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 all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.
Good morning Prayer Team!
The shepherds heard the message, they went and witnessed the Baby Jesus with their own eyes, and then they told others what they had heard. And all who heard what the shepherds had to say wondered, they gave some thought to what they had heard.
Undoubtedly, some of the reaction might have been negative: “Who are these poor shepherds to talk to me?”
Some of the reaction might have been cynical: “Are these guys for real? Are they trying to work their way into our social circle by sharing some outlandish news?”
Some of the reaction might have been doubtful: “Who could believe such a tale—angels speaking, the glory of the Lord all over the sky, certainly I would have noticed.”
And at best, the reaction was curiosity: “This is interesting, maybe I should venture over to the cave and see this for myself.”
No one believed in Christ because of the testimony of the shepherds. Because to believe in Christ, one has to know Christ in a personal way. The shepherds TOLD people about Christ, and perhaps, some, out of curiosity, investigated. And if they did, then perhaps some of them believed for themselves. But without the testimony of the shepherds, there would have been no curiosity. After all, no one can accept an invitation if one is not offered.
Most of us are familiar with the Parable of the Sower. (Luke 8:5-15) A sower went out and sowed his seed, and some fell on the path and was trodden underfoot. And some fell on rocks and was washed away by rain. Some fell on thorns which choked the seed. And some fell on good soil and yielded a hundredfold.
Jesus tells us the meaning of this parable. The seed is the Word of God. Those along the path are those who have heard. Some hear the Word but it never really penetrates their souls. Some hear it with joy but in time of temptation fall away. Some hear the Word with joy but are caught in the business of life and their seed never matures. And some hear the Word and hold it fast with a good heart.
I remember as a young priest feeling frustrated that I didn’t see the fruit of my work maturing in front of my own eyes. And I remember my Spiritual Father talking to me about the parable of the sower. He said imagine that in your life, you have a large bag of seed. You walk down the path and scatter seed wherever you go. At the end of the day, you put the bag down, rest, and the next day you keep scattering seed. However, you never get to turn around and look back at the seed you’ve scattered and you never get to pass that way again. You have to be content with scattering the seed, knowing you won’t see it grow. Most importantly, God is not going to reward you based on how the seed grew, but on how much seed you threw. For the soil the seed lands in is the hearts of people, and you cannot control that. You can control how much seed you throw.
This message about the sowing of the seed is not only for priests, but for all people. We are all receivers of the seed, but we are also supposed to be sowers of the seed. Just like an apple tree produces apples, and each apple has a core that has a seed that can be planted to make a new apple tree, we are supposed to receive the seed, make sure that it grows and matures in us, and then spread our seeds so that more trees (more souls) can be grown for Christ. Christ will not ask us how many trees grew because of our seeds but how many seeds did we throw, how many trees did we help plant. Just like He is not going to ask me how many people came to Liturgy or Bible study, but how many Liturgies and Bible studies did I offer.
The shepherds did what they were supposed to do—they talked to people about the Lord. And perhaps they were ridiculed for it. Over the centuries, people have spoken about Christ and have been killed for it. But when you witness for Christ in a genuine way, it causes people to wonder. And while they are wondering, some are curious and they go and investigate and they find Christ.
The Gospel of Christ cannot go anywhere unless we spread it. The shepherds were hearers of the Word who became spreaders of the Word. You and I are called to do the same. We have heard. We must learn to spread the Gospel as well. How people react is not our concern. It’s not how many seeds that we throw mature but how many seeds we throw that God is concerned with. So make sure that the soil in your heart is good soil, so the seed can grow in you. And as your fruit matures, take some seed and plant new trees.
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us, that Thy way may be known upon earth, Thy saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise Thee, O God; let all the peoples praise Thee! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for Thou dost judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the people praise Thee, O God; let all the peoples praise Thee! The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us. God has blessed us; let all the ends of the earth fear Him! (Psalm 66/67, read at the Royal Hours of the Nativity)
Grow in Christ today!
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The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. OCN offers videos, podcasts, blogs and music, to enhance Orthodox Christian life. The Prayer Team is a daily devotion written by Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, the parish priest at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, Florida. Devotions include a verse from scripture, a commentary from Fr. Stavros, and a short prayer that he writes to match the topic.
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