The second verse of the first chapter of the Epistle of James translates a little more broadly in the New Jerusalem version to "My brothers, consider it a great joy when trials of many kinds come upon you, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance, and perseverance must complete its work so that you will become fully developed complete, not deficient in any way."
One morning a few months ago, I was walking with my friend Deacon George Sebok after morning prayer in Springbank Park, a beautiful and large park that is right across the street from our Parish of St. George, here in London Ontario. Deacon George understands the veracity of this verse, and we spoke about it as we walked.
Deacon George was a successful realtor back in the day. In a matter of a relatively short space of time, and with the help of a recession, he lost a ton of money, or in our metric world here in Canada, a tonne of money, which is even bigger than the more common ton. Deacon George subsequently became a simple tailor, running his tailor shop and a dry cleaning depot, after he took over his father-in-law's business, as the elder man retired. From his tailor shop, George did his work, prayed over all the clothes that came into his shop, and offered all those who entered a smile, a blessing, and a chance to talk about faith if they were thus inclined. He considers the biggest blessing to occur in his life to be the taking from him of his financial wealth. "Consider all these trials joy."
20 years ago, he and our other prayer partner Wayne Zimmer, and others would gather at 6 am in the tailor shop to start the morning in praise, worship and prayer together.
When he entered into the diaconal formation programme several years ago, the priests who were reviewing his application were not inclined to accept him due to his age, and his weakness in written literacy. What they could not gloss over was that he had been living his life by all the principles of service of a deacon long before our diocese entertained ordaining men to the permanent diaconate. What they could also not miss was the gentle spirit that he carried, and the love of Christ and mankind that he shared.
George is pretty certain that had he not been financially ruined many years ago, that he would have lost his soul. The trials of financial disaster produced in George a perseverance that he lives by daily, when he meets challenges, and those rough edges, that I recall from when we first met, are gradually being smoothed as he becomes "not deficient in any way."
I consider it a great blessing to be able to meet with him for prayer most mornings, and to share whatever time we have together. He is a man of God who inspires my faith to grow.
It is interesting to note that the arrogant, successful realtor that he was before would likely have appealed to me more back in that day, than the man he is now would have. But, I would much rather know and walk alongside the man he is now, than that earlier iteration of him.
In an earthly sense, what is more absurd than a verse that says: ". . . consider it a great joy when trials of many kinds come upon you"? You would have to be out of your earthly mind, or be barking mad, as the Brits say, to have this verse make sense to you, and as Deacon George commented when we walked that morning, that thinking as we are makes us "fools for Christ's sake," which also never made a lot of sense to me before.
As I have written previously, I had my own Come to Jesus incident, when 6 3/4 years ago, I was hit in the back of the head by a Ford Aerostar van. The results of that accident have changed my life almost completely. I loved God before, and sought to do His will, but over time, His will has become more important as my disabilities make my dependence on Him greater.
On June 26, 2003, "Anna" a lay apostle heard these words from Jesus that are found in her first book, which is available to be purchased or can be downloaded for free here:
Often My words fall on deaf ears. Truly there are those who see but do not see, who hear but do not hear. These brothers and sisters will have to answer for their disregard of My graces. My words bounce off them like so many stones. You, My children, have been given the grace to hear with both your ears and your hearts. Therefore you must heed My words. My Spirit will come upon you and you will know what I want from you. Please, hear the voice of your God in your heart and respond to Me with determination. My yoke is easy and My burden is light. My true followers know joy and peace and it is reflected in their eyes. Look to one another for support during this time. These holy friendships are My gift to you, dear children, to help you walk My path during a time when there are few on that course. Listen to My words and let Me begin to use you to further My plan. My plan is one of love and salvation for your dark world. The next generation will know Me in a different way. You will be grateful to Me for this opportunity to serve.Today, as I read this passage to my prayer partner, Wayne Zimmer, I was aware of the section that said: "These holy friendships are My gift to you, dear children, to help you walk My path during a time when there are few on that course."
I am blessed to have My Dear Wife at my side, and to have holy friendships with her and with others like these two men of God.
May you be blessed with being surrounded by men and women of God who will draw you into deeper relationship with Him, and also with His Dear Mother, who loves us as her own children, and invites us to have holy friendship with her, to bring us even closer to her wonderful Son, Our Saviour Jesus Christ.