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
And Jesus called to Him His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay. Matthew 10:1, 5-8
In the Gospel lesson that is read on the feast of the Unmercenary Healers Saints Cosmas and Damian, we read about Jesus sending out the Disciples. He sent them out to do very specific things. First, in 10:1, “He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity.” He told them to stay away from the Gentiles and Samaritans, but to instead go “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” After the Resurrection, He would commission them to go to all nations. But He wanted them first to start off with the Jewish people, those who were awaiting the coming of the Messiah. The message they were preaching was simple, “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (10:7) In Matthew 4:17, this message was said by Jesus, adding the word “repent”—“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This was a call to people to change their orientation, turning ever closer to God, growing towards Him, centering our lives around Him.
What stands out to me from this brief Gospel passage are the last words of it: “You received without paying, give without pay.”(10:8) A more modern translation of this phrase is “freely receive, freely give.” The concept of giving is something we’ve never really defined well. If someone gives, and receives some kind of recognition, it’s not really giving but exchanging a gift for recognition. This is why in giving to churches, when people get their name written somewhere or on something, they aren’t really giving, they are exchanging. To truly “give” is to offer something expecting nothing in return. This goes not only for church giving but life giving. We don’t “give” to our jobs. We exchange our time and talent for money. But we should be in the habit of “giving” to friends—a shoulder to cry on, words of encouragement, etc. We should be giving these things eagerly and frequently, expecting nothing in return.
The second redefining of “giving” that we need is to understand that in giving to God, we have nothing to give, only to give back. The fact that I am alive today is a gift. It is not something to which I am entitled—this is another critical change in thinking. If I think I am entitled to this day, and the day is mine, then I am not motivated to give, or give back, but to enjoy that which I am entitled to. If I see this day as a gift from God, then I receive it gratitude, and gratitude motivates me to give back something that honors the giver.
We have received this day from God—let us honor Him by giving some of it back in service to others. This does not mean that we can’t take any self-satisfaction from the day—that we can’t enjoy a meal or a TV show. It means that we should consciously and joyfully build in activities every day that give something back to God by serving our neighbors.
If “every good endowment and perfect gift is from Above, coming down from the Father of Lights,” (James 1:17), then everything that we have that is good, including this very day, is a gift from Him. Thus, we ought to be giving some of my day back in service to others.
Lord, thank You for the many good and perfect gifts that You have brought into my life. Thank You for the gift of this day and all the possibilities it will bring. Help me to always greet each day with a spirit of gratitude and to look for opportunities throughout this day to give back by serving others. Amen.
Give BACK to God by helping someone today!
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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