Give As You’ve Been GivenFr. Barnabas Powell
It’s an election season here in the US, and the campaign ads in the mail, on the radio, and on TV are coming hot and heavy, especially as our society continues to be so polarized by the “spirit of the age.” And that spirit is the delusional notion that power is what we need to get justice. The current madness in our society all circles around the lie that “the bad guys” have power” and the “good guys” need to take that power back. What makes it so very foolish is that it is so very childish.
But that’s what happens to a society that has abandoned the solid foundation of Faith centered on the very Reason we exist. When God is abandoned or, worse yet, lesser gods are worshipped, society degenerates into the chaos we see before us now.
But what if there were a way of life that invites us to a different mindset and a different motivation? What if it wasn’t power we needed, but generosity? What if we lived like all of life is a gift?
Look at our lesson today in Matthew 10:1,5-8:
At that time, Jesus called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay.”
Jesus is sending out His disciples to do what He came to do in the first place: heal broken people. And the first and best healing is always the spiritual healing of a person. To set a person on the path of spiritual health through the taming of the passions; to learning, identifying, and naming the places of brokenness, struggle, and addiction in one’s life. And then seeing those spiritual illnesses healed by the sober wisdom and gentle love of the Lord Who made us for Himself.
And the message the disciples were called to declare is a message of the Kingdom of God where my life and your life are ordered and prioritized by knowing God first and all other aspects of my life placed in the proper hierarchical order based on eternal wisdom, not the chaos of selfish desires for power or vain “self-expression.” That foolish trap of celebrating my spiritual illnesses as “healthy self-expression” or “I’m just trying to be true to myself” sets me on the dead-end path towards feeding my uns=dicsp0lined passions instead of training them to be my servants. This is the purpose of the Faith; to move my life away from addictive passions and towards the sober love of embracing reality.
And what motivates this true way of life? The revelation that all of life is a gift! We received our lives without paying for them and now we give expecting no payment in return. This personal spiritual freedom from expectations is the key to your own spiritual maturity and freedom. When you can set your mind to seeing all of life as a gift, then even the challenges in life become pathways to spiritual wisdom and freedom rather than catastrophes that destroy us. And once that turn has been made in your mind, no event in life can ever enslave you again. No wonder St. Isaac said, “This life has been given to you for repentance; do not waste it on vain pursuits.”
This is the very heart of why we remember Sts Cosmas and Damian today in the Church. Their godly mother, St. Theodota, raised her sons to be very well-educated men, especially in the science of medicine of the day. And Sts. Cosmas and Damian went about their healing work expecting no pay for their medical services. These two brothers from Asia Minor, possibly twins, spent their lives serving others and healing diseases around the Roman province of Syria and left their support and livelihood up to God’s grace. Their ministry in the 3rd century drew many to the Christian faith and they died peacefully and at rest.
Today, your thoughts will determine your life. Are you able to humbly accept the healing wisdom of the Church in the broken places in your life? Do you even know where those broken places are? Embrace the life of Orthodox living and watch as your thoughts become disciplined, and your desires become servants to you and all of life becomes a gift when you are finally Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. “O glorious, wonderworking physicians, having received the grace of healing, you reach out and restore health to those in need. But also, by your visitation you cast down the arrogance of the enemy, healing the world through miracles.”