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
Then the righteous will answer Him, “Lord, when did we see Thee hungry and feed Thee, or thirsty and give Thee drink? And when did we see Thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see Thee sick or in prison and visit Thee?” And the King will answer them, “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me”. . . .
Then they (the condemned) will also answer, “Lord, when did we see Thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not minister to Thee?” Then He will answer them, “Truly I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to Me.” Matthew 25: 37-40; 44-45 (Gospel on the Sunday of the Last Judgment)
Good morning Prayer Team!
“You are going to die!”
This is the opening line in a book called Be a Man by Fr. Larry Richards, a Roman Catholic priest and writer, and is one of the most unique opening lines of any book I have read. The premise in the opening chapter of this book is to start with the ending of our lives, and where we are going to be, and then work backwards to the present day, making sure that today we are working with that future eventuality in mind.
When the Lord confronted each group of people—the “sheep” and the “goats”—to say that “I was hungry and you gave me food” or “I was hungry and you gave me no food,” each group was surprised. The “sheep” asked “When did we see YOU (our Lord) hungry?” As if to say, that in all the years of helping people, they never encountered the Lord. Those who were doing good works were doing them almost “naturally.” They weren’t ostensibly doing them only for the Lord. Helping others was a normal part of their life. At the end of life, the Lord told them that in loving others, they were showing love to Him as well.
The “goats” were also surprised. When they asked “When did we see YOU hungry and not feed you?” they were saying in essence, that “had we really seen YOU hungry, we certainly would have fed YOU. Had the Lord appeared in the flesh in front of us, certainly we would have known, and cared.” For those who weren’t helping their neighbors, their indifference was normal for them as well. At the end of life, the Lord told them that in being indifferent to others, they were being indifferent to Him as well.
Every day, probably multiple times a day, we have a chance to show love, or to show indifference, to others. There are people who are poor and hungry in every town, people who don’t have enough clothes, people who are new in town or new on the job, people who are sick, and those who are imprisoned. Even more frequently, we encounter people who are hungry, not only for food, but for friendship, hungry for compassion, encouragement, empathy. We encounter people who are thirsty for affirmation. There are many people who feel like strangers because they don’t have many real friends. There are people who feel naked because they suffer from low self-esteem. There are people who are sick with stress and frustration. And there are people who are in prison, serving life sentences of learning disabilities, mental illness or physical handicaps. Do we take time each day to minister to anyone in any of these categories listed above?
In loving others, do we realize that we are also loving the Lord? And when we are indifferent, do we realize we are indifferent to Him as well? Do we make it a goal each day to try to help someone? And is our ministering to other people more “natural” or does it seemed “forced” or “contrived”?
I eventually am going to die and stand before God’s throne and I will answer to Him for my love of my neighbor as well as my love of Him. With this eventuality in mind, I should look for opportunities TODAY to show love to my neighbor. When we make a point of helping “our neighbor” every day, it becomes a habit, a natural part of our lives. And it will set us on the path to being numbered among the “sheep,” who were ministering to the Lord, without even knowing that it was the Lord, because their love of their neighbor was a natural part of their lives.
There is no one who is reading this message that does not love the Lord, I am sure of that. Some of us may not know the Lord as well as we’d like, but everyone who is reading this message has some sense of Godliness in them. The challenge then is to take our sense of Godliness and transfer it over to every encounter with every person we meet today, to see God in them, and to love them in the way we love God, the way God loves us.
I ponder on that day and hour, when we all, naked and as convicts, will appear before the Judge we cannot bribe. Than a great trumpet will sound and the foundations of the earth will be shaken, and he dead will be raised form the graves and all will become of one stature. And all that which is hidden will be presented overtly before You, and they shall mourn and wail who have never repented, and they shall depart into the outer fire. And with joy and exaltation will the lot of the righteous enter into the heavenly chamber. (From the Praises of the Sunday of the Last Judgment, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Help a neighbor today!
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