Daily Reflection for September 9, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  SEPTEMBER 9  •  Holy and Righteous Ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna


One should not give alms with pride but rather with humility, considering that the one to whom the alms is given is better than oneself. Did not the Lord Himself say: “Insomuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (St. Matthew 25:40). Theophanes the Confessor, even as a child, possessed a mind illumined by the light of Christ. Once, while walking along the street, he saw an unclothed child freezing. He quickly removed his clothes, clothed the child and thus warmed him and brought him to life. He then returned home naked. His startled parents asked him: “Where are your clothes?” To that Theophanes replied: “I clothed Christ.” That is why he was given the grace of Christ and was later a great ascetic, a sufferer for the Faith of Christ and a miracle-worker. If, therefore, we give alms regardless in whose name or in our own name, we cannot avoid pride which, as soon as it appears in the heart, destroys all the good deeds performed. When we give to the beggar as a beggar and not as Christ, we cannot avoid either pride or disdain. What value is there in performing an act of mercy, taking pride ourselves and disdaining the man? Virtue is not a virtue when it is mixed with sin, just as milk is not milk when it is mixed with gasoline or vinegar. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
            Greet one another with a holy kiss.
(2 Corinthians 13:11-12)

These words of St. Paul, given to us in the Church lectionary today, are given to the Corinthians in his farewell at the end of his second letter to them. I believe two of the sentences are bound together: “Become complete.” and “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” Last week, my wife and I were blessed to be in Michigan at our goddaughter Melanie’s wedding. Our relationship began in my first parish back in 1980. Her mom, Michele, was our son Greg’s godmother. I served at Michele’s wedding, then she asked me and my wife to be Melanie’s godparents when she was born. We held Melanie in our arms back in 1993 when she was baptized, then I got to serve at her wedding last Sunday. This history is important for it defines how we began and ended the week with a holy kiss (or kisses). We live in the time of COVID, and yet, when we pulled up to their house in our rented car, we all fell into each other’s arms and kissed. No masks. No gloves. No social distancing. Just holy love. We were family. Later, we went to church in the parish that I first pastored (and was their first pastor) and saw two of my former parishioners (most are gone), now elderly. Our eyes lit up, and we fell into each other’s arms again with a holy kiss. At the wedding, we kissed our newly wed goddaughter and her husband. And as we left their house on Monday evening, we cried and hugged tightly with a holy kiss. We have shared similar holy kisses with beloved in New Britain, CT, when we visit; in Greenville, SC, when we see our beloved friends there; in St. Louis, with our beloved physical family and extended family given to my wife when she was but a little girl and that I had the good fortune to inherit when I got Liz; in various other places where loved ones have landed; and, yes, when we return home to the family that God has given us here in Las Vegas. The joy of seeing our beloved in other places is matched by the joy of seeing our beloved when we return home.

St. Paul knew what he was talking about when he told the Corinthians “Become complete.” Every time I see someone I love, whom I haven’t seen in a while, and we can greet each other with a holy kiss, and share our lives once more, I become complete, for there is an emptiness in my life and in my heart when they are not there. The pain of leaving each other once more is the price we pay to have love in our lives. That makes the kiss holy, and that makes the person complete. We are so blessed to have people in our lives that we yearn to see and that makes our hearts jump when we can. But we are also blessed to be happy to return to those in our lives today, for that our hearts jump also.

I am complete because I have them. I am complete because I have you.