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.”
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw Him they worshiped Him; but some doubted. Matthew 28:16-17. Tuesday of the 6th Week of Pascha
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
“Doubt” is a topic that comes to us often not only in these reflections but in any journey of faith. We wonder things like:
Is my faith strong enough?
Am I doing what God wants me to do with my life?
If God loves me, why does He allow me to struggle with certain things without success?
These thoughts can cause distraction at a minimum and can lead one to feel down and distraught at their worst. Today’s scripture verse from the Gospel of Matthew is one that I take comfort in. Not only did the Disciples doubt in what they couldn’t see (remember Thomas, “unless I see, I will not believe”), but they SAW Jesus and still some doubted. If these men could see and still doubt, then it makes me feel better about my moments of “unseen” doubt.
The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly what these men were doubting. They saw Christ with their own eyes so they weren’t doubting His Resurrection. He had shown them so many proofs over forty days that they weren’t questioning that. WE question that, because we haven’t seen Jesus in body in front of us. By the time of the Ascension, the Disciples were not questioning this.
So, what then were they doubting? I would venture to say the same things that even devout Christians of today are doubting, the three questions I mentioned above, and a host of other questions that are associated with them. I consider myself a pretty devout Christian—I’ve centered not only my career but my life around Christ and the church. And many times I still wonder is my faith really as strong as I think it is, or lead others to believe that it is. Many things in the world still don’t make sense to me, whether it is my own shortcomings or the disappointing things that go on in society. I wonder about God’s “master plan” and what role I play in it. And sometimes I wonder if there really is a plan or if He allows things just to happen at random. In these ways, I can sometimes see myself in the place of the Disciples on the mountaintop. They are worshipping, beholding God’s glory, and still having questions in their minds. And from this I actually take great comfort—I can be a priest, a faithful worshipper, and I can experience God’s glory and still have questions, and that’s okay.
And why is that okay? The answer comes from Mark 16:20: “And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it.” At the end of Mark’s Gospel, just at the end of Matthew’s, the Disciples are commissioned to preach the Gospel. And just like in Matthew’s Gospel, doubts accompany them. Saint Mark is quick to point out in his Gospel account that “the Lord worked with them”, meaning the disciples. And He worked with them as they were, doubts and all. He worked with their shortcomings—remember they were mostly illiterate fishermen—and turned them into heralds of the Gospel. He worked with their doubts and helped them to become bold and confident preachers, who were ready to live and to die for their faith. No one is going to allow themselves to be killed without having conviction in what they are dying for. So, these men of sometimes shaky faith quickly became men of “convicted” faith, because the Lord worked with them.
Today’s message is one of hope for all of us, that the Lord will work with us, even in our shortcomings, even in our doubts, just as He worked with the Disciples. The Lord meets us where we are—in our various states of brokenness, and then works with us to raise us to states of spiritual confidence. This happens because of two things—His faithfulness to us and our trust in Him. He is faithful to us—He desires us to be saved and to live in the knowledge of His truth, working our way to His everlasting Kingdom. If He didn’t desire that, then why send Christ to redeem us to begin with? Why continue to shine His Light on the world each day if not to redeem the world? So, He is faithful to us. We show our faith in Him with confidence. And on days when we don’t have confidence, on days we have doubts, and we all have these kind of days, we show our faith by our presence—we show up in prayer, we show up to worship. The Disciples worshipped, and some doubted, but none left. Today’s message is to stay present with God, keep worshipping, keep trusting, and allow Him to work with you. He knows what you need. He knows what I need. So let us imitate the Disciples—let us continue to put our faith and trust in the Lord, and He will continue to work with us, in the ways that we need.
Let us go up with the Disciples into a mountain of Galilee to behold with faith Christ as He proclaims His power over things above and below. Let us learn how He teaches us to baptize all nations in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and how we may be initiated in His mysteries as He promised, until the end of the world. (Exapostelarion of Eothinon One, Trans. by Holy Cross Seminary Press)
Allow God to work with you and in you today!
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