Daily Reflection for July 4, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  JULY 4  •  St. Andrew, Archbishop of Crete

If your entire life passed smoothly and without worry, then weep for yourself. For the Gospel and the experience of the people, with one accord assert that no one has, without great suffering and pain, left behind any great and beneficial work on earth or was glorified in the heavens. If, however, your earthly sojourn is completely adorned with sweat and tears to attain justice and truth, rejoice and be exceedingly glad for truly great is your reward in the heavens. Do not ever succumb to the insane thought that God has abandoned you. God knows exactly how much one can endure and, according to that, measures the sufferings and pains of everyone. St. Nil Sorsky says: “When even men know how much weight a horse, or a donkey or a camel can carry and, according to that they are loading them according to their strength; when a potter knows how long to leave the clay in the kiln for it to be neither shattered nor over-baked, how could God not know how much temptation a soul can bear to make it ready and fitted for the Kingdom of Heaven?” (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
            What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.
(Romans 6:11-17)

How ironic is it that on this day, America’s Independence Day, when we celebrate freedom and liberty, we are given a selection from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans in which we are reminded that we are all slaves! Our society and nation are roiling with discontent, civil disobedience, protests, and even violence, all in the name of “freedom.” Freedom from what? Or who? Media and many of the protestors would have us believe that the upheaval is meant to “change things,” and liberate those who are oppressed by the government, by police, by politicians, by our economy, by any number of other things. When that liberation comes, true freedom will reign in our land, meaning those who want to do something will do it, not hindered by artificial laws or societal norms. But that is not freedom. As a matter of fact, that is exactly slavery according to St. Paul. Just not the kind of slavery to which we all are called.

The Apostle reminds us that we become enslaved by that which we choose to obey — either sin leading to death, or obedience leading to righteousness. Through Jesus Christ, we have been given the opportunity to be liberated from sin because He became a slave for us. The word that Paul uses, δούλος, is sometimes translated “servant,” but means precisely “slave.” The Lord identifies Himself with us so completely that He becomes enslaved for us. But His enslavement is to obedience to His Father, and through that obedience (suffering, death, resurrection), He liberates us from the enslavement to this world, calling us to true liberation in enslavement to the Father and His Kingdom. Paul commands that when we turn away from obeying the lusts of our mortal flesh, we are liberated. Isn’t that exactly the opposite of everything the world calls us to embrace in “freedom”? We are slaves. That is not the question. The real question is “slave to which master”? God bless us and our nation, heal us, and help us all to be enslaved to that which leads to eternal life and righteousness, and not to eternal corruption and damnation.