Daily Reflection May 4th, 2020

Daily Reflection May 4th, 2020

MAY 4 Holy Martyr Pelagia of Tarsus


A young man inexperienced in spiritual combat underlines his every good work with self-praise. But the experienced soldier in the midst of struggles with the passions and demons disparages his every deed and intensifies his prayer for God’s help. Abba Matoes used to say: “The closer a man is to God, the more sinful he sees himself to be.” He also was known to say: “When I was young, I thought perhaps that I was doing some good; and now when I am old, I see that I do not have one good deed.” Did not our Lord say: There is none good but one, that is, God (Matthew 19:17)? Therefore, if only the One God is good and the source of all good, how can a good deed be done that is not from God? And how can someone who does a good deed ascribe it to himself and not to God? If this is so, then in what can a mortal man be praised? In nothing, except by God and the goodness of God!
(St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr John’s Reflection

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing…
​When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. But now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 11-13)

My daily scripture discipline brought me today to the thirteenth chapter of St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians — the famous “love” chapter. St. Paul’s words are very often sentimentalized in today’s “Hallmark” society. Valentine’s Day cards, Mother’s Day cards, even birthday cards for your wife or girlfriend often quote his words. But if we read these words with a sharpened Christian worldview, we find two realities. First, “things done,” even miraculous things, can be quite impressive. He uses the examples of speaking in tongues (which was a problem in the Corinthian Church), prophecy, understanding mysteries and even all knowledge, having all faith, distributing all that I have to the poor, and even martyrdom. But none of these profit anything if they do not spring from love. The essential content of judgment is going to be love. We are not going to be asked if we “did” any of those things. We are going to stand in the presence of Love Himself and the judgment will be how well we reflect that Love. The funny thing is, though, that one who reflects that Love has many of those “things” on the resumé.

But then, at the end of this small chapter, Paul reminds us that it is a matter of spiritual maturity. When Jesus sat a child on His lap and said that “anyone who is not like this child will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven,” he did not mean to be childish — immature, temperamental, full of bad choices, seeking independence. He meant be childlike — innocent, trusting, faithful, loving, dependent on Him. Paul basically says to the Corinthians (and to us): “Grow up!” Put away all the childish things that rule your lives. We are so petty, possessive, sensitive, hardhearted, and worst of all, “independent.” We live our lives as if God is not there, or we do not need Him. We convince ourselves that the world is egocentric, and the ego is mine! To truly love like Jesus commands, and like Paul instructs, means to dive deep into the depths of our hearts and find that childlike innocence that cannot exist without unconditional love. The Lord accepts that love and returns it fourfold. A Christian journey to true repentance and love, and therefore to Life, is simply a matter of growing up spiritually — leaving my oh so adult importance and becoming His child. Childlike, not childish. Christ is Risen!