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.
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:9-10
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be cheered by news of you. I have no one like him, who will be genuinely anxious for your welfare. They all look after their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. Philippians 2: 19-21
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
I mentioned in yesterday’s prayer team message that today we’d start a unit on Fruits of the Spirit. I try to write my messages ahead of time and that was my intention. However, over this past weekend, we had a retreat for moms at the parish I serve and I came away from that event with the topic of “Authentic Relationships” on my heart. So, I want to write about these, and will pick up the topic of the Fruits of the Spirit in about two weeks. I will write on authentic relationships this week and next on the weekdays. And on the weekends, I will begin writing reflections on the Sunday Epistles and Gospels.
As I mentioned, this past weekend, we had a retreat for moms at St. John in Tampa, on the occasion of Mothers’ Day. And one of the things that I took away from the retreat was the topic of “Authentic Relationships” and sadly, how rare they are. We seem to live in a very superficial society, just check out the tabloid magazines at the supermarket check-out line. And this affects us having authentic relationships with Christ and with one another.
So, let’s define what an authentic relationship is, and then in future reflections we will explore examples of both authentic and inauthentic relationships with an eye toward establishing healthy ones.
The word “authentic” means “genuine”, “original,” and “true.” The first example of “authentic” that comes to mind is uniform jerseys of sports teams. I’m a big sports fan, as you all know by now. I bought recently an “authentic” jersey of the Tampa Bay Lightning. “Authentic” means it is the exact replica jersey of what is worn by the hockey players. I also have a T-shirt that says “Tampa Bay Lightning” on the front, and have the number and name of a player on the back. This is a Tampa Bay Lightning product, but it is not an “authentic” jersey. It is nice, even comfortable to wear, but it is not authentic.
The word “relationship” means how we exist in comparison with someone else. A “close” relationship means that we share lots of things with someone. An “honest” relationship means that we are not afraid to tell the truth to someone. A “superficial” relationship means that there might be a surface level or appearance of closeness but beneath the “surface” or outward appearance, there is no closeness or honesty.
Now, having an “authentic” jersey doesn’t make me more or less of a fan, it’s honestly not that important. Having an “authentic relationship” on the other hand is very important. Authenticity is vital to an honest and deep relationship. And that goes for a relationship with Christ, or with another person. In an authentic relationship, there are things like respect, communication, a genuine desire, trust, love, and vulnerability.
In Genesis 2, we see the picture painted of Adam and Eve walking with the Lord in the cool mist of the Garden of Eden. This relationship was authentic. Adam and Eve loved each other, they loved the Lord, there was no envy or jealousy, or pretense, or anything else that was negative. It was an authentic and pure relationship. Then Adam and Eve went away from the Lord, they committed a sin, and they severed themselves from the authentic relationship with the Lord. Where they had been naked and unashamed, they were ashamed and covered themselves. Where they had been open and honest, they lied and were deceitful.
Christ showed us the way to an authentic relationship—love, sacrifice, vulnerability. This is how He made His relationship with us. This is how He showed us to make our relationships with Him and with one another. Somewhere deep down in each of us, and I truly believe this, is a desire for an authentic relationship with Christ and with one another. The problem is that there are layers of sin, doubt, anger, etc. that cover over this place of authenticity. And there is a fear of removing the layers, fear of what we’d find beneath them. Yet, if we all made the collective decision to remove the things that cover up authenticity, we’d again capture the Paradise enjoyed by Adam and Eve with each other and with the Lord. So, this is one of life’s challenges, to build authentic relationships. Tune in tomorrow as we identify and work to peel back some of these layers, so that we can bring back the authentic relationships that we all so desperately want.
Lord, thank You for the gifts You have so richly poured out upon me. Thank You for the people that I know, (list names of your family and friends). Help us to work together toward more authentic relationships, with one another, and most especially with You. Open my mind and my heart to desire more genuineness and honesty in my relationships. Give me courage as I look within myself. And give me courage to explore with my family and friends how to deepen bonds of love and friendship. Amen.
Reflect on the word “Authentic” and whether that is a word that you’d apply towards your relationships with Christ and with others. Why is that, or isn’t that a good word to describe your relationships?
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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