Daily Reflection for September 16, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  SEPTEMBER 16  •  Greatmartyr Euphemia the All-praised


Often unexpected misfortune befalls us, and in vain we ask “why?” The Church of Christ alone knows how to explain the cause of every misfortune. The Church basically classifies misfortunes into two groups. Some misfortunes befall the sinner because of old, unrepented sins. Other misfortunes assault the righteous and serve, according to the words of St. John Chrysostom, “as a means of receiving a wreath, as was the case with Lazarus and Job.” The Empress Eudocia secretly agreed with the Eutychian heresy, having heeded the counsel of the perfidious eunuch Chrysaphius. But misfortune unexpectedly befell her. One day her husband, Emperor Theodosius, brought her an apple of unusual size. The empress sent the apple to the ailing senator Paulinus and he, out of love for the emperor, sent this same apple to Emperor Theodosius. This gave the emperor reason to suspect an illicit relationship between his wife and the senator. The emperor asked his wife to show him the apple he had given her. The empress lied and said: “I ate it!” This made the emperor’s suspicion even stronger, and he banished Eudocia to Palestine. In time Eudocia cured herself of heresy, and through the counsels of the great Palestinian spiritual fathers returned completely to Orthodoxy. The misfortune that befell the empress did not arise from an illicit relationship with Paulinus-in this, she was completely innocent-but because of her heretical disposition. A second but different case: When he was still a military commander, the future Emperor Marcian was traveling near Philipopolis and saw the corpse of a murdered man on the road. Out of pure compassion, he got off his horse and started to bury the corpse. Just then someone came by and saw him burying the corpse, and reported him to the court as a murderer. Marcian would have been punished by death, had God not shortly revealed the true murderer. This kind of misfortune falls into that second category-“for the receiving of a wreath.” Shortly after this, General Marcian was chosen to be emperor. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts – but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics.
            Also He said to them, “In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place. And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!” So they went out and preached that people should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them.
(Mark 6:7-13)

This sending of the twelve recounted in the Gospel of St. Mark has three rich elements that challenge each of us. The first is the whole idea of apostleship — “apostle” means one who is sent — and the sending of the twelve is a precursor to each of us being sent into the world by Christ through baptism and chrismation. It is sometimes hard for us to accept that God has actually chosen each and every one of us and sent us into life with a particular calling. Maybe we easily think a priest has a calling, a doctor has a calling, a teacher has a calling, etc., but does “little ol’ me” really have a calling from God? Yes, indeed. And each of us must spend time discovering and meditating upon that calling.

The second element is trust. When the Lord sent the twelve out into the world two by two, He commanded that they take nothing except a staff to help them walk. No food, no clothing, no nothing! They were to be completely dependent upon God to provide for them. That trust is very hard for us to accept and apply in our own lives. We love to be “in control,” even though that is a complete illusion. We save, we budget, we plan, etc., never truly trusting God to take care of us.

Finally, He tells them to “shake the dust off their feet” and leave any place that will not accept them. He doesn’t say, “call a meeting, show a PowerPoint and convince them that the message is real.” He tells them to not waste their time. The challenge in that for each of us is, first of all, to be sure we have a message and can articulate it (usually simply by living a Christian life), and then not wasting time and breath when there is no hope of someone hearing. The Lord said we will answer for every idle word (Matthew 12:36), so we must measure the words to ensure they are not idle, and not utter them to those uninterested. No one is ever “convinced” into heaven by words. Anyone inspired to a godly and righteous life is usually inspired by actions, not words.