Evil shall pursue sinners; but good shall overtake the righteous.
(Proverbs 13:21, from the selection Proverbs 13:19 - 14:6, Vespers, 4th Thursday of Great Lent)
The Proverbs are good to read every day. They are good reminders; they help keep us on track. I suppose that they are read during all weekdays in Great Lent precisely because inculcating their wisdom into our daily life enables us to realize the power of the resurrection, which we are pointing to the entire fast. The resurrection is powerful, life changing, but it does not affect everyone. Only those who attempt to change will be affected by it. Many of the changes we must make are elucidated in the Proverbs.
This proverb is an excellent word picture of the entire life of the righteous, and by this is meant the sinner who, with God’s grace helping, aspires to love the law of God and follow it, and become righteous.
There are four pursuits described here. (1) Sinners pursue evil; (2) those who wish to be righteous pursue the following of all the commandments. (3) Evil pursues sinners, and will surely overtake them (read the Psalms and Proverbs especially, you will find dozens of examples), and (4) God pursues the righteous, and surely His good and mercy will ultimately prevail.
The Proverb does not tell us when these things shall happen, but we know – the absolute end of these pursuits is at the end of all things, when the Lord will come to judge the living and the dead.
We are not without consolation until this time; in various ways, we slowly change, and good “overtakes” us. We are commanded to pursue God, but we do this poorly. What a great consolation it is that He is always pursuing us!
Many times in confession I remind someone of the progress they have made – this is very important! We cannot go on very long in any pursuit without consolation.
Perhaps you formerly cursed a great deal, now you do not curse, or do so rarely when overtaken with anger.
Perhaps you formerly had many unclean thoughts and actions and now control yourself much more than in the past.
Perhaps you have finally excised the worm of bitterness that formerly overtook you with the memory of someone who hurt you deeply.
All these things are consolations; they are examples of good overtaking us.
God is with us, even when we do not feel Him. Evil is with sinners, even if they do not feel it.
It is a great consolation to know that are we run the race, and often stumble, and even go in the wrong direction for a time, God is with us, running with us, pursing us. What we see in the world now will not always be. The evil will be punished, the good will be rewarded. Which will we be?
Priest Seraphim Holland 2009. St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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