Daily Reflection for June 26, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  JUNE 26  •  New-martyr David of St. Anne’s Skete

Until his last breath ceaseless repentance is necessary for a Christian. St. Mark the Ascetic says: “Think and you will see that the mystery of devotion in the chosen ones of God was realized through repentance.” Repentance, even at the hour of death! This case occurred: an old ascetic and renown spiritual father was dying and he called for a priest to administer Holy Communion to him. Along the way a robber joined the priest and desired to see for himself how a holy man dies. The holy elder peacefully received Holy Communion and peacefully talked with the priest. The robber then wept and said: “Blessed are you! Alas, what kind of death will I be worthy of?” The holy elder suddenly became proud and responded to him: “Be as I am and it will be to you as it is to me!” The robber returned along the road weeping all the time and lamenting over himself and, at that moment, dropped dead. Then the people saw a “fool for Christ” as he weeps over the holy elder and dances and sings over the robber. When he was asked the reason for this, he replied: “By the pride of that one [the elder] he lost all merits; the repentance of this one [the robber] he reaped all the fruits.”  (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’”
            Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. (Matthew 10:32-36; 11:1)

Peace seems to be at a premium today, and division seems to be around us in abundance. Human beings have funny ideas about “peace.” We tend to equate it with quiet, comfort, maybe solitude, certainly distraction. When we are at home, peace becomes hard to find because the kids are yelling, dinner needs to be made, a report for work is waiting on the computer, and the car is making funny noises. When we are out in the world, it is a constant cacophony of noise and sight. “Peace,” in the way we like to think of it, is very hard to find. We also have funny ideas about “division.” We equate it with strife, argument, violence, opposition and quarreling. Both ideas are adequate in explaining how we look at both peace and division in this world. But neither are correct, at least in the way Christ Himself speaks in today’s lectionary passage.

The Lord tells us that He did not come to bring peace, but a sword. There will be division because of Him. But the peace and division are devoid of sin and passion. He did not come to bring “peace” in the way we think of peace. He came to bring Peace — He embodies the presence of the Kingdom itself. That peace is not mere serenity. It is the peace that comes from knowing that all things find their truth, meaning, and being in Him. The division that He brings is His Word. The Way, the Truth, and the Life will force each of us to make a choice. We follow Him, and thereby alienate and separate ourselves from much of the world, including many whom we love. Or we give lip service and keep “peace” in the family, the neighborhood, and the workplace. Indeed, division is His Word alone and when we hear that Word, very often our “enemies will be those of our own household.”

One day in class, Fr. Thomas Hopko was speaking about this very thing. He reminded all of us young clergy that despite our best efforts, people will get angry and leave our parishes. He sternly instructed all of us to “make sure they leave for the right reason.” He meant make sure anyone who leaves does so because the Word is truly being preached and lived, and those who leave simply don’t want to hear or accept that Word, and not because we try to “keep the peace” and not challenge anyone with Truth. A hard line to walk indeed. And a hard line in my own life. And yours.