For He says, “At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation.” Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
II Corinthians 6:2
I want to share with you a beautiful quote which is a translation of something written by St. Anthony the Great in the fourth century:
Every day, I say to myself, today I will make a new start.
My job is not to judge.
My job is not to figure out if someone deserves something.
My job is to lift the fallen, to restore the broken, and to heal the people in pain.
That’s why I must start my job today by judging myself.
I’ve also seen the first line translated as “today I will begin.”
We all have bad habits. Some of them include:
~Eating too much
~Drinking too much
~Wasting time, not being efficient
~Looking at inappropriate things on the internet
~Feeling sorry for ourselves
~Using bad language
And the list can go on and on. If we are engaged in one of these compulsive, addictive behaviors, we’ve probably thought at some point (or points), “I need to stop this.” We may even bargain with ourselves, “I’ll stop tomorrow,” or “I’ll be good with food the next time it is a fast period” (i.e. I’ll start November 15 with the Christmas Fast, or wait until January 1). Some of us feel shame like we can’t stop. Or we say “what’s the point, I’ve been at this for so long?”
The words of St. Anthony are really good. They call us to “begin again today.” To not wait in shame. To not wait for the new year, a new month or a new season, or even a new day. Just start today. Even start right now.
If you are reading this midday and it hasn’t been an efficient day so far, don’t put this day into the dumper yet, start right now and be efficient for the rest of the day. Anytime is an appropriate time to change a behavior that needs to be changed. And anytime is a good time to begin repenting of sins.
Let’s say we’ve already committed a certain sin today, like foul language. We don’t have to say to ourselves, “well, I already blew it today, might as well curse up a storm and start tomorrow.” Start right now. Go the rest of the day without cursing. Any MOMENT is a good moment to change and to repent.
Perhaps you are one of the fortunate few people who have few, or maybe no, compulsive, addictive, or repetitive sinful behaviors. Or maybe you have some of them but you feel “they are under control.” If that is the case, begin today to tighten up, even more, to be even more under control, more thoughtful, and more repentant.
I had heard the first line of this quote many times, as I said, usually it is stated “today I will begin.” The other lines merit consideration as well.
My job is not to judge. Imagine is we affirmed that every day. Part of what gets us off track is not only we are addicted to doing wrong, we forget to affirm the right. It’s like if you say to someone “I love you,” or “I’m proud of you,” you aren’t going to immediately put them down or gossip about them. When we don’t affirm people, sometimes we forget all that they do right and we go directly for the put down. Affirming people, especially the ones you are closest to, will hopefully slow you down from judging them.
My job is to figure out if someone deserves something. This “something” is not necessarily a material thing, like if someone deserves a gift or a free meal. Perhaps they deserve a compliment or a sensitive ear.
My job is to lift the fallen, to restore the broken, and to heal the people in pain. This is not about medical healing. This is about looking at the people around us and making sure we aren’t pushing people down, breaking them, or causing them pain. It means making sure we are part of the solution and not part of the problem. It means giving a hand up, a shoulder to cry on, a sensitive ear, and listening without judgment to those who are fallen down on their luck. It means restoring those who feel broken by their circumstances. We may not be in a position to offer someone a job or a donation. But we can all give people some dignity. We can all make sure it doesn’t get worse. And as for healing people in pain, most of us are not doctors or psychologists. However, kindness, compassion, and empathy go a long way toward making people feel healed.
That’s why I must start my job today by judging myself. This is the self-introspection we should do on a daily basis, and ask ourselves, “what can I do better?” With the resolve, that I will begin again today, that I will be better today. A better self, better to ourselves, better towards others, and most especially more committed to Christ.
Lord, You know everything. You know my shortcomings, my failures, the struggles of my secret heart. Help me today to begin anew, changing the things that need changing. Be with me in this moment, and in all moments of temptation. Help me to make better habits. Help me to begin anew today. Even if yesterday was not good, help me to begin anew today. Forgive the sins of my past, guard me in the present moment, and keep me focused on the future, whether that is next week, or this next minute. Amen.
Start over today. In fact, if you are in the middle of the day reading this, start NOW on whatever needs improving. Begin today!
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
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