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”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12: 12
Today’s question from the Prayer Team email bag is this:
How do you get back on track when you’ve grown disillusioned with the corruption in the church and the world?
Since this question is asked using the word “you” instead of “how does one get back on track”, I’ll answer it in a personal way. I think we all get somewhat disillusioned by what we perceive as corruption in the world, and of course, at times there are things that appear to be corrupt in the church. Here are some constructive ideas on how to deal with it.
First, ask yourself these questions: Does this “corruption” affect my daily life? Does it affect my marriage? My ability to parent? My ability to do my job? I think that in many situations, the answer is no. There are men who have held the office of President of the United States in my adult life who I have liked, and others who I didn’t care for, at all. But no President has affected my ability to be a husband, a father or a priest. That is the truth. The President can say anything he wants about anything. But until he comes into the church where I serve and disrupts the ministry, or until he comes into my home and disrupts my family, whatever he says or does really doesn’t affect me. It may affect my pocketbook, but so far it hasn’t affected my ability to be a husband, a father, a priest or a Christian.
It’s the same thing with the church. We’ve had an Archbishop in my lifetime who said all priests should wear suits and another one who said all priests should wear robes, there is controversy about whether to build a shrine in New York or who should be president of the Seminary. There is always some kind of controversy in the church, just like there is always some kind of controversy in the world, and in every career field in it. But none of these things affect my ability to pray, read the Bible, conduct the Divine Liturgy, hear a confession, visit the sick, offer a youth event or write the Prayer Team.
My point here is that many times we allow what we perceive as “corruption” to unnecessarily affect our marriages, our children, our jobs and our faith. Do I like the overall direction the world is going? No, I don’t. There is too much politics, political correctness, divisiveness, anger and laziness, among other things, in my opinion. However, I have two choices—I can get embroiled in debate on any of these subjects, or I can quietly go about my business in my little corner of the world, and try to promote peace, love and hope that Christ calls me to promote. In my little corner of the world, I am a husband, a father and a priest. Am I solid in these areas? Is there more work to do on any of these three fronts? As Christ said,
“Judge not, that you not be judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)
Yes, there is plenty of work to do in my own little corner of the world, plenty of logs to remove from my own eyes before I start looking at the specks in the eyes of others.
We know the track that God has called us to walk on. We are supposed to love one another and serve one another, as best as can, using the talents He gave us. We are supposed to be good stewards of our time as well. If we spend a considerable amount of time watching CNN or Fox News (the two news channels that spark political debate) or reading the National Herald (the newspaper that produces debate about the church) and we don’t read the Bible, we are not being good stewards of our time. If we spend hours engaging in debate but we don’t spend any time visiting the sick or volunteering to help others, we are not being good stewards of our time. And if we are continually disillusioned with life and fail to see any goodness because we are blinded by cynicism, we are not being good stewards of our time.
Do I get cynical? Do I get disillusioned? Do I get disappointed? Yes, I do. And do I let people know about it? Engage in fruitless debate? Probably more than I should. The best check for myself is an evaluation of how I’m spending my time. Also, how many positive versus negative things come out of my mouth. Sometimes in conversations that become cynical, someone will say “say something good.” That’s how the cycle ends. Say something good. Do something good. And then you are contributing to the solution, rather than to the problem. At the end of the day, both the church and the world are led by fallen human beings. That’s why there is always going to be disillusionment with both. This is also why we put our hope in God, not in ourselves and our institutions.
I said, “I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I bridle my mouth, so long as the wicked are in my presence.” I was dumb and silent, I held my peace to no avail; my distress grew worse and my heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: “Lord, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is! Behold, Thou hast made my days a few handbreaths, and my lifetime is as nothing in Thy sight. Surely every man stands as a mere breath! Surely man goes about as a shadow! Surely for naught are they in turmoil; man heaps up, and knows not who will gather! And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in Thee. Deliver me from all my transgressions. Make me not the scorn of the fool! I am dumb, I do not open my mouth; for it is Thou who has done it. Remove Thy stroke from me; I am spent by the blows of Thy hand. When Thou dost chasten men with rebukes for sin, Thou dost consume like a moth what is dear to him; surely every man is a mere breath. Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; hold not Thy peace at my tears! For I am Thy passing guest, a sojourner, like all my fathers. Look away from me, that I may know gladness, before I depart and be no more! Psalm 39
Do your best with the roles you have today—spouse, parent, worker, friend. Keep your eyes on the prize—salvation. And put your hope in God!