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Christ is risen!

They say that you can’t buy happiness. Well, that’s a bit subjective, because some folks are very happy for a short time when they spend money. There is even a genuine psychological disorder that deals with folks who are addicted to spending money. So, I guess it all depends on how you define “happiness.”

The point of the old saying is meant to teach that true happiness or contentment or a “good” life doesn’t and can’t depend on your own personal wealth or lack of wealth. Because I’ve known people who were very rich who were also very miserable and I’ve known people who are very poor but very happy as well. So, something else has to be going on here. And that “something else” is actually a window into a person’s heart!

Look at our lesson today in Acts 8:18-25:

IN THOSE DAYS, when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me also this power, that any one on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”

Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.

Simon was a magician in Samaria that had convinced the people that he was channeling the power of God. When Philip came and preached the Orthodox Message to the area and also performed miracles that weren’t mere magic trick, even Simon himself accepted baptism and believed.

But now the Church has sent St. Peter and St. John to chrismate these Samaritan believers so that they would receive the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands of the bishops of the Church. By the way, this is a powerful testimony to the authority and continuity of the Apostolic message of succession through the Apostles to our own bishops to this day! So, Peter and John chrismate the new believers after their baptism and they receive the Holy Spirit. Simon witnesses this display of authority and power and really wants to be able to do this too, so he offers money to Peter and John to “buy” this authority to “give” the Holy Spirit. Big mistake, but a really important window into the spiritual needs of our dear Simon.

Simon makes three mistakes here in his assumptions: First, he assumes this power and authority are possessed by Peter and John. But the power to give the Holy Spirit belongs to Christ through His Church, and isn’t so much a possession as a witness of continuity in communion. This power and authority flow from an unbroken relationship with Jesus, not some superpower that the apostles turn on and off as if it belonged to them. Second, he assumes he can “buy” this authority and power. Not so, this power and authority is a gift to the Church, not merely to one person or even persons, but is a gift from God to His Body, the Church. Besides, there isn’t enough money in the world to “buy” a gift!. Finally, he assumes this will make him famous again! And here’s the deep look into Simon’s soul. Simon’s popularity with the people has been overshadowed by the Apostles with their faith and not his magic tricks. Simon’s desire to have this power reveals he still needs God’s grace to mature him towards humility and not any notion of prestige or position.

Today, when you see the real thing in someone else’s life, what does that reveal about your own heart? Does it create envy or shame or even a longing to have what they have? Don’t despair. Your stumble will be avoided if you soberly take the time to process your reaction and offer it to God in confession and a willingness to learn about your own spiritual needs. Being Orthodox on Purpose means being free to see your own heart in need and offer those needs and weaknesses to God Who loves you and wants to see you grow!

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