It Is Not You Who SpeaksFr. Barnabas Powell
Welcome to August and the first day of the Dormition Fast. Let us not neglect the wisdom of the Faith as we prepare for this Great Feast!
“I wish I had said this!” That’s what I said to myself after a particularly difficult conversation with a friend over a very sensitive subject. Have you ever had that happen to you? You think of the “perfect” thing to have said AFTER the conversation is over. I can’t tell you how many times it’s happened to me.
But then there have been times when I seem to have pulled the perfect words out of the air at just the right time that really made a difference. I remember one man looking at me and saying “You don’t know what those words mean to me. If you knew what was going on in my life right now, you’d understand.” So sometimes the perfect words, the perfect reaction, the perfect gesture, comes along just at the right time. That happens too.
Well, in the world we live in today, we are faced with increasing opposition to our Normal Orthodox Life. We are misunderstood. We are mischaracterized. We are accused of being bigots or homophobes of all manner of vile things that simply aren’t true. In the face of such spiritual warfare, how do we react?
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Matthew 10:16-22:
The Lord said to his disciples, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.”
Jesus sent His disciples out “as sheep in the midst of wolves.” Could there be a better word picture to set up the disciples to really appreciate what they were sent out to do? This was going to be dangerous. This was going to be threatening to the “wolves” around them. They were going to be in actual, physical “peril.” They were going to be arrested. They were going to have to go to court. They were going to have not just their jobs and families threatened, but their very lives as well.
And in the face of all this that actually happened to all the disciples, Jesus tells them “Don’t be anxious.”
Of course, you can understand why anyone would be anxious in this terrible situation. And you know this because you’ve been anxious in situations that were not nearly as dangerous as what these men faced. You’ve been anxious when someone at your job, or even a family member has confronted you about your faith. You’ve been anxious and afraid when someone says “Those Christians are such bigots.” You don’t want to be thought of as a bigot. You don’t want to be publically shunned or ridiculed. And from that anxiousness, from that fear, they silenced you. You didn’t feel confident enough to defend the Faith. So you told them what they wanted to hear so the pressure would be off. I know how this is because I’ve caught myself doing just that to avoid being labeled or accused in the face of cultural chaos that cancels quick and listens not at all!
But Jesus tells His disciples and us “Don’t be anxious” in these moments because you will be given what to say in those moments IF you will not allow fear to flood your mind and intoxicate your ability to hear what the Spirit is telling you to say. Because, truthfully, you will only be the mouthpiece. It is really the Lord speaking through you because you were sober enough and attentive enough to trust Him and serve Him. And your “enemies” won’t have a response because what you have said will perfectly deal with their blind hatred of the Truth. And through your endurance, you will be saved!
The Maccabees were a faithful group of Jewish heroes before Christ. They stood up to the Greek pagan empire that threatened to destroy the Jewish Temple and the Faith of the Jews of the day. These seven brothers along with a rabbi named Eleazar, and their mother, Solomone, suffered tortures and beatings because they refused to bend to the wishes of King Epiphanes of Syria. He hated the Jews and fought against them attempting to get the Jews to abandon the Faith and to integrate into the pagan Greek empire of the day. These great heroes refused to bow and were killed by the king in 168 BC before the coming of Christ. We remember them as true martyrs for the Faith since they believed in the coming Messiah.
Today, does your fear of confrontation keep you silent when evil or even foolishness attacks the Faith? Are you afraid to speak up and speak out to declare the Faith? Don’t be anxious! IF you will trust that God knows where you are and what you need, you will have the words to say that will always prove you are living a Normal Orthodox life!
P.S. The Wisdom of God’s own seven pillars are ye all, a seven-branched lamp that shineth with the Light Divine, ye Great Martyrs that were before the Martyrs, O all-wise Maccabees, with them pray ye the God of all that we who now sing your praises may be saved.