Daily Reflection May 18th, 2020

Daily Reflection May 18th, 2020

MAY 18 Holy Martyr Theodotus of Ancyra and his companions


To conceal your virtues and mortifications was the custom of ascetics, both female and male, not only in the earliest times of Christianity but throughout all ages to the present time. Eudocia, wife of the glorious Prince Dimitri of Don, the liberator of Russia from the Tartars, was left a comparatively young widow in the year 1389 A.D. Imbued with devoutness, this princess built many churches, distributed alms and secretly weakened her body by fasting and long vigils. She wore an iron chain around her body. Meanwhile, she always appeared happy before the public, clothed in opulence and adorned with pearls. The public said many things about her and they began to spread rumors about her immoral life. Her sons heard about this and, insulted and embittered openly informed their mother what was being rumored about her. The mother opened her luxurious robe and the children, with great horror, viewed her body which was completely withered, dried up and drawn in by the iron chains(St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr John’s Reflection

Do not say, “I fell away because of the Lord.” For He will not do what He hates. Do not say, “It was He who led me astray,” for He has no need of a sinful man. The Lord hates all abominations, and they are not loved by those who fear Him. He Himself created man in the beginning and left him in the counsel of his will. If you will, you will keep the commandments and faithfully do His good pleasure. He has set before you fire and water; if you will, stretch out your hand. Life and death are before mankind, and whichever he chooses, it will be given to him. For great is the wisdom of the Lord; He is mighty in power and sees all things. His eyes are upon those who fear Him, and He Himself knows every deed of man. He has commanded no one to be ungodly, and has given no one license to sin. (Wisdom of Sirach 15:11-20)

Our passage today from the Wisdom of Sirach brings before us the whole conundrum of “free will.” One of the essential differences between created beasts and human beings (among others) is the fact that human beings have the ability to choose the way they live their lives. Certainly, only some things are in our control, but the basic commandment from God is to seek and do His will. However, we are free to accept or reject Him. We do not live by instinct alone (like animals), but have consciences, intelligence, speech, and understanding. The author begins by chastising one of the great sins of humans: blaming God for our condition. We cannot blame God for our sin, and He does not lead anyone astray. Every choice is ours to make. The “abominations” of which ben Sirach speaks are all manner of sin and evil behavior. He makes it clear that not only does God not cause the abomination, but He hates it. Those abominations are not loved by those who fear Him. That means repentance. God created each and every one of us with the ability to love Him or hate Him; to accept Him or reject Him. As I love to quote C.S. Lewis, “God is a gentleman. He does not enter where he is not invited.”

The Scripture is clear: God has set before each of us a choice: fire and water. Death and life. Hell and Baptism. If we will, we need but stretch out our hands and make the right choice. Whichever we truly choose will be truly given to us. “He has commanded no one to be ungodly, and has given no one license to sin.” And He sees it all. But we must remember two things: first, even the right choice will still require repentance, because “no one lives and does not sin.” Second, true love for God is impossible if we did not have the capacity to reject Him. If we did not have free will, we would be automatons, incapable not only of choice, but of love. We make that choice with every decision of our lives. But God leads and inspires, He does not control and require. May we make good choices! Christ is Risen!