Friday, April 21, 2017: Bright Friday: Theotokos of the Life-giving Spring; Holy Hieromartyr Januarius and Those With Him, Our Holy Father Maximian, Patriarch of Constantinople, Theodore the Holy Martyr & his mother Philippa of Perge, Alexandra the Martyr, Anastasios the Monk of Sinai
Epistle: Apostles 3:1-8
Gospel: John 2:12-22
Christ is Risen!
There’s enough in today’s Gospel to make all of us uncomfortable.
For those who imagine that buying and selling, whether on behalf of the church or not, is an unalloyed moral good, we see Jesus cleansing the Temple of moneychangers and tradesmen. And the way He does it–overturning tables and ”making a whip of cords”–should disquiet those who prefer a gentle, non-judgmental god.
Before we go any further, it is important to stress that the Church’s moral tradition sees business as fundamentally a good thing. The tradition also makes room for both the pacifist and the soldier and sees each as legitimate vocations and responses to a broken and often conflicted world.
Jesus’ actions in the Gospel aren’t a blanket condemnation of business–of buy, selling and making a profit. Nor are they a blanket endorsement of the use of force in response to wrongdoing. As with all things, virtue is found not in the extremes but in balance.
Especially if we have a family to support, we can’t be indifferent to the financial aspects of life. We are obliged to care for others and not be a burden to them. Yes, there are times when all of us will need other’s help. However, to the degree that we are able, we ought to support ourselves and our own family.
Charity, love, demands that I care for my spouse and children but also my parents and my siblings. And so charity demands that I see to the financial well-being of my own life so that I have the resources to care for others.
Charity also requires that we protect the weak and the innocent from those who would harm them. In a fallen world, this means that are times when charity demands the use of force to protect others. To fail to prevent harm or punish wrongdoers is as much a moral failing as to neglect to care for them because I am a bad steward of the material blessings God has given me.
So what then are we to do? Where is the middle ground, the royal road between the extremes? Acts is helpful here.
Not unreasonably, the beggar hopes for a coin from Peter or John. And, again, not unreasonably he was disappointed to hear they had neither silver nor gold to give.
What Peter does have, though, is more than money. It is, even more, the healing of the beggar’s body. The man received forgiveness of his sins, the tangible sin of which is the healing.
Having been healed physically and spiritually, the once beggar jumps up and walks singing and dancing into the Temple (compare, 2 Samuel 6:14).
While we can’t be indifferent to the myriad financial or social needs we see around we need to remember two things.
First, we should respond generously, even sacrificially, to the needs of others. Often though we will say with Peter, “I have no silver and gold.” There is no sin in acknowledging your limitations and accept them for what they are: the boundaries of your own vocation.
Second, we must also always say with Peter “I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” forgiveness and an invitation to walk with me as disciples of Christ.