This Medicine Tastes Horrible!Fr. Barnabas Powell
“And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” Luke 1:20
Today is the Feast day of the Conception of St. John the Forerunner, and the above is from our Gospel Lesson today in Luke 1:5-25.
And it doesn’t seem fair.
It never ceases to amaze me of the complicated and nuanced reality of many events in the scriptures. Looking at several places in both Old and New Testaments, I am regularly perplex at what seems to be one kind of treatment to one person and entirely different treatment of another person.
Here, Zecharias was a priest serving in the Temple and his wife Elizabeth was barren but really wanted a child. Both of them had prayed for years for a child, and now, in their advanced age, (may I run one rabbit trail here? It is amazing how many stories in the scripture and in the tradition of the faith there are of older couples thought to be unable to have children being blessed with children! It seems God really wants to communicate to us that we are NEVER beyond His ability to intervene and heal! NEVER!) they have a son. But not just any son, the last Old Testament prophet who will announce the coming of the long awaited Messiah!
So, Zecharias gets this good news while he is serving in the Temple. The Archangel Gabriel comes and tells him that God is answering his and Elizabeth’s prayers. But Zecharias asks what seems to be a natural question: “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” Luke 1:18
Kinda sounds like the question the Theotokos asks when Gabriel tells her she is going to have a Son even though she is still a virgin – “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” Luke 1:34
So, what’s up here? Is God being “unfair?”
I guess it depends on your definition of “fair.”
The truth is God knows us better than we know ourselves, and when a situation appears “unfair” or “unjust” or “they are getting special treatment from God” what we are really witnessing is the great wisdom and compassion of God to apply His healing “medicine” like any good Physician. He applies it in the way the particular patient needs it applied because He knows that patient better than even the patient knows himself!
In the end, this illusion of “unfairness” is really God loving you and knowing you better than you do yourself and seeing clearly the uniqueness of your reality and your particular spiritual need. Even modern medical science is discovering this truth. Medicines are now being designed for the particular genetic make-up a particular person. Because everybody doesn’t react the same to the same medications! We really are free, unique, and unrepeatable persons, so to treat everyone “the same” is ultimately to risk reducing all persons to something they are not – mere copies of one another.
God sees you today as a unique being that singularly exists now. You have never met a mere mortal! Because of this, God’s love for you is so vast and so comprehensive that He sees clearly how to apply the spiritual medicines of the Faith to your particular needs. So, it isn’t surprising that these common spiritual medicines are applied differently for each person.
Today, hear this “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11. In the midst of the application of spiritual medicine it rarely is a “fun time,” but it is the particular medicine I need at that moment, if I will have the humble and loving trust that my Father knows what I ultimately need for my salvation. The medicine that Zecharias needed was his silence, until he could boldly proclaim the boy’s name after John’s birth. The Theotokos “pondered” all these things in her heart, because that spiritual medicine was lovingly and faithfully embraced by our Lord’s mother.
What spiritual medicine are you being asked to embrace today? Are you struggling with the “unfairness” of what you are asked to endure for your salvation? Is somebody else seeming to “get off easy” and you are having to fight?
Today, take a breath. Embrace silence. Seek the Lord’s strength. Ponder the lessons for yourself, not others. And allow the Truth that supersedes all temporary notions of “fairness” – the eternal love that God has for you today, and His perfect insight into your spiritual needs – to calm your fears, strengthen your faith, and help you be courageous at this time in your life. It isn’t ultimately unfairness that is our enemy, but our own unwillingness to humbly embrace each moment in life that is literally flooded with wisdom and help from God in the transformation of our lives to becoming like Jesus Christ.
Don’t give up! God’s grace truly is sufficient for you.