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.”
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
We Only Have to Keep Two Commandments
But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, to test Him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:34-40
Good morning Prayer Team!
Many people think that belonging to the church requires one to memorize an infinite amount of rules and regulations. In the Old Testament, there were 613 commandments. Most of us are familiar with the Ten Great Commandments. And there are still some of us who can’t remember those.
Christ summarized the entirety of the Old Testament Law with two commandments—love God and love your neighbor. Every commandment given in the Old Testament would slot under one of these two great commandments. It’s very simple, actually, to know how to act as a Christian. It is, however, very difficult to act like this all the time.
The cross is a beautiful reminder not only of Christ’s crucifixion and subsequent Resurrection. It is also a beautiful representation of the two great commandments. The vertical bar of the Cross reminds us that we are to have a relationship with Him, that we are to love Him. And the horizontal bar reminds us that we are to love one another.
The Lord’s Prayer, which is offered in most of our Divine Services, summarizes the two great commandments in its first two words, “Our Father.” “Father” reminds us of the relationship we have with our Heavenly Father. It reminds us to love Him. “Our” reminds us that we are to love our neighbor, and that our Christian walk is a “we” endeavor. It is a collective journey, not just an individual one.
If one can’t remember even TWO commandments, these two great commandments can be summed up in one word: Love.
Someone once told me that “sin” can be defined simply as “failure to love.” Because it is impossible to sin and to love at the same time. There is a third option besides “love” and “hate” and that is “indifference.” “Indifference” is as bad, and perhaps even worse than hate. The choice to hate is made after some evaluation. We evaluate whether to love or hate and then we choose hate. To be indifferent is to not evaluate at all. One has to reject love in order to hate. But at least the idea of love has entered into the consciousness, where it has the chance to take root. To be indifferent is to not evaluate at all, to leave love entirely out of the equation. To live indifferent is indeed a very dangerous thing.
Love should be on our minds constantly. There should be deliberate and purposeful gestures of love towards God on a daily basis—the easiest are prayer and reading of Scripture. Weekly worship is also important. Not taking God’s name in vain—using clean language honors God and also honors ourselves. Placing God as THE priority should be something we think about daily.
There should be deliberate and purposeful gestures of love towards other people on a daily basis. Until this becomes second nature, we can set goals for the amount of loving gestures we’d like to do on a daily basis. We can set a goal to offer encouragement to at least five other people. We can set a goal to do something kind for a total stranger every day, even if it is just saying “good morning” and smiling. We can help and elderly person load groceries or hold the door for someone.
We should make a point to make loving gestures to people whom we live with. This may seem obvious, but sadly it isn’t. Have you encouraged your spouse today? Or your child? Have you asked if they need help before they ask for it? Have you asked a friend or a co-worker if there is anything you can do to help them?
Sadly, many of us place love in a compartment. We love God and others at certain times. At other times we are hateful or indifferent. Some of us don’t see love as part of their job. For instance, someone who drives for a living and delivers things might not think that love is part of their job. There is a difference between being a loving driver and a jerky driver. There is a difference between service with a smile and service with a frown. Even in situations where we wouldn’t think love would come to mind, it should.
Saint Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 16:14, “Let all that you do be done in love.” And simply said, it is never wrong to love. To believe means to take God at His word. His most concise words were about love. To belong means to take God’s words and apply them to the communities in which we live—our homes, our churches, our places of business, when traveling, etc. And the most basic application of God’s Word is to love.
Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth, Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King. Within her citadels God has shown Himself a sure defense. For lo, the kings assembled, they came on together. As soon as they saw it, they were astounded, they were in panic, they took to flight; trembling took hold of them there, anguish as of a woman in travail. By the east wind thou didst shatter the ships of Tarshish. As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God, which God establishes forever. We have thought on Thy steadfast love, O God, in the midst of Thy temple. As Thy name, O God, so Thy praise reaches to the ends of the earth. Thy right hand is filled with victory; let Mount Zion be glad! Let the daughters of Judah rejoice because of Thy judgements! Walk about Zion, go round with her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels; that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will be our guide forever. Psalm 48
Love God and love your neighbor! Love!
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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