ST. DEMETRIOS, THE “GOOD SOLDIER”
(Thursday, October 26)
“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ…” (2 Tim 2:1-3)
On this feast-day of the “good soldier” and Great Martyr Demetrios of Thessaloniki (NC), we have this Epistle-reading, in which St. Paul encourages Timothy to be “a good soldier” of Jesus Christ. What does it mean to be “a good soldier” of Jesus Christ, according to St. Paul’s instructions to Timothy? It means teaching the faithful people what Timothy has been taught, so that the faithful can then “teach others also.” St. Demetrios also converted many to faith in Christ, by passing on the word of God, although this violated the policies of the Roman state he was expected to serve at the time. Hence he ended up being imprisoned and executed by his state authorities, having failed to be “a good soldier” in their eyes. I point this out, because our church’s main hymn or Apolytikion of St. Demetrios accentuates something else, not actually evident from his life: “you emerged the victor in routing the barbarians.”
Be that as it may, being a good soldier of Jesus Christ also means “enduring hardship” for His word, as St. Paul himself endured, “even to the point of chains,” while he was writing the above-quoted epistle to Timothy. As he notes further in this reading, St. Paul’s chains did not “chain” the word of God that liberated him to continue to share it, even while chained: “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained.” (2 Tim 2:8-9) Lord, by the prayers of your long-suffering witnesses, liberate us by Your truth, that we may receive it and share it always, even when it becomes uncomfortable or dangerous to do so.