When I am at peace with the direction of my life I find that restfulness spills over onto those around me. But that makes perfect sense. After all, we constantly pray in the liturgy “For our deliverance from all affliction, wrath, danger, and necessity, let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.” Freed from my life being driven by “necessity” I am invited to a life of peaceful sobriety that quiets my soul so that I can hear God’s wisdom for me.
When my life is cluttered with noise and busyness and anger and revenge and fear, I find it so hard to hear God’s voice and live at peace.
Look at our lesson today in Acts 23:1-11:
IN THOSE DAYS, Paul, looking intently at the council, said, “Brethren, I have lived before God in all good conscience up to this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God shall strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” And Paul said, “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’ ” But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead I am on trial.” And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. Then a great clamor arose; and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn in pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them and bring him into the barracks. The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified about me at Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also at Rome.”
St. Paul has come with St. Barnabas to Jerusalem to help out the believers for a soon coming famine in the area. They bring gifts and supplies to aid the Church in the area. And, of course, Paul gets in trouble and is arrested!
During his interrogation the High Priest that year, Ananias, slaps Paul in the mouth! Is that any way for a priest to act? Paul fires back and then proves he understands protocol with his response in learning it was the High Priest who slapped him. Then Paul, knowing his audience and being given the wisdom to say the right thing at the right time, reminds the court that he is a Pharisee. So, of course, the Pharisees in the crowd start defending Paul. And notice what they say “What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” You see, the other group, the Sadducees, didn’t believe in angels or spirits.
But Paul’s abilities have everything to do with his being filled with the Spirit. He is living his life dedicated to the mission Christ gave him, and that focus, that clarity, quiets his inner life SO THAT he can hear God’s wisdom in stressful times like this! Paul is rescued from the growing mob by the Roman soldier who has him in custody. That very night another manifestation of Paul’s intimacy with God is displayed as Jesus “stood beside him” and told him he was going to witness to the Faith in Rome!
When we are free from a driven life of noise and fear, we open up our life to be filled with the Spirit through our daily practice of this life-creating faith.
So, today, do you have the courage to face whatever life throws at you? You can. Ask God to set you free from all “affliction, wrath, danger, and necessity” and let Him replace all that with His Holy Spirit so that you can be Orthodox on Purpose.