Friday, August 28, 2015

Beware, Lest the Church is Taken Away

The Gospels are filled with moments when Jesus warned the Jews that if they were not willing to bear fruit for God, He would remove them from the Church, and invite others to enter the Kingdom. As Christians, we are thankful that God has invited us to enter into His Church to become the New Israel, and receive the adoption as sons and daughters of God. But we should be careful not to become too comfortable with our entrance into the Church.

In the Parable of the Vineyard (Matthew 21.33-42), after the continuous actions of greed and violence toward the King’s servants and the His Son, Jesus said, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” (Matthew 21.41) It has always been understood that Jesus was speaking about the unfaithful Jews and the invitation of the gentiles to enter the Church. But He was also speaking to the Church of today.

If God was willing to take His Church away from the Jews, His chosen people, because of their cold hearts and refusal to bear the fruits of faith, He will surely do the same for us in the Church today. As Saint Paul said, “Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.” (Romans 11.20-21)

It is never too late, to repent and begin to bear fruit of faith for the glory of God. As the Bishop’s prayer during the Divine Liturgy reminds us, “Lord, Lord, look down from heaven and behold the vineyard which Your right hand has planted.” May our hearts never grow cold, and may the fruit of our faith always glorify God.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Crowning the Year with Goodness

Christ our God, Your kingdom is an everlasting one, and Your lordship is over all. You have made all things with wisdom and have established proper times and seasons for our lives. We give thanks to You in all circumstances and for all things. Lord, bless the beginning of our Church year with Your goodness. Grant that this liturgical year be for all of us a year of grace. Make us worthy with purity of heart always to praise You. Lord, glory to You!

Each year the Orthodox Christian Church begins the New Church Year with this prayer. September 1st, as the first day of the Church Year, is also a day in which the Orthodox Church commemorates and celebrates God’s creation, which He gave for our salvation. In creating the Universe, God established the way we could find Him, and live in communion with Him. His creation – the birds of the air, the fish in the sea, the animals on the earth, and the vegetation that feeds the world – are all given to us by God for one purpose, to find Him.

The created world, which the Church also uses during each of the Mysteries (Sacraments), has been created to bestow God’s grace upon humanity through His Church. He created us in His Divine Image, so that we could grow into His Divine Likeness. By celebrating, honoring, and blessing His creation, we are offering it back to Him in thanksgiving for the many blessings He has given to us in our daily struggle to grow closer to Him.

When the Church asks God to bless the year with His Goodness, we are expressing our total dependence upon His loving mercy and guidance. Without the created world, we would not know God. In each and every miracle He performed, it was THROUGH His creation that He revealed His power and love to the world. And it was THROUGH His creation, becoming PART of His creation, that He ultimately saved, saves, and will save us.

I invite you to take the opportunity this year to make a new commitment to Christ. I invite you to make the time each week to include time with God in His Church, surrounded by others in His creation, to grow closer to Him. I encourage you to invite Him into your life, and to ask Him to crown your year with goodness and mercy.

If you want to grow closer to God, His has given His creation and His Church to assist you. May God crown your new year with goodness, mercy and blessings.

Monday, August 24, 2015

What Good Thing Must I do to Have Eternal Life

It is a question we all ask, but are we really interested in
the answer? “What good thing must I do to have eternal life?” These were the
words of a rich man, who THOUGHT He wanted to go to heaven. But when he heard
what would be required of him, he went away sorrowful. When pushed for an
answer, Jesus said, “If you wish to be perfect, sell what you have, and give to
the poor, and follow me.” If we cannot bear the idea of living in complete
poverty; if we cannot bear the idea of leaving “it all” behind, then we will
walk away from God full of sorrow. If we really to follow Jesus into heaven,
then we will live the life of the Church, which He established to lead us to
heaven. What good thing must you do? Live the life of the Church and you will
find your heart with Jesus and you will follow Him into heaven.