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
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world knew Him not. He came to His own home, and His own people received Him not. But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:10-13 (From the Gospel at the Divine Liturgy on Pascha) Monday of the 5th Week of Pascha
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
Even though the Jewish world had been waiting for a Messiah and had been given specific signs to indicate how they would know that the Messiah was among them, and even though Jesus fulfilled all of these signs, still He was rejected by His own people. Jesus said in Matthew 13:57 “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” Jesus had come to call His people, the children of Israel, to salvation. And the strongest rejection, the demand for His crucifixion, came from His own people.
Jesus came also to call the whole world to Him, to repentance, to salvation, to the Kingdom of Heaven. And so to as many as received Him, to them He gave the honor of becoming children of God. (We’ll get to the word “power” used in this passage in a moment.) That goes for the Jews who received Him when He walked the earth, and the Gentiles who received Him, and to every person of every nation, from the time He walked the earth until now. All of us, no matter who we are or where we come from, or even what we’ve done, we all have the opportunity to become children of God, if we receive Christ. To become a child of God is something that is on the table at all times for all people. Even to the person who has committed the greatest sin, they too can become a child of God if they “receive” Christ.
An important caveat though, which is that while “receiving” Christ makes one a child of God, it is doing something with what we’ve received, doing something to honor Christ, not only in thought but in action, this is what allows one to attain the Kingdom of Heaven. Romans 10:9 says “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” This leads some to believe that just “receiving” Christ is enough. Just as with anything we receive, what we receive is not as important as what we DO with what we’ve received. So, we must receive Christ, but then we must DO something with the message of salvation we have received. Because it is not “having” Christ that saves us, but “living in Christ” and “living for Christ” that will get us to heaven.
Let’s talk about power. There is great power that comes from the Lord. Christ had the power to raise the dead, to give sight to the blind, to heal the paralytic, etc. Christ has the power to change lives, to bring joy where there is sorrow, to bring hope where there is despair, to bring purpose where there is no focus. And those who have Christ have power. This power isn’t material or political power. Rather it is the power to survive and sustain in the midst of difficulties. It is the power to meet challenges to the human spirit. It is the power to forgive and restore. These things bring real power.
Think about the causes of human despair—sometimes we lose hope in relationships, sometimes we lose hope in ourselves, sometimes we lose hope in the goodness of people, we stress about the busy-ness of life. For any cause of human despair, there is a spiritual cure. Those who have Christ have the cure for life’s despairing moments. And there is real power in this.
I’m not naïve enough to think that just because I believe in Christ that I am immune to sickness, stress, sadness, etc. But because I have Christ, I believe that I have the strength to meet the challenges of life that come my way, because I face them with Him, I don’t face them alone. Because I have Christ, I rarely feel like I’m at a deficit, because He fills the empty spaces. Because I have received the forgiveness, the patience, and the love of Christ, I want to offer the same to others. Because I see myself as a child of God, I have more love for God’s other children, everyone else. And because I want to end up with Christ at the end of my life, I use this as motivation to keep going even when life gets tough. I’m reminded of the words from Psalm 121:2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
As for receiving Christ, we have a chance to do so daily through prayer, and (at least) weekly through the Holy Eucharist. One of the reasons we pray and receive Christ through Communion is to be empowered as His children, to have joy and confidence. So that as we “receive Him”, we feel endowed with purpose—that we are to see ourselves as His children, with the Lord as our benevolent Father, and if, we are His children, then we will inherit His Kingdom, the most “powerful” thing of all.
At the middle, O Lord, of the sacred feast, as You stood in the Temple amid the crowd, You proclaimed, “If anyone thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.” And You said, “He who drinks this divine drink that I provide, from his heart will My dogmas like rivers flow out of him. Whoever believes in God the Father, who sent Me, will truly be glorified together with Me by Him.” Let us therefore cry aloud, “Glory be to You, Christ God, for You poured out to Your servants abundantly the waters of Your love for humanity.” (Kathismata, from the Feast of Mid-Pentecost, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Receive Christ in prayer today! Rejoice in being His child!
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