Daily Reflection for October 2, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  OCTOBER 2  •  Saint Andrew, Fool for Christ, of Constantinople


A vision of St. Andrew the Fool-for-Christ: A monk in Constantinople was distinguished as an ascetic and spiritual father, and many people came to him for prayers. But this monk had the secret vice of avarice. He collected money and gave it to no one. St. Andrew met him on the street one day, and saw a terrible snake coiled around his neck. St. Andrew took pity on him, approached him, and began to counsel him: “Brother, why have you lost your soul? Why have you bound yourself with the demon of avarice? Why have you given him a resting place within yourself? Why are you amassing gold as though it will go to the grave with you, and not into the hands of others? Why are you strangling yourself by stinginess? While others hunger and thirst and perish from cold, you rejoice looking at your heap of gold! Is this the path of repentance? Is this the monastic rank? Do you see your demon?” At that, the spiritual eyes of the monk were opened, and he saw the dark demon and was greatly horrified. The demon dropped away from the monk and fled, driven by Andrew’s power. Then a most radiant angel of God appeared to the monk, for his heart was changed for the good. Immediately, he went about distributing his hoarded gold to the poor and needy. From then on, he pleased God in everything and was more greatly glorified than before. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Now Bezalel and Aholiab, and every gifted artisan in whom the Lord put wisdom and knowledge to know how to do all manner of work for the service of the holy place, did according to all the Lord commanded.
            Then Moses called Bezalel and Aholiab, and every gifted artisan in whose heart the Lord put wisdom, everyone whose heart willed freely to come and do the work. They received from Moses all the offerings the children of Israel brought for all the works of making the holy place, and they continued bringing him freewill offerings every morning. Then all the wise men who were doing all the work of the holy place came, each according to the work he was doing, , and they spoke to Moses, saying, “The people bring much more than enough for the work the Lord commanded us to do.” So Moses gave a commandment and proclaimed it throughout the camp, saying, “Let neither man nor woman do any more work for the offering of the holy place.” Thus the people were restrained from bringing more, for the material was sufficient for all the work to be done — indeed, too much.
(Exodus 36:1-7)

The story of Bezalel and Aholiab is one of my favorite and most inspiring and revealing stories in all of Scripture. This story takes place after God had given plans for the Tabernacle to Moses. Then He calls artisans to do the work He had laid out in plans to Moses, and call the people of Israel to bring donations of everything needed to make the Tabernacle. I love the story so much because in its simplicity, there are basic truths about the Lord and how He interacts with and provides for His people. First of all, the Lord “put wisdom and knowledge” into the artisans to know how to do the work the Lord commanded. Then, He calls the artisans to the work, they freely responded, and the artisans received from Moses the freewill offerings every morning to do the work. The Lord inspired those offerings and made them possible with the blessings He bestowed on His people. But there was a problem. The abundance of the offerings was so great, Moses had to tell the people to stop giving! They not only had enough to build the Tabernacle, they had too much! None of it was forced by the Lord. He freely poured out talents on the artisans. The artisans freely used those talents given them. They freely responded to the Lord asking them to do the work. The people freely responded to the request for offerings to do the work. Nothing was mandatory.

What is so inspiring about this for us today? Our experience is exactly the same as in the story of Bezalel and Aholiab. The Lord commands us to build His Tabernacle (the Church). He tells us how (the Scriptures, the ongoing life and Tradition of the Church, the Word, His pastors and teachers, etc.). He freely pours out upon us the talents — varied, but all abundant and necessary. We must freely answer the call and offer ourselves and our talents to the building up of the Body of Christ. But here’s the rub — how many of us can imagine a scenario where the generosity of our offerings (time, talent, and treasure) is so great that we are asked to scale back? If the Lord abundantly pours out talents on His people, and He bestows abundant blessings upon His people (and who can deny in our consumerist, greedy society that He doesn’t?), is it outrageous to expect that His Body should never be lacking for clothing, or nourishment, or people, or mission? Is it outrageous to think that the abundance of our offerings might be so great that we have to ask the faithful to redirect some of their generosity? The story is amazing (and sad) on its face — not because it is unbelievable that the Lord would provide in that manner to His people, but because we can’t imagine (or trust) it happening with us today.