The fishermen toiled for an entire night and took nothing; but when the Lord entered their ship, and, after preaching commanded them to cast their net, they took so many that they could not pull them out and the net broke. This is an image for all work without God’s help, and for work with God’s help. When one person works, wanting to achieve something through his strength alone—he is all thumbs. When the Lord draws near to him, then one good thing after another flows in from somewhere. In the spiritual-moral sense the impossibility of success without the Lord is tangibly visible: Without Me ye can do nothing, said the Lord. And this law acts in all things. Just as a branch not grown onto a tree not only does not bear fruit, but dries up and loses its life as well, neither can people bring forth fruits of truth valuable for eternal life if they are not in living communion with the Lord. Any good that they might have is only an appearance of good, but in essence it is faulty—like a forest apple that appears red but if you taste it, it is sour. It is also tangibly clear in an external, worldly sense: one struggles and struggles, and all in vain. When God’s blessing descends, all comes out well. Those who are attentive toward themselves and the paths of life know these truths through experience.
Do not lay up for yourself, treasures on earth…But lay up for yourself treasures in Heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6:19-21)
Are you living for Heaven or for all that is here on this earth? Do you believe in working towards your personal Salvation or working towards becoming wealthy? Do you focus on supporting the ministries within the Church or supporting those items which bring earthly pleasure. These are very difficult and tough questions for each and every one of us. Having all the things that you feel are necessary is not wrong but their pursuit is distorting from the one thing which alone is needful – our Salvation!
The recommended cure for this illness is poverty or simplicity of life. The more we focus on the Heavenly, and less on the earthly, the closer we become to God. In summary, one must focus on how he or she will stand before the Dread Judgment Seat of Christ – especially since we are held accountable for how we use everything we have, since it is provided by God.
When the fishermen followed Christ, they left everything. Their families, jobs, boats and belongings. While reflecting on this passage, we should think about our daily lives related to the Orthodox faith.
What is our commitment to Christ? What do we give up for our faith? Imagine giving up everything in today’s world to follow Christ. What would we change to become more Christ-like? Many people are hesitant to make the commitment that the fishermen did but what if we focus on the small changes? Can we give up a luxury we have? Can we eliminate a passion that challenges us? Can we focus on removing a bad habit? All “small” in comparison to the fishermen but “big” in our effort towards personal Salvation!
And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Why do they call Him Lord, but do not do the Lord’s will; that is, why do they not acknowledge His lordship in their deeds? Because they only call with their tongue, and not with their heart. If their heart were to utter: “Lord, Thou art my Lord,” then complete readiness would abide in it to submit to the one whom they confess as their Lord. But since they do not have this, their deeds do not match their tongue; whereas deeds always match the heart. All right, so there is no point in calling: “Lord, Lord”? No, not so. But it is necessary to make the external word match the inner word, which is the feeling and disposition of the heart. Sit and reflect upon the Lord and yourself: what is the Lord and what are you? Think about what the Lord has done and still does for you, why you live and how it will end. You immediately will come to the conviction that there is no other way than to steadfastly fulfil the Lord’s entire will; there is no other path for us. This conviction gives birth to a readiness to fulfil in deed what is expressed by the word “Lord.” With such readiness a need for help from above will be awakened, and from it the prayer: “Lord, Lord! Help me and give me strength to walk in Thy will.” And this call will be pleasing to the Lord.
St. Theophan the Recluse
During the fourth Sunday of Great Lent, we reflect upon the teachings of St. John Climacus or St. John of the Ladder. In his famous work known as The Ladder of Divine Ascent, St. John writes how our life can be perfected in a union with Christ. He illustrates 30 steps that are necessary to reach Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Through these steps, we make changes in our lives that help us to become Christ-like, to experience Orthodox Christian perfection which is to live just as Jesus did.
At work or school, everyone discusses the newest and latest self-help books… identifying ways in which you can grow rich, put your kids through college, make thousands of dollars working at home. However, one of the only books that identifies our daily struggle and work for our salvation is the Ladder of Divine Ascent. Let us refocus our Stewardship efforts on our Time, Talents and Treasures. Pray and consider how we can make a difference and let’s remember St. John’s guidance that we “live just as Jesus did” and exercise all of the gifts that God has provided to us.
O holy Father John, with rivers of tears you have made the barren desert bloom, and with heartfelt sighings of repentance you have made your labors bear fruit a hundredfold. O Saint, pray to Christ our God for the Salvation of our souls. Amen.
Dismissal Hymn, Feast of St. John of the Ladder
In acquiring this Spirit of God consists the true aim of Christian life, while prayer, vigil, fasting, almsgiving and other good works done for Christ’s sake are merely means for acquiring the Spirit of God. That’s it, Your Godliness. In acquiring this Spirit of God consists the true aim of our Christian life, while prayer, vigil, fasting, almsgiving and other good works done for Christ’s sake are merely means for acquiring the Spirit of God.
Acquiring is the same as obtaining. You understand, of course, what acquiring money means? Acquiring the Spirit of God is exactly the same. You know well enough what it means in a worldly sense, your Godliness, to acquire. The aim in life of ordinary worldly people is to acquire or make money, and for the nobility it is in addition to receive honours, distinctions and other rewards for their services to the government. The acquisition of God’s Spirit is also capital, but grace-giving and eternal, and it is obtained in very similar ways, almost the same ways as monetary, social and temporal capital.
God the Word, the God-Man, our Lord Jesus Christ, compares our life with a market, and the work of our life on earth He calls trading, and says to us all: Trade till I come (Lk. 19:13), redeeming the time, because the days are evil (Eph. 5:16). That is to say, make the most of your time for getting heavenly blessings through earthly goods. Earthly goods are good works done for Christ’s sake and conferring on us the grace of the All-Holy Spirit.
St. John Chrysostom