Daily Reflection for June 13, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  JUNE 13  •  Martyr Acquilina of Byblos in Syria

Meekness and kindness adorned our saints and it gave them strength and understanding not to return evil for evil. When Emperor Constantius, the son of the Emperor Constantine the Great, became ill in Antioch he summoned St. Spiridon to offer prayers for him. St. Spiridon, in the company of Triphyllius his deacon departed Cyprus and arrived at Antioch before the imperial palace. Spiridon was clad in poor clothing. He wore a simple woven cap on his head, in his hand a staff from a palm tree and draped over his chest he bore an earthen vessel which contained oil that was taken from in front of the Honorable Cross (which at that time was the custom of Christians in Jerusalem to carry). So dressed and in addition to that, exhausted by fasting and prayer and the long journey, in no way did the saint reflect his rank and dignity. When he wished to step foot into the imperial palace, one of the emperor’s servants, thinking him to be an ordinary beggar, struck him with his fist on the cheek. The meek and kind saint turned the other cheek to him. When, with great difficulty, he succeeded to reach the emperor, Spiridon touched the head of the emperor and the emperor recovered. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

“Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:42-48)

The simplicity and directness of the Lord in His Sermon on the Mount continues. St. John Chrysostom points out that in His sermon, the Lord always commands positives, rather than condemning negatives: “You see how He has set the highest pinnacle on our good deeds…For He did not say, ‘Do not hate,’ but ‘love’; He did not say, ‘Do not injure,’ but ‘do good.’ If anyone should examine this accurately, he will see that even to these things something is added…For neither did He simply command to love, but to pray….Do not trample on the fallen, but rather pity him…stretch forth a hand, and continue to support him through his struggles…God will straightaway crown you and will requite you with ten thousand honors, because you have freed your brother from a grievous disease, and that brother, too, will honor you as a master, ever reverencing your forbearance.” (Homily 18 on Matthew)

Powerful words and commentary from the saint. But we know that it is one thing to hear the positive commands and another to put them into practice. Earlier we heard about turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, giving the coat off our backs, etc. Today it is more simple and direct commandments: give, loan, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute you. All so hard. Yet, the Lord puts it into perspective. The sun rises on everyone — good and evil. It rains on everyone — good and evil. He does not differentiate. Can we? If we only love those who love us, greet those whom we like, we are no better than the tax collectors (a sorry lot indeed in the Scriptures). Simply and directly, the Lord tells us that we are called to something much higher. We are called to transcend the “norms” of this world. When the world hates, we love. When the world condemns, we forgive. When the world curses, we pray. And there is a two-fold benefit to living this way. Those whom others hate know love, those whom others condemn know forgiveness, and those whom others curse know they are remembered in prayer. But there is a benefit to me also living this way. When I love, when I forgive, when I pray, I am lifted away from this fallen world and stand in the presence of the living God. I never know how my efforts affect someone else. But I certainly know how they affect me. May we always look at the Christian life as a life of positive “dos” rather than negative “don’ts.”