Daily Reflection for October 19, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  OCTOBER 19  •  Holy Prophet Joel

REFLECTION An appearance of the Holy Martyr Varus: When the devout widow Cleopatra built a church to him, she summoned the bishop and priests to consecrate it. A large number of Christians gathered for this celebration, for the entire countryside venerated St. Varus as a great healer and miracle-worker. Following the divine services, this pious benefactress went before the relics of St. Varus and prayed: “I beseech you-you who endured much suffering for Christ-implore God for that which is pleasing to Him; and for me and my only son, ask that which is beneficial.” Cleopatra’s son John was ready for the army. Just as she left the church, John became ill. He was seized with a burning fever that grew steadily worse until, around midnight, John died. The grief-stricken, furious mother came before the tomb of St. Varus and spoke sharply: “O saint of God! Is this the way you help me?” and she said much more in her bitter lamentation until, utterly exhausted, she fell into a light sleep. St. Varus appeared to her with her son John. Both were radiant as the sun in garments whiter than snow, bound with golden girdles, and had magnificent wreaths on their heads. God’s saint said to her: “Did you not pray to me to implore God for whatever was pleasing to Him, and beneficial to you and your son? I prayed to God and He, in His unspeakable goodness, took your son into His heavenly army. If you so desire, here he is: take him and place him in the army of the earthly king.” Hearing this, the young John embraced St. Varus and said: “No, my Lord, do not listen to my mother and do not send me back into the world-full of unrighteousness and iniquity-from which you have delivered me.” Awakening from the dream, Cleopatra felt great joy in her heart and left the church. She lived near the church for seven years, and St. Varus often appeared to her with John.
(St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s ReflectionTherefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. 
          Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. (Philippians 2:12-16)

“Shining as lights in the world” is a not so easy task set before us by St. Paul in the selection from today’s lectionary to the Philippians. In speaking these words to them (and us), he prays that in the way they live out their lives of faith he has not run or labored in vain. In fortifying his readers for the difficult life of a Christian, he reminds us that it is God Himself who works within each of us to both will and do all things for His good pleasure. In other words, when we think we cannot work out our own salvation, we are correct — we can only find salvation, good will and good works when we find Him within ourselves. It’s not that He is hidden or not present. Rather, it is the weakness of our desire to find Him that makes it difficult. But when we seek out salvation, we must understand that it means seeking Him and Him alone. He is our salvation. It is not our works (although those should be holy), it is not our effort (although that should be diligent and holy), and it is not what “others” are doing to us or “allowing” us to do. It is Him and Him alone. When I find Him within myself, all the other things in my life begin to shine as lights in the world.

But St. Paul hit me right between the eyes when he tells us that we should “do all things without complaining and disputing.” Not only does he speak to the depth of my soul, but he speaks to the world we live in today. When I was a teenager and just beginning to truly find God, I always confessed my impatience, which led me to complain loud and long about many things. My priest used to tell me, “John, you will struggle with that until you conquer it, even if that means the rest of your life.” Here we are fifty years later, and I still confess my impatience and my complaining. Grumbling and complaining is such a sin because it is actually railing at the things that God has allowed in my life for my salvation — it is railing at God Himself. I remind people all the time that the grass often looks so green somewhere else, but that’s because we don’t see the manure spread all over it. Fr. Thomas Hopko one time told me that the most difficult thing a Christian has to do is “grow where God plants you.” Look at our world full of violence and strife, which always begins with someone being “aggrieved” by someone in particular or the world in general. All of it must be overcome lest we fail to “become blameless and harmless children of God.” Quietly working out our salvation by finding Him not only within ourselves, but in the world and our personal circumstances, is the only way we can “hold fast the word of life.”


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