There is a story of a high school senior who upon graduating his father takes him to a car dealership to select a gift. They found a car and the father said that he would take care of the rest. Graduation came and the young man's father said, 'Congratulations for finishing with honors, I want you to have this.' And he handed him a Bible. His son was furious! 'How dare you go back on your word and not give me the car.' The boy said, as he threw the Bible down and left. The boy went away to college and never had anything to do with his father for the rest of his life.
Many years latter, news came to the young man that his father had died. He went back to his father's house in order to take care of the estate. In the library he ran across the bible that his father had given him. He went over and picked it up and opened it. There to his amazement was a check for the exact amount of the car along with a note. It read, "Dear Son, as important as a car might be to you. I didn't want you to forget the most important thing in life. The day you care enough to open this Bible then you will know."
God does the same thing with us. Every time we think that we know what is most important, He takes it away and reminds us of higher things. September first marks the beginning of the Church year in the Orthodox Church. The message rings load and clear what is most important as the Church brings before us the Feast of the Cross of September 14th. The Cross is our companion and foundation as Christians. It instructs us that if are to followers of Christ we must 'deny ourselves, take up our Cross and follow Him'. Taking up one's Cross means that of our free choice we live lives which exhibit a denial of this world as an end in itself - we live for God's Kingdom!
Maybe we need to rethink what is most important on Saturday evenings. Instead of dinner and a movie why not attend Great Vespers at 5:00 P.M.? One might discover that forty-five minutes spent in Church is far more satisfying than spending a lot of money for a movie that one forgets moments latter. By the way, I wonder what it means when we spend seven dollars to see a bad movie and only one dollar when the tray is passed at Church?
Maybe we need to rethink how we spend our week. One might discover that one hour spent at the studies in Orthodox Class is far more satisfying then the one hour television program that evening. Interacting with fellow Christians, asking long kept questions and sharing from our life experiences is something which rarely takes place today.
Maybe we need to rethink how we spend our mornings. One might discover that a half hour spent in prayer and reading the Bible is far more satisfying than a morning walk or a stroll at the Mall. By communing with God through prayer and the reading of Holy Scriptures, we discovers our true nature as being spiritual and that if it is not watered it will wilt an vanish away.
Whatever we may think God has taken away from us it presents an opportunity for us to discover a hidden treasure. God knows what we truly need and provides for us if only we are able to rethink a few things.
Fr. Andrew J. Barakos is the pastor of Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, Scottsdale, Arizona. He is vicar of the southwestern region of the Metropolis of San Francisco, and is a member of the Board of Trustees for Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology.
Read the entire article on the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church website (new window will open).