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
On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as He entered a village, He was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When He saw them He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:11-19
As most of you know, every summer I go to summer camp. It is one of the highlights of my year and something I look forward to each year, just like the teenage campers and adult counselors and staff. Obviously, there is no camp this year for us. In light of this, we’ve created a one-week virtual program called “summer reset 2020” which is being held this week. Since camp helps our young people “reset” themselves each year, getting back to the basic of Christianity, the goal this week is to facilitate a virtual “reset.” I thought I would include the Prayer Team in this “reset” mindset by writing this week on the topics we are sharing with our “Summer Reset 2020” participants. There will be five “reset” topics this week and we will return to the Psalms next week. After each reflection, there will be a few questions for you to think on, either alone or with family/friends.
Yesterday’s reflection was about “things we’ve lost,” an honest assessment that during this time of pandemic and quarantine, we’ve lost a lot. Today’s reflection is about the things we still have. Because while we may have lost some things during the past four months, there are plenty of things we still have and can still be grateful for and joyful about.
Today’s Scripture reading is about the healing of the ten lepers. There are, as with most Bible passages, several things we can take away if we pause to reflect on what we’ve read. First, the lepers were healed gradually, not in one swift act. Jesus didn’t touch the lepers to heal them in an instant, as He did in so many instances. He didn’t even command for them to be healed, as He had done at other times. He merely told them to go and show themselves to the priests, as the priests determined who was unfit and too sick to be part of the regular society. The lepers certainly had to trust in Jesus here, in order to go to the priests, which they all obediently did. They didn’t say “Hey, you are crazy, we are lepers, how can we go to the priests like this?” They went, trusting and hopeful.
Along the way, they realized that they had been healed. Perhaps they had walked a mile or two, certainly at least several minutes had passed since their encounter with Jesus. They were nowhere near Him. One of the lepers returned thankful to Jesus, and he was a Samaritan, a sworn enemy of Jews like Jesus.
Here’s the take away that pertains to today and the things we are thankful for. The man who had had the leprosy didn’t complain to Jesus, “Why did I have this terrible affliction for so long?” Rather, he was thankful that he was healed, thankful for the life that was now in front of him, rather than angry about the difficulties that were not behind him.
Many times, we are like the nine lepers, who, being healed, forget to be thankful. Perhaps those nine were bitter over having the disease in the first place. They couldn’t be grateful for their present and future because they were too busy being angry about their past.
In this time of pandemic, there is still plenty to be grateful for. For those who are reading this message, you still have a device to read it off of—a computer, a phone, etc. We still have electricity to power these devices. We still have homes in which to plug our devices. We still have money by which to pay for these devices. I realize that there are many people in our country who do not have a phone, or a home in which to charge the phone, I’m just speaking to those who read these reflections, that we still have a lot to be grateful for.
We still have families, clothes, food, emotional support. And most of all, we still have faith and hope because we still have Christ. So, there is a lot to be thankful for.
Each day of this summer reset, we offer several challenges to the participants. And one of the challenges for today is to write a note to an essential worker thanking them for their help and patience during covid-19. If you have a few moments, consider doing something similar. Another thing we are all capable of doing today and on many days, is calling someone to check in with them. This might be someone who is older and not getting out, who is probably feeling isolated and alone. This might be a friend who you haven’t spoken to in a while. It might even be someone you talk to frequently, who could use some encouragement.
Despite all the things we’ve lost, there is still so much to be thankful for.
We give thanks to You, invisible King, by Your infinite power You created all things and by Your great mercy You brought everything from nothing into being. Master, look down from heaven upon those who have bowed their heads before You; for they have bowed down not before flesh and blood but before You the awesome God. Therefore, Master, guide the course of our life for our benefit, according to the need of each of us. Sail with those who sail; travel with those who travel; and heal the sick, Physician of our souls and bodies. By the grace, mercy and love for us of Your only begotten Son, with Whom You are blessed, together with Your all holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (From the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)
Some questions for reflection:
- In I Thessalonians 5:18, St. Paul writes, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”Write down a list of ten things you are thankful for at this moment in your life.
- Rate yourself on the following statements on a scale of 1-10, with one being “I do agree at all” to ten being “I strongly agree.”
a. It is important to me to live in a big house.
b. I need to have the latest phone.
c. I could probably get by with less things (clothes, shoes, electronics).
d. I feel overall content with what I have.
e. I feel like I’m not satisfied easily, I’m always wanting more.
- Outside of your family, who are your “heroes”?What is it that makes them heroes for you?
- Name three things in your life that haven’t changed during the pandemic.
- Name an area of your life that improved during the pandemic.
The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! There you may find a database for past prayer team messages as well as books by Fr. Stavros and other information about his work and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
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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