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. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros 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
We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense: “Thus I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining round me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles—to whom I send you to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ “Wherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance. Acts 26: 1, 12-20 (Epistle for Sts. Constantine and Helen)
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
Beginning today, each Saturday (with a few exceptions), I‘ll be writing on the Epistle lesson that will be read the next day. On each Sunday, (again with a few exceptions), I’ll be writing on the Gospel lesson of that Sunday. On Monday-Friday, I will continue writing on whatever “unit” we are reflecting on. This coming Monday, I’ll continue to write about “authentic relationships.”
Because May 21st also happens to be the feast of Sts. Constantine and Helen, in addition to the Sunday of the Blind Man, the Epistle will be for the Saints and the Gospel lesson will be for the Sunday of the Blind Man.
Saint Paul is known as one of the “Paramounts” of the Apostles, together with St. Peter. That means that he is recognized as one of the two greatest Apostles in the history of Christendom. Saint Paul, as we know, was not always a saint. He was persecuting the early Christians in the first years after the Resurrection and Pentecost. He even was present for the stoning of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr.
Saint Paul had a conversion experience. On the road to Damascus, he saw a bright light and heard the voice of Jesus from heaven. Jesus not only asked him why he was persecuting the Christians, but He called Paul (then known as Saul) to be a leader in His church, to share the faith among the Gentiles. Paul was blinded by the light. For several days he was without sight, until he was visited by a Christian man named Ananias, who touched his eyes and prayed over him and then Paul was able to see again.
Saint Paul repented of what he was doing and did exactly as Jesus had told him on the road to Damascus. He became a follower of Christ and a leader of the movement to spread Christianity. In today’s Epistle reading, we hear his testimony, given in front of King Agrippa. Now faced with the prospect of prison or execution, Saint Paul boldly proclaimed his faith, and in fact, he was later martyred for his witness of faith.
The lessons of today are two. First, even the greatest of sinners can become a saint. Saint Paul (and MANY other saints) is living proof of that. Second, we are called by the Lord to spread His word, to take our place as a leader in the church, meaning someone who leads others to Christ. That call will not come for all of us in such a dramatic fashion as it did for St. Paul on the road to Damascus. Christ, however, will call each of us. And if we have our eyes and ears open, there will be a moment, a “Damascus experience” whereby God will make His intentions known for each of us. The challenge is for us to listen, and to accept the call and then to go and make something of the charge we have been given.
If you feel you haven’t been called yet, keep listening through prayer. If you have been called, and you haven’t answered, stop running away and answer. And if you are answering the call, then continue to ask God for the strength to be faithful and to keep answering.
Lord, You know everything. I believe that You have a special plan and a special call that are unique to my life. Help me know the way that You wish me to serve and lead others to You. Help me to listen and to discern Your call for my life. Help me to have the courage to answer. Help me to be faithful to You and to Your will for my life. Amen.
Reflect on your calling today!
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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