Readings of the Day:
Hebrews 9:11-14 & Mark 10:32-45
Today's Gospel reading tells of the journey to Jerusalem. Jesus is with the twelve and, while walking, tells them of the upcoming events. "See, we are going up to Jerusalem and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise." (Mark 10:33-34) Today we read this and know full well what Jesus speaks of here. But if I were one of the twelve I wonder at the fear and confusion it must have caused. Surely when James and John make their request to sit at his side, they did not understand the torment he was going to face? If I had been one of the twelve would I have made this request or would I have been one of the other ten who became indignant at such a request? But more importantly to us this day, we must remember the words of Jesus upon answering their words among each other. "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:43-45) The greatest man who has walked this earth is Jesus, our Lord, and He walked here to serve us and give us life. Who are you serving this day?
St. Mary of Egypt
The story of St. Mary of Egypt has always fascinated me. Mary's story is well-known among the Orthodox of course; we commemorate her life each year on this Fifth Sunday of Lent. It's a powerful story and one that sticks in your mind of how true repentance can truly change your life. Mary was a prostitute for 17 years! One day she came upon a group of pilgrims headed to Jerusalem and, out of curiosity, decided to join them ,still engaging in her sinful lifestyle along the way. Upon reaching Jerusalem, the group entered the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to celebrate the feast of the Holy Cross. An unseen force prevented Mary from entering the church along with them despite her repeated efforts. No one else there had any problem going in and out of the church. Mary realized that it was the impurity of her life that prevented her from entering. Bursting into tears, she prayed for help from the Theotokos (Mary), asking to see the Holy Cross and promising to give up her sinful life and ways. Upon her heartfelt repentance and conversion, she felt herself freed by the force holding her back and was able to enter the church. After veneration of the cross, Mary heard a voice telling her to cross the Jordan River to find peace. Mary crossed the river and entered the desert where she lived for 47 years away from humans and fighting passions and memories of her sins but endured all through the intercessions of the Theotokos. In the year 430, the priest Zosimas came upon Mary who shared her story and asked that he tell no one about her. Zosimas promised and agreed to come back the following year to give her communion. The following year, during the season of Lent, Zosimas kept his promise. The following year, Zosimas returned again and found Mary's body and buried her. Returning to the monestary, he told of her story as an example of what God does for those who turn from sin and welcome Him into their hearts.
Mary is a true source of hope for all of the sinners of this world, of which I am one. Her story brings me hope and comfort in my moments of anguish realizing my own sins- none of which are beyond His great mercy! And neither are yours!
Having escaped the gloom of sin, O blest Mary, and shining brightly with the light of repentance, thou didst present thy heart to Christ, O glorious one, bringing Him His Holy and all-immaculate Mother as a greatly merciful and most bold intercessor. Hence, thou hast found the pardon of thy sins and with the Angles rejoicest for evermore. ~Kontakion: Fourth Tone