Daily Devotional for June 18-24
From the Orthodox Study Bible..
These first disciples had already heard the preaching of John the Baptist and were prepared to accept Christ immediately. Though illiterate and unlearned in religion, these “people of the land” whom Jesus calls will be revealed at Pentecost to be the wisest of all.
QUOTE: “There are however preconditions for divine grace to come and dwell in a person. Only a person who has humility receives these gifts from God; he attributes them to God and uses them for His glory. The good, humble, devout man who loves God, the man who possesses virtue is not by the grace of God deluded or led astray. He feels in his heart that he is truly unworthy and that all those things are given to him so that he may become good and for that reason he makes his ascetic struggle.” Elder Prophyrios
**This begins the readings on the Parables of Christ with assorted quotes added now and then. All notes are from the Orthodox Study Bible
Parable of the Tares
24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
Exp: This parable builds on the previous parable of the sower. Here Christ gives attention to the enemy who has sown his seed among the seed of Christ. As falsehood came after truth and false prophets came after the true prophets, so the Antichrist will come after Christ. Just as the weeds first appear similar to wheat, so the devil fashions his lies to resemble the truth. That the devil sows while men slept indicates that heresy and lies creep in when people are apathetic. This parable also explains why the Church neither condemns nominal members, nor judges those outside the Church (1Co 5: 12, 13). Just as wheat would be destroyed in weeding out the tares, so also, many people who might ultimately find salvation would otherwise be lost if condemned before Christ’s judgment.
Nelson, Thomas. NKJV, The Orthodox Study Bible
Two related parables
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, 48 which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50 and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
51 Jesus said to them,[e] “Have you understood all these things?”
They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.”[f]
52 Then He said to them, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning[g] the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”
Explanation of the parables from Tuesday:
The parable of the treasure hidden in a field illustrates those who unintentionally stumble onto Christ and His Church, yet receive Him with great eagerness. The parable of the pearl of great price illustrates those who have been searching in their hearts for Him and finally find Him and His Church. The other pearls represent all the various teachings and philosophies of the world. These treasures are hidden in that they are neither recognized nor valued by those immersed in worldliness. In both parables, receiving the treasure requires that everything else must be sold, that is, a person must surrender all things in order to receive Christ.
Quote: (experience of a young monk showing God’s foreknowledge)… elder to put in an expensive order without asking me. Since I knew something about building when I was in the world I realized that we would be throwing away money. I ran to the elder to prevent the mistake for everyone’s benefit. What you think happened? The Elder pulled me up without any discussion and literally showered me with insults, abuse and send me away like a dog. I said to myself, “Fine, fine. Thank you for the insults but tomorrow you will throw away a whole lot of money and we will talk about it again.”….All the materials arrived and as I estimated they were unsuitable and we threw them in the shed. Not many days past and they were needed for another job that we began and they fit with such precision is if we had purposely ordered them. Well then, my elder rightly pulled me up and taught me a firm lesson.” Elder Haralambos
Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
Matthew 18: 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet[d] and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’[e] 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Parable of the Servant Explained
Seventy times seven: Symbolic of an unlimited amount. This parable illustrates the need for unlimited forgiveness. Ten thousand talents (v. 24) is an impossible sum, more than a laborer could earn in several lifetimes. A hundred denarii (v. 28) is a significant amount from an earthly perspective (about three months’ wages), yet it is a pittance when compared to the debt owed the king. God not only stays the punishment we deserve, but forgives us the entire debt as well (v. 27). Because God forgives us, we in turn are required to grant the gift of forgiveness to others. 18: 25
Certain Fathers give a spiritual interpretation to the punishment described here. The man represents the soul, the wife represents the body, and the children represent a person’s deeds. Thus, the body and the deeds are given over to slavery, that is to Satan, so that the soul might possibly be saved (see 1Co 5: 5).
The Holy Spirit gives wings to our prayer! How radically different it is when instead of “wishing” for something, we invoke Christ’s name and pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit to fulfill our prayerful requests! Instead of wishing things were different, to pray: “Show me, O Lord, how I can make a change that will improve this difficult situation!” Instead of wishing one dear to us would be healed of their illness, to offer a sincere prayer: “O Lord, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, comfort so-and-so in her pain and heal her!” Instead of lamenting a difficult task, to pray: “O Lord, give me the strength to do this with love in my heart for Thee!” Instead of wishing we would do better, to fervently pray: “O Lord, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, empower me to battle against this passion!”
he Holy Spirit is the greatest unsung Hero, if one may use that expression, ever ready to help in such a quietly unassuming way, like Christ who made as if He would go further when He walked with Luke and Cleopas until they invited Him into their dwelling. Pentecost is truly a great feast! Let us on bended knee invoke the Holy Spirit to come and abide with us, and let us in all reverence use this gift, the treasured Gift of the Holy Spirit (sealed in each baptized soul), to transform our “wishes” into active prayer. Even more so, toward the great work of the salvation of our souls.
Excerpt from the Abbess Michaila’s monthly letter at St. Paisius Orthodox Monastery