When I was young I never really understood what it meant to be accused of being too big for my britches. After (admittedly) too many times of needing to be helped down from somewhere I had no business climbing, eventually I learned to understand my limitations. The lesson we all (hopefully) learn in our secular life has great potential when we consider our spiritual journey these final days of Holy and Great Week.
In the Gospel reading from the Vesperal Liturgy this morning which commemorates the Mystical Supper in the Upper Room, we get a close-up view of the Apostles getting too big for their britches. Here is the excerpt I talking about.....(the entire reading is including at the end of today’s post.) “And as they were eating, he said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, "Is it I, Lord? ... . Then Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away because of me this night; for it is written, `I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee." Peter declared to him, "Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away." Jesus said to him, "Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times." Peter said to him, "Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.”
We know how the story unfolds. Not only did EVERY disciples except for Saint John the Theologian run away when Christ was one the Cross, Peter denied even knowing Christ three times. Saint John Chrysostom helps us be graceful especially to Saint Peter because he had not yet experienced the resurrected Christ nor had he received the Holy Spirit.
But we have received the Holy Spirit, and we witness the Resurrection ANUALLY. How often do we get too big for our “spiritual” britches? How often are we not strong enough to fight the temptation of sleeping late on a Sunday morning and missing the Divine Liturgy? How often do we find ourselves too weak in the face of friends and coworkers challenging us because we are “too” holy? Is it even possible to be too holy? I don’t think so.
So my dear brothers and sisters, as we walk the final days of the Great Fast and experience the final moments of Holy Week, I pray that we are each strong enough to remain loyal followers of Christ. Thankfully God offers us a chance to learn from our mistakes. If (and I really should say because) we found ourselves in the past not strong to stand up to temptation, let’s not continue to make the same mistakes. Let’s commit to standing stronger longer than in the past.
And if (and here again I really should say when) we find this year we are not strong enough to fight, remember that the Apostles EVER AFTER they ran away and EVER AFTER Peter denied knowing Christ, they were forgiven by God and became the leaders of the Church. They became strong and eventually stood firm against the temptations to deny Christ. All but one of the original Apostles were martyred because they refused to deny Christ. They learned their limitations. We can too!
Have a blessed Resurrection!
Gospel Reading: Matthew 26:1-20; John 13:3-17; Matthew 26:21-39; Luke 22:43-44; Matthew 26:40-75; 27:1-2
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: "You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of man will be delivered up to be crucified." Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and took counsel together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, "Not during the feast, lest there be a tumult among the people." Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head, as he sat at table. But when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, "Why this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for a large sum, and given to the poor." But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her." Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him to you?" And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the passover?" He said, "Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, `The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at your house with my disciples.'" And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the passover.
When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples; Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded. He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, "Lord, do you wash my feet?" Jesus answered him, "What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand." Peter said to him, "You shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part in me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not every one of you." For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, "You are not all clean." When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
And as they were eating, he said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, "Is it I, Lord?" He answered, "He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born." Judas, who betrayed him, said, "Is it I, Master?" He said to him, "You have said so." Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away because of me this night; for it is written, `I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee." Peter declared to him, "Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away." Jesus said to him, "Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times." Peter said to him, "Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you." And so said all the disciples. Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, "Sit here, while I go yonder and pray." And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me." And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt."
An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour? When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death; and they bound him and led him away and delivered him to Pilate the governor.