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.”
We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
Scriptures of the Triodion
Fifth Sunday of Great Lent–St. Mary of Egypt
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to Him, and said to Him, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And they said to Him, “Grant us to sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, in Your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at My right hand or at My left is not Mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to Him and said to them, “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10: 35-45
Good morning Prayer Team!
On the fifth Sunday of Lent, we take away two lessons. The first is a lesson on repentance provided by St. Mary of Egypt. Saint Mary of Egypt lived a very sinful life in her young years. She was, among other things, a prostitute. One day, she went to the temple, and she found that a “force” was keeping her from entering into the temple to pray. It was in this moment she realized that God had found her unworthy to enter into His temple to pray. This caused a repentance in her soul. She went out into the desert where she lived along for forty-seven years, repenting of the sins of her youth. A priest (later a saint) named Zosimos found her and gave her Communion after all of her years of repentance. He found her living a saintly existence and came back and offered testimony of her holy life. All these centuries later, we revere her as a Saint, affectionately known as St. Mary of Egypt. The lesson from her life is that there aren’t great sins from which we can’t repent. Her sin was great. Her repentance was greater. And God’s mercy and forgiveness was even greater than that. There is hope for everyone, including you and me. All it takes is a change of heart, a change of life, a true repentance and refocusing on the things of God.
The second lesson for today is from the Gospel read on this Sunday of Lent, which offers a lesson in servant leadership. Two of Jesus’ disciples, James and John, went to Jesus on the side, to “cut a deal” with Him. They wanted to be promised the seats closest to Him on the right and the left. Jesus told them that they did not know what they were asking. First of all, to sit on the left hand of Christ is to be condemned. So they were asking for something that they didn’t know or understand. Secondly, their private request of Christ soon became public, as the other disciples found out about it and they were upset with James and John.
Jesus was quick to remind the disciples that to serve one another, and to serve Him, (the two great commandments) was not about power and authority but about humility. The one who wants to exercise the greatest authority, He said, must be willing to be like a servant. And whoever wanted the first place needed to be the slave to all.
In order to truly serve either the Lord or one another, it means that we offer something expecting nothing in return. We give, only to give, not to receive. This is what giving is all about. It’s the same thing with love. Love is something that we give to others. We take something of ourselves and we project it on to others. One cannot love himself, to take from oneself and then give back to oneself. That is self-serving. Rather to love is to serve one another, and to serve is to take from one and give to the other without expecting anything in return, certainly not any special seat, as the disciples were requesting.
Jesus Himself showed us what it means to serve. He was willing to give His LIFE for us. To truly serve means to give and expect nothing in return. Our service is to glorify God and to help our fellow man. God sees our service when we help others, and our lack of service when we don’t.
The Kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and ascetic practice and holiness; therefore rich men will never enter it, but only those who place their treasures into the hands of the needy. This is what David the Prophet teaches when He says “Righteous is the man, who is merciful day in and out, who delights in the Lord. He walks in the light; he will not stumble.” All of this was written for our edification, that, while fasting, we do acts of kindness; and the Lord will give us, instead of earthly gifts, the things of heaven. (Doxastikon, from the Orthros of the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Serve someone today, and expect nothing in return!
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.
Photo Credit: St. Mark’s
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