Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Much has been made over the past year about the financial situation that our Archdiocese finds itself in. Over the past few months, in particular, our parishes around the country have been informed of certain bad practices which creeped into the operations of the Church on a national level, causing a difficult problem to perpetuate. One characteristic of all publications we have been presented is that this admittedly large problem began with small, seemingly insignificant problems which no one thought would have an effect on the larger whole. Over several years however, habits began forming which were not professional, and their effects were felt in areas which many thought were unrelated. What began as “cutting corners” here and there turned into a major financial crisis.
Are there times in our lives in which we think that we do something innocent and small, only to have it turn into something much bigger, something that we thought was unrelated? Have we ever eaten a few more calories than we should, or not followed our physician’s advice? Have we ever disregarded our New Year’s resolution a week into the New Year? Have we ever “cut corners” when it came to matters of faith, not thinking that it would affect anything else in our life significantly?
On the Second Sunday of Great Lent, our Church reads the gospel passage on which Jesus heals the crippled man lowered on a pallet, through the roof. The Scripture says that the Lord had compassion on the man’s affliction, and He marveled at the faith of the man on the pallet, as well as they who lowered him. Despite the young man being crippled, seeking mercy from the Lord, the Lord’s first response to the man was “My son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:5) Jesus eventually heals the man’s paralysis to demonstrate God’s power before all gathered, as well, but His first response was to address the affliction of the man’s soul, much to the surprise of all who witnessed it. Given Jesus’ power to heal blindness, paralysis, issues of blood, leprosy, and even nature itself, might we pause to ask why forgiveness of sins first?
The reason the Lord gives this response, and continues to do so throughout His ministry, is something only He knows completely of course, but Jesus did know that there was a correlation between soul and body. We have always affirmed, as Orthodox Christians, that the two are intrinsically connected and not independent of one another. What affects one, affects the other, either positively or negatively. As human beings, we have a soul and a body, and to be healthy we must focus on the health of both. We cannot have a decrepit soul and presume to think that it does not affect our body negatively, any more that we can pretend that our body does not receive health from a thriving soul. Something we might not think has anything to do with the other, actually is affecting it a great deal.
What affects our soul in our everyday actions as we go through life, however small or insignificant it may seem, actually benefits or harms our body too, and us as people. We might think that five minutes of prayer each night, abstaining from curse words, or only fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays during Lent are so small as to be insignificant, but in reality they contribute a great deal to our daily health. Conversely, areas of our life in which we cheat a little or sneak something here or there, which may seem harmless, actually do take a toll on us. Even though we might remember that God sees all, do we ever pause to consider that God may want us to stay away from something because it’s harmful, or flee to something because it helps us through life? We often have in our minds that God is a “divine scorekeeper,” but do we remember that He does so for our own well being in this life, as well as the world to come?
We have been told, at length, about what steps have been taken by our national Church to correct the unfortunate circumstance we find ourselves in. What affects one part of the Body, affects all parts of the Body. What affects one part of our bodies, affects all of us as a person. May we remember this during this beautiful season of our Church, and lay hold of the blessings which the Lord gives us, His “dedicated vessels,” through His Holy Church. Let us also continue to pray for Orthodoxy worldwide and in our country, for this reason, as well.
Kali Sarakosti! Kali Anastasi! Blessed Lent, blessed Resurrection!
Father Niko Bekris