Daily Reflection for September 23, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  SEPTEMBER 23  •  Conception of St. John the Baptist


He who gives to the poor, gives to Christ. This is the meaning of the evangelical teaching, which was confirmed in the experience of the saints. Peter the Merciful, after he repented, began to give alms to the poor wherever the opportunity presented itself. On one occasion, a shipwrecked man who had barely saved his naked body from the wreck, met Peter and begged him for some clothing. Peter removed his costly dolman and clothed the naked man with it. Shortly afterward, Peter saw his dolman in the shop of a merchant who had displayed it for sale. Peter was very saddened that this shipwrecked man sold his dolman instead of using it for himself. Peter said to himself: “I am not worthy; the Lord does not accept my alms.” But the Lord appeared to him in a dream in the form of a nobleman, brighter than the sun with a cross on his head wearing Peter’s dolman. “Peter, why are you sad?” asked the Lord. “My Lord, why would I not be sad when I see that which I gave to the poor is sold at the market?” Then the Lord asked him: “Do you recognize this garment on Me?” Peter replied: “I recognize it, Lord, that is my garment with which I clothed the naked one.” Then the Lord spoke to him again: “Therefore do not be sad, you gave it to the poor man and I received it and I praise your deed.” (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load. Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.
            Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
(Galatians 6:2-10)

Near the end of his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul continues discussing what kind of “works” are the natural fruits from the seeds of faith. In the passage above, he touches on some fundamental works that a Christian who is filled with faith must bring forth. First, we must bear one another’s burdens. We are tempted very easily to think that “my” burdens are the most important, heaviest burdens in the world. It is also easy to think I am the only one with burdens. That may be true for someone looking only at himself. But when we look outside ourselves, and share the burdens, the load is lightened and we can carry them. Essentially, only the selfish cannot see the load of another person. Second, we must be aware that we sow what we reap. If we have surrendered to this world and its passions and darkness, then passion and darkness is what we will have. But if we battle this world and its passions, we will be inspired to repentance and reap everlasting life.

That leads, however, to the third and perhaps most important, fruit — to not allow ourselves to grow weary. Trying to do good, trying to live righteously, trying to find true repentance, all are very, very exhausting. We can do good for someone to no thanks, or even to reviling. We struggle with prayer and solitude, never finding a quietness in our hearts needed for true communion with Him. The actions of the spiritual life oftentimes are just empty or rote actions where we go “through the motions.” My temper, impatience, wandering eyes and mind and numerous other attacks of the devil never seem to get better. I feel sometimes like I take a step forward and then two backward. None of that matters. When we feel bone tired spiritually, we turn to God and ask for strength. Then try again. If St. Paul can warn the Galatians in the first century about these temptations, who are we to think that we are unique or immune to these? We must heed his words, that we will reap in due season if we do not lose heart. I’m comforted, and know that the Church in Her wisdom looked to these words of St. Paul when we hear the Prayers of the Litiya in celebration of feastdays and the good things of life:

(Second Petition of the Litiya Prayers [Blessing of Loaves, Wheat, Wine, and Oil])
Again we pray for His Beatitude, our Metropolitan (N.), for His Grace, our Bishop (N.), and for all our brethren in Christ; and for every Christian soul that is afflicted and weary in well-doing, in need of God’s mercies and help