they attack a different weak point. The battle for our souls is ongoing and the battle for the Church is ongoing. We can be steadfast, though, because we know that “the brotherhood” is facing the same test. We are all in this together. The Church and her members will suffer. But then Peter calls on the Lord, after we have suffered for a while, to “perfect, establish, strengthen and settle” us. What a wonderful and peaceful prayer for us and the Church, to be “settled.” I wish and God grant!