We all have to make choices many times a day. Today’s epistle and gospel let us look in on how Saint Paul and Jesus made a choice in a particular situation.
The disciples of Jesus had been away on their first “practice” mission by themselves, “going through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere” (Luke 9:6). When they returned after being with crowds and facing so many new situations Jesus wanted to take them away for some quiet time of RR and debriefing. But that didn’t work out as planned. “When the crowds learned of it, they followed him…” Notice Jesus’ reaction: he wasn’t irritated, he didn’t say “come back some other time,” he didn’t say, “I need to have a healthy work/life balance.” Instead, “he welcomed them and spoke of to them of the kingdom of God, and cured those who had need of healing” (Luke 9:11). In other words, he allowed the needs of the crowd to trump his own needs and the needs of the disciples.
Saint Paul follows the Master and does the same. In prison he has time to reflect on his future possibilities. He is so fully convinced of the life to come and looking forward to it that he prefers “to die and be with Christ.” But he sets aside his personal spiritual satisfaction and desire in order to serve others in the name of Christ. Or rather, because his work is needed, he is convinced that God will not take him away just yet. So he continues to dedicate himself to the cheerful service of others, “for your progress and joy in the faith” (Phil 1:25).
It’s not always clear on any given day what choice to make. But if we can discern which path is the way of self-sacrificial Christian service we more likely will be following Christ.
Holy Synod Meeting Concludes Today
Earlier this week the Board of Theological Education (BTE) met under the chairmanship of Archbishop Tikhon of Philadelphia to consider three candidates who have completed the Diaconal Vocations Program (DVP). Archdeacon Kirill Sokolov, director of the program, reported that there are currently 30 active participants. Various diocesan diaconal training programs are emerging as well and the BTE agreed that candidates and graduates of all these programs should be tracked by the DVP to ensure a level standard of preparation for diaconal service. The board will meet again in February in Philadelphia to review the curriculum for training deacons.
Yesterday at lunch the bishops heard a presentation from Archpriest Seraphim Gisetti (Louisville, CO) on plans for the Saint Ephraim House of Healing. This is a pan-Orthodox project to “support and strengthen the Orthodox Church through education and effective, Christ-centered addictions treatment for Orthodox clergy, other church workers and their families.” The House of Healing is aiming to open in 2015. To learn more about the plans, here is the prospectus.
After a morning session the bishops will return to their home dioceses and won’t meet again together until they gather for the All-American Council in Parma, OH to elect a new metropolitan.
And for something completely different, this evening I am invited to join the clergy (and wives) of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) and Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) for a celebration of the fifth anniversary of the reunification of their churches. Their clergy have been meeting together for a pastoral conference and the final event will be a dinner-cruise around Manhattan, joined by their hierarchs, including with Metropolitan Hilarion (ROCOR) and Archbishop Justinian (MP).