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 GREAT COMMANDMENTS: WHERE DO YOU STAND?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus 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 a 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!
One day during my second year at the seminary, I felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of knowledge I thought I had to acquire in order to be a priest—there were classes in scripture, in theology, ethics, preaching, chanting, liturgics, pastoral care, church history, parish administration and many more. How could I ever get a handle on all this knowledge, never mind be able to master it? I was so overwhelmed that for a few days I thought about dropping out of seminary. That is until I spoke with my Spiritual Father (the priest who heard my confessions and who served a role as a mentor to me) and not only he calmed me down but put Christianity into the simplest of terms.
When I asked what did I absolutely need to know in order to be a priest, he said without hesitation, “You need to know how to do the services, you need to know how to give a good sermon and you need to know how to handle people who are in crisis. The rest of the knowledge you need, you just need to know where to find it.” Even this seemed a little overwhelming. So, he said “The most important attributes of a priest are that you need to love God and to love people.” Because what good is all kinds of “head knowledge” on theology if you don’t love and don’t love the people you serve. Because the priesthood is about serving God and serving others.”
Jesus’ followers felt like me at the seminary. They were overwhelmed with all the requirements of the Jewish Mosaic Law. The Old Testament scriptures had the Ten Commandments that most of us know, and 603 other commandments, for a total of 613. People couldn’t remember the words of the Commandments, let alone to follow them all faithfully.
So, Jesus summarized all of the commandments into TWO great commandments, which are summed up in today’s Bible verse. Everything that God has asked us to do can fit under one of these two commandments—love God and love your neighbor.
For the next several weeks (on the weekdays, weekends will still be about the Divine Liturgy) we will be discussing how the two great commandments relate to key aspects that make for a successful life. Each day we will examine an attribute, relate it to scripture, and provide a couple of questions by which to evaluate yourself in relationship to God and to others. Today’s message serves as an introduction for this unit. So, come back tomorrow for the first evaluation. And come with a mind that is first and foremost humble, so that it can be honest, and open to listening to and considering some changes that will serve to bring us both closer to God and to one another.
Lord, thank You for the gift of today. Thank You for the opportunities that the day will bring. Be with me in the challenges I will face. In all things, let me show my love for You and for my neighbor. Amen.
Have a great day!
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