Daily Reflection for June 30, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  JUNE 30  •  Synaxis of the Twelve Holy Apostles

Concern for the good of all people! That concern filled the exalted spirits and noble hearts of the holy apostles. Writing about the Apostle Paul, St. John Chrysostom calls him: “The universal father of the world.” “As though he”, says Chrysostom, “gave birth to the entire world that he anxiously labored and tried to being all into the Kingdom.” Indeed, most exalted is this title: “Universal father of the world” and if this title could be attributed to anyone, other than God, it could only be attributed to the apostles of Christ. By their parental concern for the entire world, they in truth, were “the universal fathers of the world.” There are many mothers in the world who care less about their own children then the apostles were concerned about the good of their persecutors and adversaries. The Apostle Peter twice saved his most bitter adversary, Simon the Magician, from death: once when the people wanted to burn him and another time when a dog wanted to tear him to pieces. Just think, how the world repaid these their benefactors! As if they were the greatest robbers and criminals. O how true are the words of St. Cyril who says: “As long as we are in the body, the same occurs to us Christians as to pagans, the difference is only in the spirit.” (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

“But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, and saying: ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we mourned to you, and you did not lament.’
            “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.” Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent” (Matthew 11:16-20)

There’s an old saying, “Sometimes you can’t win for trying.” Real wisdom in those words. And similar wisdom in the words of our Lord in the Gospel of St. Matthew. He essentially is saying to the “generation” (meaning all generations) that nothing makes them happy. Every generation is “that” generation. We are all included in the rebuke of the Lord. He uses the example of a child’s game played at the time: they divided into two groups: “those pretending to play musical instruments or singing, and the others responding in a manner opposite of what would have been expected.” (Orthodox Study Bible) He uses that game as a metaphor for the way the leaders reacted to St. John the Baptist (too ascetic) and the Lord Himself (too merciful and joyful). The leaders wanted no part of either. They avoided ascetic exercise and withheld mercy from everyone, while never being joyful. Then He rebuked those in places where “most of His mighty works had been done.” Why? They did not repent.

So, what about us? In our current culture and world, we have so many temptations and lures for our attention, time, money, love, and anything else you can imagine. And yet, isn’t one of the biggest temptations that we are never happy? Never satisfied? We are presented in the life of the Church both the Baptist (ascetic efforts) and the Lord (a call to mercy, forgiveness and joy). Yet, not only do we far too often choose neither, but we far too often also condemn and ridicule those who strive for ascetic feats as “fanatics” and those who grant mercy and love to everyone as “weak.” The mighty works of the Lord have been done in the midst of our Church, and yet we find deaf ears when He calls us to repentance. Indeed, it sometimes seems as if the Lord can’t win for trying.