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Christ is risen!

The young man was very frustrated. His dad had just gotten him a new hunting dog and this was the first time the young man had to train the dog himself. The process was a lot tougher than the boy realized and he was out of answers. You see every time the boy would point to a place the dog was supposed to go, the dog came up and sniffed his finger! “No, Rex! I want you to go there!” The boy would yell and Rex would wag his tail and sniff his master’s finger!

I imagine this is how the Lord might feel if such temporary challenges could upset Him. Every time He tries to train my stubborn soul to go in a certain direction, I misinterpret His gentle guidance and head off in the wrong direction. It always seems that I prefer to learn the hard way!

Look at our Lesson for this Bright Tuesday in Luke 10:16-21:

The Lord said to his disciples, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name! ” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. ” In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

The 70 disciples were the company of men who followed Christ along with the 12 disciples called by the Lord when He began His preaching and ministering work. Many of these men would later go on to great and wonderful ministries of their own after the Lord’s Resurrection. My own patron, St. Barnabas, was one of the 70.

But the Lord, while He is genuinely thrilled to hear these reports, cautions the disciples to keep their focus on the true glory of their spiritual victories.

The subtle dangers of being elated by spiritual victories always threaten to rob us of the joys of our spiritual growth. It is the subtle plan of the evil one to dazzle us with these good things at the expense of the best things. If the enemy can get you to focus on this or that spiritual experience then perhaps he can tempt you toward spiritual pride or thinking highly of your own abilities and drown out the reality that even these victories truly won are gifts of the grace of God. We should rather rejoice that our names are written in heaven.

In keeping this perspective in our spiritual maturity, we won’t be derailed by pride or arrogance. We won’t be blinded by our own fantasy of “achievement” to the reality that even our maturity, and the strength to choose rightly, are all graces given to us by God Himself. We will be set free to see “all is gift.”

Now imagine the outcome of that liberating perspective! You are now free to see God work in your life to overcome internal and external obstacles to your spiritual growth with the humble freedom to always give glory to God and keep no credit for yourself. A wise man once said, “The world has not seen what God will do with a man who really doesn’t care who gets the credit.” I would suggest there are several examples of this kind of a man in many of our saints in the Church and their holy example is what we should follow.

Today, on this Bright Tuesday, your spiritual growth is meant to become deeply part of the rest of your life based on you keeping your eye on the real source of rejoicing in your life – Your name is written in heaven – you are a member of the Body of Christ – you are a part of the Church. With that perspective, you are free to see God work in your life to continue conforming your life to His image to be made in His likeness. Being Orthodox on Purpose means being LIKE Christ! Rejoice!

P.S. In honor of our parish namesday celebrated today on every Bright Tuesday, here is our parish hymn to Sts. Raphael, Nicholas, and Irene: “Having contended on Lesvos for the sake of Christ God, you have sanctified the island since the discovery of your sacred relics, O blessed ones; wherefore we honor you, O God-bearing Raphael, together with Nicholas and virgin Irene, as our divine protectors, and intercessors with the Lord.”

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