Daily Reflection for June 17, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  JUNE 17  •  Martyrs Emanuel, Sabel, and Ismael of Persia

The adversaries of Christ, through their efforts against Christ, always achieved the opposite results. Instead of stopping the river of Christianity, they have widened it, deepened it and made it louder. Instead of drying Christianity up they have, so to speak, caused a flood throughout the entire world. Where one martyr fell, a company of Christians was created; where shame was committed, glory sprouted; where it was said the end of Christianity, there was the beginning of luxuriant crops. In spite of all international considerations and customs, Julian the Apostate, because of his insane idolatrous fanaticism, killed the Persian emissaries for peace; Manuel, Sabel and Ishmael. What did Julian accomplish by this? He multiplied the number of Christians, increased the number of martyrs and hastened his own end and the end of paganism. Directly and unwillingly, the apostate helped in the spreading and deepening of Christianity, not only by his evil persecution but also by his inadvertent statements. Thus in discussions with Christians, Julian stated: “Christ did nothing in His life that would merit glory, except if that is counted as a great deed, that He healed the lame, the blind and expelled demons!” O wretched Julian! As if the opening of the eyes of only one blind man by the powerful word alone was not a greater deed, than the subjugation of ten kingdoms! How valuable is it, that Julian, as the greatest traitor of Christ after Judas, recognized the miracles of Christ. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
       “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock; and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
       “But everyone who hears these sayings of mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand; and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
(Matthew 7:21-27)

This is the end of the Sermon on the Mount. It is interesting to me that as we leave the time of Pascha and Pentecost to enter the “normal” time of the year, we begin that ‘”normalcy” with the detailed, yet simple, teachings of the Lord on Christian life. Everything, every day, flows from the rich beginning of our Lord’s ministry. That sermon ranged from fasting to prayer to our physical needs to much more. But He ends with the difficult and clear exhortation about my relationship to Him. He says two things to me — or rather, to my heart. If I want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, I must have my heart converted to Him. Even those who “cast out demons in His name” have no standing in the kingdom just on those acts. Those who have standing in the Kingdom of Heaven are those who “hear the word of God and keep it.” Oftentimes, that means not great works, but great conversion of heart and repentance. Great works will follow great conversion and repentance, but are never a sign on their own of my closeness to God.

Finally, He draws a distinction between those who “build the house on rock” and those who “build on sand.” The implications of the choice are clear; life is full of storms and tribulations, and those who stand on the teachings of the Lord and follow them come through the storms and tribulations intact. Those who do not stand on those teachings or follow them shall perish in the storms and tribulations. We know, and even the Lord knows, that this calling is a struggle. Yet, the road map of the Sermon on the Mount is fairly simple. When we pray, fast, give alms, repent, let our “lamps” shine, trust God, etc., we are building on rock, not sand. The storms will come, the wind will beat against us, but we will stand through it all, because we do not stand alone. The Sermon on the Mount has been given to us as that road map. We must continue the journey.