Do you know what the jackpot is on the lottery? Usually, I don’t worry about playing until the amount of the lottery is over $100 million dollars. Why bother? (duh) Once it hits that plateau, I begin to believe that I will be the next lottery winner. After all, why should the devil get all the money? I can just picture what I will do with the money. Its all good, of course and I can just see what a blessing I will be to the Church (new chapels for everybody!) In fact, with such good intentions, I wonder why I haven’t won in the past. I wait by the phone, but the Lotto never calls me. Instead, the money goes to all kinds of people who aren’t Orthodox and who end up wasting the money on frivolous things.
What’s that? You have to buy a ticket to win? Is that right? Why, I thought they just picked your social security number and called you. No?
I am kidding, of course, I don’t play the lotto.
Its instructive to read the reports of what happens to those who win. Its seems so odd to me that most of them end up being very miserable, and a few ended up in bankruptcy. The Lord whispers in my ear that, should I win such a sum of money, I would end up losing my soul.
I use to think that the biggest lotto winner was the Virgin Mary. As I read the first chapter of Luke, it said that she had «found favor» with God. I was sure that this meant that she was the luckiest woman in the world. Gabriel seemed like the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes crew that knocks on doors and surprises the winners with balloons and a big check.
I’m Orthodox now, so I’ve learned better. God doesn’t play favorites and choose people randomly to be big winners. St. Photios the Great said, «The Virgin found favor with God because she had made herself worthy before her Creator, having adorned her soul with the fairness of purity, she had prepared herself as an agreeable habitation of Him…» The idea that she «found favor» means that she was found to be pleasing to God (Theophylact). So, the Virgin didn’t play the lottery but diligently sought to make herself a fit vessel for God.
So it has been for all of God’s Saints, but I treat them like lottery winners. After all, they had the luck to live in better times (why wasn’t I born in such times?). People were more spiritual then and more willing to believe in God with a simple faith. Maybe, they were lucky enough to have pious parents (which I didn’t), or were raised in unusual circumstances that made holiness easier to attain. Ah, those fortunate people!
No, they were not fortunate people. God found them to be worthy because they prepared themselves to receive Him. When He came to them, he announced to them that they had found favor with Him. Think of St. Seraphim. Surely it was a great thing to hear the Theotokos say, «he is one of us.» Can you imagine the Virgin announcing such a thing to you? St. Seraphim wasn’t lucky. He heard the voice of the Holy Mother because he sought with his whole soul to be worthy of God. Go stand on a rock for even one hour, and you’ll get the point.
I must confess that spiritually, I continue to live like I’m playing the lotto. I think that if I’m lucky enough, I will find God’s favor. My plan is to die in repentance and not in sin. It’s a toss-up, but I hope I’m lucky enough to die right after I repent. Then, I’ll be the big winner. Surely God can set up the odds for this if He really loves me. Frankly, I need to come to my senses. There is no lotto concerning spiritual life. I’m either striving for holiness, or I’m not. The Bible says it clearly: «God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he reap.» If I sow to the flesh, then I will reap from the flesh. If I sow to the Spirit, I will reap from the Spirit.
It has nothing to do with luck or chance or timing.
Whether it be an angel from God or death knocking at my door, I pray that the announcement I hear is «you have found favor with God.