The Corruption of The Straight Way
Christ is risen!
Let’s face it, ideas matter. Words matter. The current fad of “lived experience” as a way to insist that truth is relative is a linguistic trap filled with all kinds of dangers to our society.
But it has always been the desire of the evil one to corrupt the straight path of the Faith. In fact, the evil one is fine with just a slight “adjustment” to your way of life that will eventually lead you down a crooked path. Temptations that present themselves as being “compassionate” or “nuanced” all attempt to magically reinvent the truth or reinterpret reality to accommodate a narcissistic way of living that leads to destruction.
And that’s the point! Corrupted and crooked definitions or ideologies don’t just present us with a “different way” of getting to the same destination. These crooked paths lead to destruction, dehumanizing mutilations, and eventual lonely death! The Faith, once and for all delivered to the saints, offers us a solid ground to stand on that doesn’t participate in the shifting sands of faddish ideas that come and go. The very chaos we see in our society today reveals the true intent of these wrong-headed ideologies to destroy us. We don’t have to fall for the crooked paths made by the charlatans and magicians of today’s enemies of the Truth.
Look at our lesson today in Acts 12:25; 13:1-12:
IN THOSE DAYS, Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission, bringing with them John whose other name was Mark. Now in the Church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John to assist them. When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) withstood them, seeking to turn away the proconsul from the faith. But Saul, who is also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.
So, our intrepid missionaries are active and going. Dear Sts Paul and Barnabas (a personal hero of mine!) In fact, we see the moment here when they are commissioned and ordained by the Church to go and spread the Word! Notice how the scriptures describe the laying on of hands by the Church as “being sent out by the Holy Spirit. This is an important moment worth your attention. So Paul and Barnabas get going and they come to a place where there was a magician. Now you have to understand that this word “magician” doesn’t mean then what it does today. Then a magician was more of a philosopher or teacher that had the ability to mesmerize the crowd and do “amazing” things. Magicians were slick speakers who convinced the people to believe the outlandish and abnormal. Up IS Down! Right is Wrong!
And this “magician” had the ear of the local Roman leader of the province. This leader wanted to hear what Paul and Barnabas had to say. Of course, this made the magician nervous about losing his influence, so he fought the apostles. He wanted to keep his influence over society by continuing to insist his words were magic.
Notice how St. Paul deals with this man. It certainly wasn’t very politically correct. But the situation called for potent “medicine” to stop the destruction of real people Whom God loves! St. Paul “tells it like it is,” to use an old phrase. His forthright speech and subsequent actions were both loving and the exact “medicine” for everyone involved, even though this was a drastic and unpleasant “intervention.” St. Paul actually loves Bar-Jesus, the Magician! He loves him too much to allow this deluded man to continue to believe a lie. Love doesn’t mean affirming the fantasy of those who are their own worst enemies! Sometimes, due to the stakes involved, the Holy Spirit has to “straighten out” the crooked paths of others so that those behind aren’t misled!
St. Theodoros, the Sanctified, was a companion monk of St. Pachomios, that we remembered yesterday. St. Theodoros became the “right-hand man” to St. Pachomios as he build nine monasteries in Egypt during the 4th century. Because of Theodoros’ piety, humility, and obedience, St. Pachomios trusted the younger Theodoros with leadership in the monasteries. This made some of the older brothers angry because Theodoros was younger than them. But the saint continued his humble service even when he was mistreated because he knew the Truth of the matter. When St. Theodoros fell asleep in the Lord in the year 368 AD, it was said that his brother monks grieved and wept so loudly that their tears could be heard across the Nile. St. Theodoros was never tempted off the straight path of humility and piety by the false philosophies of pride and arrogance.
Today, is your life “crooked” or “straight?” The truth is others are following the path you are traveling, so your choices, your priorities, and your life must be informed and shaped by timeless wisdom. This is why living a normal Orthodox life will always stick out like a sore thumb in the darkness of a society that has forgotten God.
P.S. You proved to be a citizen of the desert, an angel in the flesh, and a wonderworker, O Theodore, our God-bearing Father. By fasting, vigil, and prayer you obtained heavenly gifts, and you heal the sick and the souls of them that have recourse to you with faith. Glory to Him that has given you strength. Glory to Him that has crowned you. Glory to Him that works healings for all through you.
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