More Than FlirtingFr. Barnabas Powell
“There’s no time like the present.” This and many other “time” quotes really get to a pearl of central wisdom we humans have learned: Timing is everything.
I have a dear couple who are dating. And, on top of that, they are exploring becoming Orthodox. Talk about a double whammy! Their relationship is growing with each other and the Faith. They recently asked me a question I get a lot from folks exploring the nature of the Faith and becoming Orthodox. “When will we know when it’s time to convert/get married?” They actually asked me these two questions separately, but the answer is the same for both!
Look at our lesson today in 2 Corinthians 6:1-10:
BRETHREN, working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation.” Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in any one’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, watching, hunger; by purity, knowledge, forbearance, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
St. Paul continues to instruct us through his wisdom to the Church in Corinth. And here he is telling them that there is a real danger of accepting “the grace of God in vain.” Terrifying! But what would make the grace of God unhelpful to someone? The answer is found in the whole concept of “the acceptable time.”
Paul teaches us that God worked His salvation for all of humanity with perfect timing. Jesus came at the perfect time. The Lord’s Church has moved through history just as the Lord promised she would. And the only answer we need to seek is whether we will participate in this perfect and acceptable timing of God’s work in the world? Will we be humble enough to embrace the wisdom of Christ for our own lives and allow the Holy Spirit to “graft” us into His Body for all the world to see?
Of course, we answer these questions one way or the other every day by our choices, our behaviors, our priorities, and our actions. But the key to knowing how to choose, how to move, and what direction to go, lies in our own willingness to get our timing right. That flows from humility and love. Just notice the list of troubles Paul recites in our passage! And he says all of these challenges just reinforce his trust that the time is NOW to embrace this Faith. Not later, when everything is going good or when all the circumstances of my life are settled. No, the “acceptable time” is now!
And that “now” is always now! In other words, in your life today, and at this very moment, the time is right for you to choose to embrace the Faith and purposeful Orthodox life. And tomorrow morning, if God blesses you with that blessing, the time will be “acceptable” then, too. The whole point of Paul’s wisdom to the Corinthians is to let them know that no matter when they embrace the lifestyle of Faith, it’s perfect! In fact, a continual offering of my free “yes” to God’s loving invitation is absolutely necessary for a consistent and faithful life. Trust in a dusty memory of a time when you said “yes” to God will never be strong enough to keep your “now” your “today” faithful to God. It’s a lifestyle of a continual “yes” to God’s love and wisdom that forms a faithful man.
The truth is you can “date” too long in a relationship, and you can move too quickly in a relationship. But the “acceptable time” to embrace God’s awesome invitation to true life is always “NOW.”
We recall with great joy St. Euphemia, the Great Martyr. Her story is one of complete devotion to Jesus Christ. She was raised in the city of Chalcedon across the Bosphorus from Constantinople, by pious parents, and even in her youth, she displayed pious devotion to the Faith. This is also the city where the 4th Ecumenical Council was held in 451 AD. This young woman stood faithful to Christ during the governorship of Priscus. Proscus had ordered that everyone burn incense to the pagan god Ares, but the Christians refused. They were arrested and brought before the governor for torture. St. Euphemia, because of her young age, was separated from the rest of the Christians and promised great wealth and comfort if she would abandon Christ, Whom she loved. They tried killing her in a fiery furnace, but the flames wouldn’t touch her, and the guards taking her to the furnace saw mighty angels in the fire and refused to put her in. They both became Christians and suffered a martyr’s death. The pagans then tried to set a trap for Euphemia but this failed also. Finally, they put her to the wild beasts in the arena for the sport of the people, but the animals wouldn’t touch her. A She-bear did finally strike the saint with a small wound on her leg and then St. Euphemia gave up her soul to Christ. At the moment of her death, an earthquake struck the city and the guards and spectators ran in terror with many later coming to Faith in Christ. St. Euphemia was more than infatuated with Christ. She had a relationship with Jesus that stood in the face of terrible torture and she remained firm in her devotion to the Lord.
Today, are you just flirting with God’s invitation? Are you still keeping one foot in the Faith and another foot in your old life? God’s timing of His loving salvation has been perfect, and there is no time like the present for you to dare to embrace the fullness of the Faith with your free “yes” to God’s proposal. It’s the “acceptable time” to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. O Euphemia, Christ’s comely virgin, you fill the Orthodox with gladness and cover with shame all the heretics; for at the holy Fourth Council in Chalcedon, you did confirm what the Fathers decreed aright. O all-glorious Great Martyr, entreat Christ God that His great mercy may be granted unto us.