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
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
Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6: 25-26
Good morning Prayer Team!
Today marks the beginning of Great Lent, a day the church calls “Clean Monday” or “Kathara Deftera.” While we do not put on ashes to remember the stain of our sins, we should still spend time reflecting on the state of our hearts, souls and lives, and strive to “clean” that which is dirty in our thoughts, our feelings and in our deeds.
I’ve decided to take a one day departure from the “Engaged: The Call to Be Disciples” series to talk about value. Yesterday after church, I was asked my thoughts about the recent school mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. I was asked “Why do I think these things keep happening?” My answer is simple—We, as a society, have lost our sense of value for one another. If I am lying to you, then I don’t value you. If I am stealing from you, I don’t value you. If I am cheating in school or work or anywhere in order to get ahead of you, I don’t value you. If I am all about me, I do not value you. Because we, as a society, are addicted to dishonesty, theft, cheating and ourselves, we do not value one another. Is it any surprise then, that it has become common-place for us to take out guns (or knives, or cars, or bombs) and murder others? We as a society have forgotten how to value other people. Yes, there are people who are mentally unstable, and yes, there are people who are lonely—they still have value. It’s up to us, individually and collectively, to put value on each person.
Think for a minute about the words we all say—are they more complimentary or critical? Think for a minute about the words you say to your spouse, your children, your co-workers, your friends—are they more positive or negative? Are they filled with more praise or more criticism? Are we encouragers or discouragers? Are we people who seek to include others or exclude them? Are we people who are approachable or unapproachable? Peace-makers or peace-takers?
As we begin the season of Great and Holy Lent, let us meditate on the word “value.” We each have infinite value in the eyes of God. We need to see our own value. We need to see the value in others. When we collectively take the attitude of “you matter” when it comes to others, then, I believe, we can turn the tide.
The journey of Great Lent calls on us to look inwardly. Today’s prayer is the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim. It reminds us that during this season, we are supposed to focus on ridding ourselves of laziness, meddling, lust for power and idle talk (gossip). Rather we are supposed to focus on prudence, humility, patience and love. We are to love our brother rather than judge him, focusing on our own faults rather than his.
The two greatest commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor. We live in a society where we marginalize God and marginalize our neighbor. It’s time to get back to basics. I can’t change society, and neither can you. But we can each change our corner of it. We can each love God. We can each love the neighbor that is in our own home, or next to our home, or in the next office, or at the cash register at the store.
So let’s start Lent off by getting back to the basics. Love God, and know that He loves you and values you. Love your neighbor. Find value in him.
Finally, the Prayer Team began on Clean Monday of 2015, so today marks three years since this endeavor began. I am thankful to the Lord for the inspiration He provides and to you, for your prayers and encouragement. By God’s grace, I hope to write messages of hope and inspiration for years to come.
O Lord and Master of my life, do not permit the spirit of laziness and meddling, the lust for power and idle talk to come into me.
Instead grant me, Your servant, the spirit of prudence, humility, patience and love.
Yes, Lord and King, give me the power to see my own faults and not to judge my brother.
For You are blessed unto the ages of ages. Amen. (Prayer of St. Ephraim, Trans. by Holy Cross Seminary Press)
Kali Sarakosti! Have a blessed Lent!
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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