Flee the praise of men

7 September OS 2019 – Friday of the 14th week of Matthew; Holy Martyr Sozon; S. Cassiane the Hymnographer; S. Chrysostomos the New Confessor of Florina

In today’s Gospel, the Lord commands the disciples to be silent about the most astounding miracle: the raising of the dead.

And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet, And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live. And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him. While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further? As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James. And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly.

And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying. And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment. And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat. And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him.Mark 5:22-24, 5:35 – 6:1

“And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.”   You can imagine the scene when that young woman stood up and walked out of the room.  Here is the crowded home of a great personage in a Middle Eastern village, packed with emotional relatives, friends, and dependents, many of them no doubt women. The formerly dead girl walks out the door of the death chamber into this crowd. In the middle of the indescribable hubbub that must have ensued, only the Lord Himself retains complete composure.   He thinks of the child’s simple needs: give her something to eat!   He commands it, just as He commanded her soul to return to her body.   For Him, both are equally easy.

Why did He tell the disciples to tell no one what had happened? Obviously the word would get out: First century Galilee must have been a very small world, indeed. No doubt even the bigwigs down in Jerusalem must have gotten word through the invisible telegraph of gossip within the week. Of course, the Lord had His reasons: He always did and always does. One of them was to give us an example of humility, that we should not seek the praise of men.

St. Theophan the Recluse comments as follows:

Having resurrected the daughter of Jairus, the Lord commanded her parents strictly, that no man should know it. Thus are we commanded: do not seek glory, and do not train your ear for human praise, even if your deeds are of such a nature that it is impossible to hide them. Do what the fear of God and your conscience urge you to do, and as to what people say, act as though it had never been said.Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, p. 187

We may often ask ourselves why we do not feel more peaceful, why we feel agitated or anxious so much of the time.   One reason is that we are always unsure of the approval of other people: “What do they think about me? Do they really love me? Do they think well of me? Are they saying bad things about me?” and so forth.   Because of our vanity – our false image of ourselves based on our own delusions and the opinions of other people – we have a restless, ceaseless hunger for praise, for approval, for the pat on the back, for the assurance that “I’m OK, You’re OK.”   Life turns into the endless search for that perfect mutual admiration society of “friends” who approve of each other and look down on those outside the group.

Peace comes only when we put aside all such concerns and follow those two completely reliable guides to action mentioned by St. Theophan: the fear of God and conscience.   One of the Desert Fathers said that one will have no peace until one realizes that in all the universe there is only one’s soul standing before God.   If we walk always in His presence, what need have we of the praise of men?   If we were really conscious of His presence, and really understood Who He is, and who we are, we would flee praise like fire.

Let us then, daily and frequently, beg the Lord, “Deliver me from vanity! Let me seek Thine approval alone!”   The generous Lord, Who is waiting to give the truly good things to those who ask Him, will no doubt hear our prayer in good time, and He will deliver us from this passion of vanity.   The world will look much different then, and we will begin to understand things as they really are. Losing one’s illusions is like pulling out a rotten tooth: it hurts while it is going on, but there is great relief afterwards.

O Lord, deliver us from vanity and all delusion! Grant us to know ourselves as we really are, to be grateful to Thee, and desire to please Thee alone! Give us the peace which Thou alone can give, and which the world cannot take away! Amen.

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