Daily Reflection May 8th, 2020

Daily Reflection May 8th, 2020

MAY 8 Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian


A monk complained to St. Arsenius that while reading Holy Scripture he felt neither the power of the words he read nor gentleness in his heart. The great saint replied to him: “My child, just read! I heard that when snake-charmers cast a spell upon serpents, these sorcerers utter words which they themselves do not understand, but the serpents, hearing the words spoken, sense their power and are tamed. An so it is with us, when the words of Holy Scripture are continually on our lips, although we do not feel the power of the words, evil spirits tremble and flee for they are unable to endure the words of the Holy Spirit.” My child, just read! The Holy Spirit, Who wrote these divine words through inspired men, will hear, understand and hasten to your assistance. Likewise, the demons will hear and understand, and will flee from you. That is: He to Whom you are calling for help will understand, and those whom you wish to drive away from yourself will understand. And both goals will be achieved. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr John’s Reflection

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
(1 John 4:1-6)

Not only do we read the Gospel of St. John during the Paschal season, but his feastday almost always falls during Paschaltide. Such is the case today, when we commemorate John the Theologian. One of the readings prescribed for his Vespers is excerpted above. All of his letters, although relatively brief, are powerful. In the passage above, the Apostle very simply states some eternal truths. First, every Christian must test the spirits. By this, he means that we are not to be led astray by our own thoughts first of all, and the winds of this world second of all. It is so easy to build up a system of beliefs in God that spring from our own desires and imaginations. We truly do make God “in our image and in our likeness.” It is equally easy to be swayed by popular doctrines and fads. Indeed, many false prophets have gone out into the world. But when John says “test the spirits,” he tells us to check all those beliefs. There is a simple test: every spirit (or whim, or fad, or popular doctrine) that confesses that Jesus Christ is the incarnate Son of God is of God. Those that don’t confess that are not. It’s that simple. All other spirits lead us away from God (the spirit of Antichrist according to John).

The other eternal truth stated is that we are of God. Anyone baptized into Christ and the life of the Church has already begun to overcome the false spirits. In the Church, we are led by the Spirit of Truth, who reveals all truth, not just some. And in the Church, we are certainly not led by the spirit of error. The only error that comes into our lives comes in when we open the door to it, when we ignore the Spirit of Truth, and when we have convinced ourselves that we are “good enough.” That begins when we fail to “test the spirits.” How wonderful and glorious it is that we are given the Gospel of St. John during the Paschal season. And how wonderful it is that we hear from his other words on this, his feastday. May his words be engraved on each of our hearts, may God give us rich spiritual discernment, and may we use that discernment to test the spirits. Christ is Risen!