“I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart, Fredo. You broke my heart.” Man, I love that scene from Godfather 2. Such a powerful moment between brothers who had little scruples about death and betrayal.
But what about that phrase about a broken heart? What does that mean, after all. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my heart broken before. Whether it was unrequited love or the heartbreak of watching a loved one die, it really does feel like your heart breaks. Of course, we’re not talking necessarily about that muscle in your chest that keeps you alive. But we are talking about a central place in yourself where you feel fractured and wounded. That’s heartbreak.
Look at our lesson today in Acts 21:8-14:
IN THOSE DAYS, the apostles departed and came to Caesarea; and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. And he had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. While we were staying for some days, a prophet named Agabos came down from Judea. And coming to us he took Paul’s girdle and bound his own feet and hands, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this girdle and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'” When we heard this, we and the people there begged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “The will of the Lord be done.”
Let me set up the scene for you: St. Paul is really stirring up some controversy and anger among his Jewish compatriots by his missionary travels, and now there are many in leadership in the Jewish world that want him arrested and killed. They’ll get their way soon enough, but not before St. Paul witnesses to the Good News before Caesar!
But here’s some interesting observations about this passage. First, they are at St. Philip’s house and he is called an evangelist, a preacher of the Good News. Each week in the Divine Liturgy we priest have a prayer we pray right after the consecration of the bread and Wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus. We pray “Again, we offer You this spiritual worship for those who have reposed in the faith: forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and for every righteous spirit made perfect in faith…” In that list notice that we mention Preachers and Evangelists. This ministry is part of the normal Orthodoxy of history.
Then notice the four virgin daughters of St. Philip. They “prophesy.” Now this isn’t so much fortune telling as “forth telling.” They were blessed by God to speak boldly about their faith. And there was another prophet (What a gifted place!) named Agabos who was informed by God that St. Paul was going to be arrested and bound if he went to Jerusalem, and that’s exactly where Paul was headed!
Of course, the people loved St. Paul and begged him not to go. But Paul wouldn’t change his mind because he was convinced God had called him to his missionary work. But he also had an offering for the brethren in Jerusalem who were suffering from a famine at the time. He was a minister of the Gospel. Ministering to people was who he was! Finally, Paul didn’t consider his physical death to be the worst thing that could happen to him. Living without Christ was the absolute worst that could happen to a person and Paul was ready to witness to this Faith even if it meant his physical death. After all, his Lord Jesus had already defeated physical death, so, at best, Paul’s physical death was a minor inconvenience!
But also notice how Paul’s heart broke as they begged him not to go. His love for them and their love for him was obvious! And that love was a witness to the very real sense of communion that is common where Orthodoxy is practiced with piety and devotion. “Brother” and “sister” aren’t mere niceties. They are very real confessions of the power of the Faith to bind a people together!
Today, are you bound to those faithful close to you in a family relationship? Is the Orthodox Faith creating such a bond with others around you that you witness this bond in how you live and act toward one another? You were made for communion and that reality always flows from being Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Did you miss last night’s Faith Encouraged LIVE show that featured our discussion with Alexei Krindatch about the recent Evangelism and Outreach study released by the Assembly of Bishops? It was an eye opening, and, frankly, challenging look into how our US parishes are doing outreach. Just go to AncientFaith.com and click on Live Call In and listen to the archived program!