Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
ENGAGED: The Call to Be Disciples
Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20
A Conversion Experience is Required
Jesus went out again beside the sea; and all the crowd gathered about Him, and He taught them. And as He passed one, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me.” And he rose and followed Him. And as He sat at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were siting with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many who followed Him. And the scribes of the Pharisees when they saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous but sinners.” Mark 2: 13-17
Good morning Prayer Team!
If there is one draw-back to Orthodoxy, it is that we are never required to stand up and proclaim what we believe and our desire to belong. In the early church, those who wished to join were required to be “catechumens” for a period of two years. “Catechumens” were those who were learning about the faith and preparing to join the church. Two years is a long time, and by preparing for two years, those who joined the Church were very invested and committed in following Christ and embracing the Christian life.
The Church began baptizing infants in the 8th century after a plague went through Europe, killing a large percentage of the population, so that there were many people who were not adults who perished before they could be baptized. At this point in history, the Church changed its thinking on baptism and began baptizing infants, who were not required to prepare in any way to join the church. Today it is traditional for children to be baptized as infants. At the same time they are baptized, they are “Chrismated” or “Confirmed” as Orthodox Christians and begin receiving Holy Communion. No one is required to read a book, or take a class, or stand up and proclaim “I believe” or “I want to belong.”
Thus, we have this idea that one is born Christian because he or she becomes a Christian shortly after birth. However, one can’t become a disciple by birth or baptism. At the heart of discipleship, the call to be a disciple, is a choice, a response. In the Scripture passage of today’s reflection, Jesus called Levi (Matthew) at the tax office and asks Levi to follow. Levi decides, on his own, to follow after Jesus. In like manner, Jesus asks all of us to follow. It is up to each of us to answer that call.
Even if we required people to stand up and proclaim they want to belong, this choice is not a one-time choice. Rather, to follow Christ, to be a disciple, is a daily choice. The call to be a disciple is a very personal call. And likewise, a “daily conversion” to Christianity, a daily choice to follow, is a very personal call. Each of us has to decide in our own heart, in our own soul, if we believe, and if we will follow.
The call of Jesus is not for the crowd. Rather it is very personal. Jesus didn’t see crowds, He saw people. He picked people out of crowds, like Zacchaeus, or the blind man. That’s because Jesus doesn’t see us as tables of people, but rather He sees us as individuals. He knows our names. He knows our needs.
The choice to follow Jesus requires a daily “conversion,” a daily stating of not only how one believes or how one feels but of how one will act, how he or she will conduct himself or herself.
Let us honor Christ’s fellow laborers! They are lightning bolts hurled to earth by the might of the Spirit; workers of miracles and witnesses of the mysteries, tablets of divine love written by the hand of God, honorable masters of the law divine. (From the Stichera of Vespers, June 30, feast of the Holy Apostles, Trans by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Choose to follow Christ today!
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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