Daily Reflection June 8th, 2020

Daily Reflection June 8th, 2020

JUNE 8 DAY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT Translation of the Relics of the Greatmartyr Theodore Stratelates

Fear in suffering and fear of not suffering–this is one and the same fear, and it signifies the fear of a spiritual man as to whether or not God has distanced Himself from him. When St. Catherine suffered many difficult tortures, the Lord appeared to her and she asked Him: “Where were You until now, O Lord, to comfort me in so many sufferings?” The Lord answered her: “I was here in your heart.” But as great a fear can come upon a spiritual man when sufferings do not come his way for a long time. A monk once entered a church in Alexandria and saw a woman kneeling before the icon of the Savior, shedding tears and crying out to the Lord: “You have abandoned me, O Lord, O Merciful One, have mercy on me!” Following the prayer the monk asked her: “Who has wronged you that you so bitterly complain to God?” The woman replied: “Up to now no one has wronged me–that is why I am weeping–because God has abandoned me and for three years has not visit me with any sufferings. During this time, neither have I been sick, nor my son, nor have any of my household livestock perished.”(St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr John’s Reflection

“Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:10-20)

Today is the “Day of the Holy Spirit,” a continuation, if you will, of the Feast of Pentecost. The gospel reading assigned for this day has an overriding theme: God has come to save us and does not desire the loss of a single person. All the words are the Lord’s — first reminding us not to despise the “little ones.” This means children, but also everyone who becomes (and must become) like a child in pursuit of holiness. Everyone who is innocent, who is trusting, who is open to the guidance of his Father. When one of the little ones is lost or gone astray, God does everything possible to locate and bring back the wanderer. So should we. And the one who went astray but returned is rejoiced over even more than those who never left the flock. The Holy Spirit is the One who enlivens us to holy childhood. When we die to Christ in baptism and rise with Him in glory, we are then sealed with His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit seals our life in the Church and becomes a life-long guiding Light to lead us to salvation in that life. The Lord also confirms (and affirms) that each of us has been given our own personal angel, a guardian, who is always in the presence of God interceding for us. What a glorious gift!

But then the Lord gives us guidance on how to deal with those who have gone astray. Admittedly, this assumes an issue I have with someone is within the life of the Church. First, we are to confront the issue alone — just me and the one who has sinned against me — trying to resolve the issue. If that doesn’t work, confront the issue with one or two reputable witnesses, who can testify to our efforts. (Canon law to this day requires two or three reputable witnesses if a charge is to brought against a priest or bishop.) Finally, should all other avenues fail, we are to bring the issue to the Church. If that doesn’t work, then we are to place the sinner into the hands of God for Him to deal with. The apostles hearing these words, and now the apostles of the Church in this age (bishops and priests), are given authority to adjudicate those issues. And when the judgment is that everything has been tried, what a priest or bishop “binds” remains bound, and what is “loosed” is forgiven. So often, we avoid difficult situations that arise between me and my brother or sister. Jesus tells us to humbly try to “save” the situation in the Church, because no one should be abandoned without the effort to restore. But when that fails, the prescription is pretty clear.

Finally, reassuring us that He does, indeed, want to save anyone who goes astray, He comforts us with the promise that when two or three are “gathered in His name,” He will always be in their midst. Our dilemma in our selfish and sinful state is making sure that we are truly asking in His Name, have truly divested ourselves of pride, and what we are asking is worthy of our entreaty. Then He is there! Gracious Comforter, enliven, enlighten, and strengthen us!