Daily Devotional for August 19-25
Matthew 19:16 Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”
17 So He said to him,]“Why do you call Me good?]No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
18 He said to Him, “Which ones?”
Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”
26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
We can hardly find a better example of why we should not become lazy or procrastinate in prayer and work until tomorrow, than by this example, which is given to us by St. Ephraim the Syrian: “Once a brother was inspired by the devil to think: ‘Give yourself rest today and tomorrow rise for vigil.’ But he answered the thought, ‘Who knows, perhaps, I will not even get up tomorrow, that is why I need to rise today.’ Before work, he was also inspired with this thought: ‘Give yourself rest today and complete your work tomorrow.’ And again he responded, ‘No, I will complete my work today, and the Lord will take care of tomorrow.’” St. Anthony teaches: “Before the dawn of each day, arrange your life as though it is your last day on earth and you will protect yourself from sins.”
He who does not see God as the merciful Samaritan on earth will see Him as the dreadful Judge in heaven. So blinded were the leaders of the Jews that, in the Lord Christ, they were unable to see God, or the Messiah, or a prophet, or even simply a good man. They placed Him beneath ordinary good people. Not only that, they placed Him even lower than the thieves. They released Barabbas and they condemned Christ! In general, they did not even consider Christ a man. They spit on Him; they mocked Him; they made a masquerade of Him, as of some cheap and unneeded thing. Exactly at the moment when the Jews maliciously played with Christ as some cheap and unneeded thing, the Lord suddenly opened His mouth and spoke: Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. What a distance there is between what Christ is in truth and what the Jews held Him to be!
The Son of Man, Who sits on the right hand of Power, is the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who was seen as such soon after that by the Holy Archdeacon Stephen and many, many others. The Son of Man, Who comes on the clouds with angels and countless numbers of powers and heavenly hosts, is again that same Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, as St. John the Theologian and Evangelist saw and wrote about in his Revelation. O my brethren, do not be misled by deluding and illusionary tales of those men who say: “When we see Christ in the heavens as God, then we will believe in Him.” That faith will be too late, and that vision will be in vain. With our faith we must see Christ as God in that humiliated, spat upon, beaten, bloodied and ridiculed Man in the court of Caiaphas; in that silent and condemned One Whom the Jews considered as something cheap and unneeded and Whom they turned into a masquerade. This is the Faith that is valued in heaven. This is the Faith that is rewarded by resurrection and immortality. This is the Faith that, until now, nurtured and transplanted to heaven numerous armies of the holiest souls, the strongest characters, the most forbearing heroes, and the most illustrious minds.
Love for anyone or anything, even love for oneself, can in time grow cold in man, be lost altogether and even be twisted into hatred. But the love of man for God, once gained and established, is more difficult to cool off, unless one loses one’s mind. In the first instance man diminishes or eradicates his love either out of a change in himself or because of a change in the objects of his love. In the second instance man can diminish his love toward God only because of a change in himself and never because of a change in God. All of this is neatly and clearly explained by St. Isaac the Syrian: “There is a kind of love that is similar to a brook after a rainfall, which quickly ceases after the rain stops. But there is a love similar to a spring, which erupts through the earth and never ceases. The first love is human love, and the second love is Divine Love.”… Love.” St. Simeon the New Theologian, speaks about Divine Love: “O Holy Love! Thou art the end of the Law. Thou overcomest me; Thou warmest me; Thou inflamest my heart to immeasurable love for God and my brothers. Out of love, God became man. Out of love, He endured His life-giving suffering in order to deliver man from the throes of hades and bring him to heaven. Out of love, the apostles completed their difficult course. Out of love, the martyrs shed their blood in order not to lose Christ.”
Why did our Lord remain silent at the judgment before the Jews and before Pilate? Because, prior to that, He had said everything that needed to be said. He foretold how the Jewish elders would give him over to the unbelievers, and how they would kill Him. Many times He had foretold what would personally befall Him. His apostles heard and carefully remembered this. He also foretold the terrible punishment that the Jews would assume upon themselves for their evil acts against the Son of God. And the Jews heard this— and forgot. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. The Lord foretold this about the Jews. And the Jews heard this and forgot it. But much later, many remembered these prophetic words, many of whom lived through the Great Evil, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, plundering it, burning it, dispersing its inhabitants and scattering them throughout the world. Many were beheaded or strangled, starved or crucified. The Jews, out of fear and vexation, forced Pilate to raise his hand against the Lord Jesus. Afterward the Roman Empire raised its hand against the Jews. On that day when the prophecy of the Lord was fulfilled, the Roman Empire, once represented in Jerusalem by Pilate, raised its hand against Jerusalem and her children with a very sharp sword. When Emperor Hadrian restored Jerusalem, he renamed it*) and forbade the Jews from settling in Jerusalem under penalty of death. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. From that time until today, Jerusalem was left deserted by the Jews as a nation. The children of these wicked ancestors who killed Christ were dispersed everywhere, except to their own home…
If we fulfill the Law of God in our thoughts, how much easier will it be for us to fulfill it in our deeds? That is, if we do not transgress the Law of God in our thoughts, how much easier will it be not to transgress it in our deeds? Furthermore, if our hearts are with God, then our tongues, hands, feet— our entire body— cannot be against God. Your heart! Your heart! Prepare your heart for God. Consecrate it to God and worship Him, fulfill the Law of God in it, unite it with God, and all the rest will follow and will be governed by the heart. It is not he who holds a spoke of the wheel that steers the wheel, but he who holds its axis. The heart is the axis of our being. Speaking about the commandments of God, the Venerable Hesychius says: “If you compel yourself to fulfill them in your thoughts, then you will rarely have the need to strain yourself to fulfill them in deed.” That is, if you set your heart on God, as on an axis, then the wheels will easily and comfortably follow the axis. In other words, the entire man will follow after his own heart. Thy law is within my heart (Psalm 40: 9), says the all-wise David.