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.”
The Journey to the Cross and Resurrection of Christ
I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14
Good morning Prayer Team!
Many people are not accustomed to setting spiritual goals. We set all kinds of other goals for weight loss, for financial improvement, for job status, for our children, etc., but we don’t think of setting spiritual goals. Rather we live a spiritual “existence.” We go to church, perhaps even regularly. We pray, perhaps even daily. However, we don’t think of the overall picture, and set goals to improve spiritually. This is why sometimes years go by, and even though we may be “active” with our church community, we feel like we are either not making progress or that we still have a long way to go.
Worse yet are those who are content with their Christianity, saying “I know what I know and I’m not interested in changing or growing.” Many people have the faith of their parents or grandparents, keeping traditions without knowing why, without having the faith ever become personal for them.
How often do we think of the ultimate goal, the Kingdom of Heaven? I confess, I don’t think about it as often as I should. I daydream about my child one day being married. I play over in my mind scenarios from summer camp. I wonder what it would be like to sleep in one of those huts over the water in the South Pacific. And I even have fantasies of managing a major league baseball team (which will never come true). Do I daydream about heaven? Unfortunately, not very often.
If heaven is our goal, our hoped for destination, then it should get some of our focus and attention. And if you are like me, and haven’t given this much thought, Lent is a perfect time to do so. We are going to live through the events of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, putting ourselves back in time to those significant days. And as we are doing so, we should put ourselves forward in time, contemplating our account before His Awesome judgment seat, and the glory of heaven itself.
I’ve often said “Goals without plans are fantasies. They never come true.” If heaven is the goal, then what is the plan to get there? Is there a plan?
The goal of Lent is to take strides in our journey to Christ. Therefore, we must make appropriate plans to realize this goal. One time when I went to confession, my Spiritual Father asked me “If you could wave the magic wand over your life and change three things, what would they be?” As we are about to enter the season of Great Lent, I pose the same question to you—If you could wave the magic wand over your life, specifically your spiritual life, and change three things, what would they be?
Begin today by identifying three areas of your life that you’d like to change. Allow me to suggest one spiritual goal—like praying more, reading the scriptures, going to confession, etc. One area of personal improvement—like exercise, or better sleeping habits. And one area of interpersonal improvement—like working on your marriage or reconciling with a friend.
The goals of Lent are to:
Remember what the Lord did for us.
Repent, or re-orient ourselves to the Lord by adding/changing at least one habit.
Retraining ourselves to follow our goals and changes.
Retaining and maintaining what we’ve learned long after Lent ends.
Tune in tomorrow for some ideas on how to get more out of worship this Lent.
Lord, thank You for the gift of this day. Thank You for allowing us times and seasons where we can improve ourselves. Thank You for new chances and new beginnings, whether it is a new season of Lent or just a new day that I begin today. Help me to make good choices today. Inspire my heart to set some goals for this Lent, to make some achievable plans, and to make some needed changes in certain areas of my life (list them). Give me the strength and the resolve to develop new habits, and to grow closer to You and to others. Amen.
Write down at least one spiritual goal, one personal goal and one interpersonal goal today!
Photo credit: Priority Ministries
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