Christ is risen!
She started crying as I shook her hand. She was trembling and crying, and I was both confused and troubled. Her husband stepped in to save the day by explaining “Father, she is very excited to meet you. We were going through a very difficult time when our family found your videos on YouTube. We watched your videos and then started getting the daily devotionals, and it touched us all so deeply. She’s very nervous and very grateful to you.”
What do you say to something like that? I confess I was very uncomfortable and quickly added if they knew me like my wife and kids know me, they wouldn’t be excited to meet me at all!
But it makes sense that people are grateful to God when God uses His creatures to minister to their needs. It is a way of honoring God’s grace in this or that person. It’s why we venerate icons and we even kiss the priest’s hand. Well, that’s how we would do it if there wasn’t a pandemic going on!
Look at our lesson today in Acts 14:6-18:
In those days, the apostles fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country; and there they preached the gospel. Now at Lystra there was a man sitting, who could not use his feet; he was a cripple from birth, who had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking; and Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and walked. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, because he was the chief speaker, they called Hermes. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the people. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out among the multitude, crying, “Men, why are you doing this? We also are men, of like nature with you, and bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways; yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” With these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.
St. Paul and St. Barnabas are on one of their missionary journeys and they come across a man who can’t walk. Notice St. Paul can tell this man has faith to be healed. So Paul calls him out and tells him to walk. And the man does!
Lystra was a typical, Roman village, and the people were followers of the state pagan religion. So, when they saw this great miracle, their first thought was that the gods had come down from Olympus and visited them. The local pagan priests even tried to sacrifice oxen in front of these two disciples of Jesus until they were stopped by the apostles themselves.
Paul and Barnabas insist they are men just like everyone else and they had “Good News” to share!
So, take away these insights from this story. First alleviating suffering really gets people’s attention. When we are Christ’s Body in our local community, we draw attention to Him when we minister to others, even others that aren’t part of our “group.” Second, don’t be surprised when people are grateful, but be careful to draw their attention to Jesus and off you! And finally, when you have their attention, talk to them about Jesus and not yourself!
Today, as we are at that Mid-Pentecost season in Pascha, let’s keep focused on just how wonderful God living and acting in His people really is! And let us embrace this Resurrected Life that Jesus gives us to share with everyone we can! That’s how you can be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. O Lord, as we reach this midway point towards Pentecost, grant me the attentiveness to see just how divine it is to help those around me. It really makes sense, Lord, that when we minister to others, they will sometimes say we are like an angel who has come to help them. I really need to keep focused on becoming so like You that I remind those around me of You! Please give me the strength to keep sharing Your love and Your wisdom with those around me. Amen