OOPS, I DIDN'T EXPECT PERSECUTION!
In his words to his friend and prot?g?, Timothy, in today Epistle (2 Timothy 3:10-15), the Apostle Paul reminds him of the persecutions and sufferings that befell him at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra, and announces: "Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." These are good words for us to ponder.
Lets be honest about it: don't we expect that the moral and decent life we strive to live in accordance with God's laws will always be rewarded accordingly? That is, that we will escape the trials and problems that are an inevitable part of life in this world? Don't we really feel that the rewards of virtue ought to always be clearly evident? But the world is not like that. Listen to the bracing words of the seasoned Apostle, who exhorts Timothy (and us, as well) to "continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed." Victory will ultimately come to the faithful and persistent disciple.
Think about it: the most perfect Human that this world has ever seen, Jesus of Nazareth, our Lord and Saviour, was not spared His trials and tribulations. Indeed the way into His glory was by the Cross! Why are we so surprised that we, too, as His followers and emissaries, must endure our share of suffering patiently and faithfully.
It is in order to prepare us to be faithful and persistent in our trust in God, that the Church now calls us to make ready for the spiritual endeavour that is Great Lent, which approaches as we journey towards Pascha, the Resurrection of our Lord, which is also our own resurrection. We need to discipline ourselves by abstinence, prayer and meditation upon the meaning of Jesus` Cross.
The only way to move forward in this is to reach for the humility (which is simply another word for honesty) shown by the Tax-collector in today's Gospel Parable (Luke 18:10-14). Note that the overtly pious Pharisee was busy congratulating himself in his prayer. This is precisely the attitude that leads to discouragement and despair whenever the righteousness we believe we have attained is not met with the successful and trouble-free life we feel we have earned. We must indeed strive with all our will, all our mind and all our strength, for righteousness and goodness. Yet in our efforts, no matter how successful or unsuccessful they may appear to us to be, the most appropriate prayer that we can pray will always be the prayer of the Tax-collector: "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"
And the joyful discovery we shall make over and over is that He is indeed merciful to us, sinners. Glory to Him forever!
V. Rev. Ihor George Kutash