What's the Maximum I Have to Do?

Dear Friends in Christ,

Owing to the computer crash last month, the bulletin was not sent out, which also meant I missed being able to send out a reflection. We’ve had a lot happen since then; our regular Divine Liturgies, the celebration of our second anniversary, the Ohi Day Lecture of Dr. Papalas, and of course the Thanksgiving Day holiday. I hope you all were able to enjoy it as much as Presbytera Michaela and I did!

When presented with an obligation, we often ask about the “bottom line,” “the absolute minimum,” “the bare essentials.” In relation to Church, as a priest, I am sometimes asked “what is the minimum one has to do to be a good Christian?” This is nothing new; in today’s Gospel, we saw a similar question posed of Jesus:

“And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?" So he answered and said, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.' " And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live." But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:25-29).

The answer was of course that the Good Samaritan—an outcast by Jewish standards—was the one who best exemplified what it means to be a neighbor.

The Good Samaritan did not seek to do the least amount possible, but rather sought to do the most. He went beyond the call of duty to minister to the man who had been beaten by thieves, showing him love and concern. This is how Christ wants us to relate to both Him and to each other. Instead of treating Church as an obligation and staking a bet on how (in)frequently we might be able to attend and still be good Orthodox Christians, we should instead rather seek to do as much as possible in regards to living our faith.

As an analogy, imagine that a man is seeking out a marriage partner; if he finds the right woman, will he only see her every once and while? Or will he seek to show her how much he loves her by showering her with love and attention? Christ is showering us with such love and attention, but how are we responding? We should treat our relationship with Christ as one of love, not of obligation. And just as with a person we are seeking out in this world, we should not imagine that we can win affection by merely thinking nice thoughts or saying nice things; no, we will earn affection and trust by a steady commitment and a firm resolve.

Put another way, is it ever a wonder that one who quips: “I don’t need to be the best at doing x; I just need to be good at x” is rarely even good at doing x? When we are not whole-heartedly committed to an objective, we will forget about it when more pressing matters present themselves, or if we get flack from others for doing something they don’t approve of. Will we resolve to worship Christ the way He established—in the Church—and then let the cares of this world interfere? If we want God to bless us, we must give ourselves over to Him completely, and make Him our number one priority.

The good news is that no matter what problems we may have had in the past, like the Good Samaritan, we are ready now to make a switch for the better. If he could go from social outcast to the world’s best example of a charitable, kind person, by just doing the right thing, then let’s follow his example, doing right, doing it with purpose, doing it frequently, and keeping steady. So enough reading about it—let’s get out there and do it!

In Christ,
Fr. Anastasios