Christ is Risen! I heard a story once of a man who week after week would eagerly come to church for the worship service. Each Sunday, when the pastor prepared to offer the homily, the man would lift both of his hands into the air with great enthusiasm, extend his index fingers and quickly plug his ears. Week after week this same ritual took place by the man until one day a fly entered the sanctuary and started doing what flies do. Eventually the fly found a perfect perch atop the tip of the man’s nose. As he sat there still with both fingers plugging the noise of the sermon, the fly began to move around a bit causing a great nuisance to the poor man. After a while the man couldn’t stand it one more second and removed his finger plugs from his ears and swatted at the fly, at which point the pastor exclaimed the passage, “He who has ears let him hear!”
Chance encounter? Coincidence?
There is another story which I learned of recently. A woman was traveling in a NYC subway car when she was approached suddenly by a poor boy in tattered clothing who was begging for some money for food to eat since he did not eat for a couple days. Rather than simply shrugging this encounter off, the woman asked the boy to be seated next to her and the two began to converse. At the next stop, the woman brought the boy to a diner and the two became fast friends. This was not the last time the woman would help the boy, as the years passed the woman continued to help the boy and when the boy’s own mother died from a drug overdose, it was the woman on the subway who adopted the boy as a son raising him as her own flesh and blood. Eventually, after many years the woman’s own kin and family passed away and she didn’t have many visitors, except for the boy, who was at this point a grown man, with a wife and seven children.
Chance encounter? Coincidence?
It has been said, ‘Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.’ What the world considers to be coincidence or chance encounter, we as Orthodox Christians see as opportunities to witness the manifestation of God’s glory.
It was not a chance encounter when Christ met the fisherman by the sea and said, “Follow Me.”
It was not a chance encounter when Christ looked up and said to Zacheaus, “Come down for today I must stay at your house.”
It was not a chance encounter when Christ first met Nikodemos in the darkness and ended in the light of the Ressurection.
It was not a chance encounter when Christ saw the Myrrh Bearers after the Resurrection.
It was not a chance encounter when Christ healed the Paralytic by the healing pool.
It was not a chance encounter when Christ from the cross said to the Thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
It was not a chance encounter when the spies of Joshua encountered Rahab the harlot in Jericho.
And it certainly was not a chance encounter when our Lord enters Samaria, a land considered to be full of idolizing, impure, people. It was by no means a compliment to be called a Samaritan. And yet, Christ meets with the Samaritan women at a very important site to the Jews, that of Jacob’s Well, at the sun’s highest point, and asks her for a drink of water. Transformed by God’s grace and receiving the Life-Giving Water, Saint Photini brought the Light of Christ to many and continues to shine His light to us.
Chance encounter? Coincidence? No way!
Each and every encounter that we have and every moment of our life is an opportunity to experience and bask in God’s grace, love, mercy and compassion. Whether it is a fly landing on our nose or a poor beggar in need of Christ’s love, with a soft and open heart we can truly understand the Psalmist's words, “Be still and know that I am God.”
Since Easter Sunday, what we Orthodox call Pascha, each Gospel reading has focused on important meetings and encounters of Christ with specific people. The risen Lord meeting and transforming Thomas and the Holy Apostles, the Myrhh Bearing Women, the Paralytic, the Samaritan Woman, and the Blind Man. Our loving and merciful Lord Jesus Christ met with each and through His grace they were transformed. Not one was a chance encounter or coincidence, but quite the opposite, these were encounters for the glory of God to be made manifest. We, too, are called to a life transformed, a life illumined by His divine light in each and every encounter that we have always remembering the two greatest commandments, first, to love our God with all of our heart, mind, strength and soul, the second, to love our neighbor as our self.
Isaiah reveals to us, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” There are no chance encounters or coincidences, but profound opportunities to give God glory, let us always live in this way, both now and forever and unto the ages of ages!