I’ve noticed something on social media during the past few weeks that concerns me. As if it isn’t difficult enough for families to be quarantined, or at the very least to be limited in movement outside the home, I understand tensions can run high in family dynamics. That being said, I also think parents need to be parents during this crisis rather than friends.
When Saint James and Saint John, the Apostles of Christ, ask Jesus to honor their commitment with special seats in heaven Jesus said, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” (Mark 10.33-34) He said this to show the difference between how the world acts toward others as opposed to how God wants us to act toward others. We Christians are not supposed to desire seats of honor. We Christians are not supposed to want to be served by others. We Christians are supposed to serve others.
It has become natural in our lives to expect to be able to enter the Church, light our candle, reverence the holy icons, make an offering to the Church, and pray inside the main Church, which we Orthodox refer as the Nave. All that has changed with the Coronavirus (COVID19) and yet nothing has changed.
Part of the Great Lenten struggle is to find the willingness to endure the journey. In order for us to have any spiritual gain during this journey, we must accept that we God has appointed this struggle for our benefit. As we approach the end of the fifth week of Great Lent, you may wonder if you have what it takes to finish the race.
Today is a day normally reserved for pranks and practical jokes amongst friends. I admit I enjoy April first with the best of practical jokers, but this year I’m not so much in the mood for practical jokes. I wish this entire Coronavirus (COVID19) thing was a practical joke. Alas, it is real, so we must make the most of the challenges for God’s glory.
In our effort to reduce our anxiety this week, I invite you to consider Who it is that you are on this journey to please? As Orthodox Christians, we spend most of our time talking about defeating pride, and loving others as ourselves, but Who are you doing this for? Is it for your children, your spouse, your friend? You might think I believe you should be on this journey for yourself, but you would be wrong.
I tend to be a “news junky” ever since the days following 9/11 which ushered in the height of the 24-hour news cycle. I recall very vividly the first night, being glued to the TV news, wondering and waiting for what was (I presumed) bound to come next. Nothing ever came, thank God, and I eventually turned off the TV, going to bed. I didn’t go to sleep, but I did go to bed. My mind couldn’t turn off, after so many hours of watching, and re-watching the tragedy of that day. I’ve been feeling very similar lately.
On the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent, we hear the story of a man whose son was sick, and the Apostles were not able to heal him. Christ challenges him. “All things are possible to those who believe.” The father confesses his weakness, “I believe, help my unbelief.” His son was healed. When asked, Christ explained, “This kind can only go out through prayer and fasting.” In this current health crisis, we must increase our prayer and fasting, not to bargain with God, but to strengthen our faith, so that we can better understand His will for us.
Today my sermon was focused on the Gospel reading. Since you will be able to watch or read the sermon later when it is produced, I decided today’s Daily Lenten Journey would feature the Epistle Reading from Hebrews. Another Sunday, another day with empty Churches, continues to create anxiety on the people of God. When will this virus subside? When will God make everything better?