For most Byzantine Catholics in the United States, today’s Gospel Reading was from the Holy Gospel according to the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke. In it we hear these words:
And the Lord replied, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute [the] food allowance at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so. Truly, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful. That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.
A good friend blessed me with a wonderful collection of reflections on the liturgical calendar’s readings. Thoughts for Each Day of the Year was written by St. Theophan the Recluse, and I have found it to be a most valuable guide.
Tonight St. Theophan’s reflections were read as I was pausing from the din and hubbub of politics on this election day to eat dinner with my family, having turned off the TV but wondering if I was missing any key updates.
As I read the reflections in much distraction and conflict, I realized that regardless of the outcome of any individual campaign for election or passage of a ballot measure, I would need these words more than any pundit’s or statistician’s analysis.
St. Theophan writes:
The parable about the steward shows how a Christian should behave with relation to worldly things. A steward diligently does his work, but in his heart he is not attached to anything. He is free from all bonds; he relates to everything externally. So also must a Christian be in relation to all worldly things. But is this possible? It is possible. As there exists outward piety without inner piety, so worldly concern which is only outward and without inner bonds is also possible. But in such a case will everything around us turn into a mere lifeless form, emitting coldness like a marble statue? No-in the midst of worldly things another life will develop which is more attractive than the fullest worldliness. Worldly things, being worldly things, will truly remain as a form, while that which warms the heart will start to proceed from another source, and whoever drinks from this source will no longer experience thirst (cf. John 4:14). But in such a case is it better to drop everything? What for? Even one who outwardly drops everything can still be attached in his heart, and one who does not outwardly drop everything can be free from bonds. Of course it is easier for one who outwardly renounces everything to control his heart. Choose what is most suitable to you-just dispose yourself to be as the Lord commands.
On this day as any other, may our thoughts not be focused on victories or failures in this world, neither on worldly rights and wrongs. These will fade and wither like the grass, but eternal truths remain both in and above worldly realities. So many times, a true change of heart is replaced with accusations about how the other is wrong, distracting us from our own flaws that remain unchanged.
St. Theophan’s reflections point out so clearly that one can be obsessed with worldliness with the heart even if one lives in a state of worldly detachment in terms of physical status. I could be oblivious to political wranglings and yet wonder about facts and statistics in a vague grasping for distraction. Conversely, one can walk in the world with deep concern for its inner workings and machinations, but if its proper priority is upheld, one can have the deeper communion with God and neighbor which transcends policies and politics.
May God give us that heart to see that way, no matter how we feel about any national election, ballot measure, or gossip from the water cooler about the latest office politics.
Of course, it is true that in our liturgical life there is much mention of our government and civil authorities. But that focus is overshadowed by the larger reality of God’s presence, His Kingdom.
Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!