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.”
So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by His own authority. Acts 1:6-7 (From the Epistle Lesson read at the Divine Liturgy on Pascha) Saturday of the 5th Week of Pascha
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
Many reflections ago, I wrote about how in life I like to connect the dots. And sometimes in trying to connect the dots of life, things just don’t make a lot of sense. Let’s reflect on the comment of the Apostles in this morning’s scripture verse. These men had left their homes and businesses and followed Christ for three years. They had lots of moments to experience His glory—just add up all the miracles and what an awesome experience it must have been for them to witness the blind seeing, and the lame walking and the dead coming to life, not just one time but many times. Then there were the many comforting sayings and stories. And no doubt there was just the moments of friendship with this incredible man, sharing meals, taking walks, and sailing on the lake.
There were difficult moments. There were moments of doubt. And there were moments of downright fear. How could a whole city turn against Christ! How could a bloodthirsty mob demand His crucifixion! How could He endure the pain of the beatings! There was the fear that they could be the next ones to die. There were moments of confusion when the tomb was empty and they didn’t know where Christ was. And there were moments of joy, as Jesus came and stood among them, risen indeed, just as He said He would be.
Now, with firm conviction that Christ really rose from the dead, that things happened just as He said they would, their minds naturally wandered to what was going to happen next, and they turned to a material concern: “Lord, will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?” The Jews lived under the oppression of Rome for many years. The disciples were Jews and residents of the areas dominated by the Romans, victims of Roman oppression and over-taxation, just like everyone else. If Jesus had conquered death, it seemed like He would be able to conquer the Romans and restore the Kingdom to Israel, right?! This was their way of thinking, and seemed logical, to them.
This is why the response of Christ must have come like a punch in the gut to them: “It is not for you to know the times and the seasons which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” No doubt God had a plan, but that plan didn’t necessarily match the ideas of the Disciples, that this new faith was going to bring political freedom to them as well. It must have been a hard, even bitter, pill for them to swallow—we’ve given up everything to follow You, where is the gain for us?
Following Christ does not necessarily bring material gain. In fact, in helping out the poor, it may even bring material loss. We may make grandiose plans for our lives and He may have other plans for us. There are times in my life when I am so busy that I seem to forget about God. How many times He puts His hand right on my shoulder and tells me “trust me, just let Me take care of this.” Do I listen? If love is patient and kind and does not insist on its own way, (I Corinthians 13: 4-5), then my relationship with God will go even deeper when I am more patient and kind to others, and when I let go of some of my ideas and do it His way. Many times, God allows life to throw us curveballs, to tell us “My will be done, not yours.” Many times we plan things out and God has other plans. And many times, things happen in His time and not ours.
I reminded of the story of the footprints in the sand, that in the tough moments of my life, when it seems like God has abandoned me, that He is really carrying me. And He is carrying me to Him, to His glory, to His plan for me life.
Many times, it seems that things should happen in a certain season and then they don’t. Someone thinks that “I should have been married by this time”, or “I should have had children”, or “I should have gotten a job promotion”. We want these things in “our seasons” and not in God’s seasons. There are certain things that perhaps God doesn’t even want for our lives, because they are unhealthy for us. The message of Christ to the Disciples was not “I do not love you and that’s why I will not restore the Kingdom to Israel and give you political freedom.” The message was “I love you so much that I want you to focus on Me and on the eternal reward I am offering. Do not be satisfied with a temporal kingdom when you can have an eternal one.” He offers the same message to us: “Do not be overly satisfied with life’s successes, and don’t be too disappointed with life’s setbacks, or when things don’t go the way that you envisioned them. For every victory gained in this life is temporary. I love you so much that if you stick by Me, throughout the seasons of your life, you will gain the eternal victory.”
Christ the new Pascha, the living Sacrifice, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world. Oh! Great and Holiest Pascha, Christ! Oh! Wisdom and Word, and Power of God! Grant us a clearer sign, that we may partake of You, in the unwaning Day of Your Kingdom. (From the 9th Ode of Pascha, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
Trust in God’s plan for your life!
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