Thursday, April 28, 2011

Not Seeing is Believing

We have all heard the saying, “Seeing is believing,” but in some cases the opposite can be true. After our Lord’s Resurrection, He appeared to 10 of His Disciples. Judas had hanged himself in sin and a loss of hope. Thomas was also not present when the Lord first appeared. When Thomas returned to be with the Disciples, since the Lord had visited them, they said to Thomas, “’We have seen the Lord.’ So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’” (John 20.25) For Thomas seeing WAS believing.

Eight days later the Lord appeared again and this time Thomas was there and believed and proclaimed, “’My Lord and My God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” (John 20.28-29)

For a variety of reasons you may have not been able to attend Church this past Pascha, either because of the lateness of the hour or health reasons or any other number of reasons. Today those of us who were here can tell you, “We were here and we witnessed His Light. Christ is Risen!” As our Lord said to Thomas, today we invite you, “Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” (John 20.27) You will be blessed by God if you do…

Friday, April 15, 2011

When It Comes to Loving God, It’s Never too Much

Just six days before our Lord was crucified Mary, the sister of Lazarus whom Jesus had raised from the dead, anointed the feet of Jesus with anointment worth an entire year’s salary. According to Forbes Magazine, the most expensive perfume on the market today is worth $2,150 per ounce or $33,002.5 per pound, the amount of oil that Mary poured lovingly on the Feet of our Lord. Not only did she pour it over His feet, but she, “wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” (John 12.3) We would all find it hard to believe someone pouring out perfume that costly on someone’s head, let alone their feet. But this is the depth of the love the Mary had for God.

“But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, said, ‘Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12.5) We might have asked the same considering the current economic situation our country is in. And yet, our Lord blessed Mary’s love and devotion and said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.” (John 12.7)

When it comes to showing our love for God, we can never offer too much. Ultimately everything we have belongs to God, even our very bodies. This is why Saint Paul says, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12.1) Since God has given us everything we have, we can never repay Him with too much.

Anything we give is a symbol of our love for Him, and Mary loved Him tremendously. Do we love God enough to show Him this depth of love? Consider this week, as you journey through Holy Week and experience the love that God has shown you in His death and Resurrection, how much God means in your life. Then rededicate yourself to Him this week and for the rest of your life and always remember…..When it comes to loving God it’s never too much!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

In the Gospel we hear a prayer that could be from just about any of us. “We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” (Mark 10.35) In our daily prayers most of include words similar to these in our requests to God. And then, when God doesn’t do exactly as we demand from Him, we accuse Him of not answering our prayers. The Lord says, “You do not know what you ask.” (Mark 10.38) He knows better than we do what we need, so when He doesn’t give us what we demand, it would be better to accept that we didn’t need what it was we thought we needed.

In fact I’ve never heard anyone say, “Thank God, He answered my prayers and didn’t give me what I wanted!” Why is it we only consider the prayers answered if we get what we asked for? Although God always answers prayers, the answer is not always what we thought we needed. Sometimes the answer is, “No.” Sometimes the answer can even be, “Not yet!” And yes, He does sometimes say, “Yes.” There is one way we can always guarantee God gives us exactly what we desire.

Our prayer should always include, “If it is Your will…” Then, and only then, can we be assured that the answer will always be what we ask for. The Lord says, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" And they said to him, "We are able." And Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared." (Mark 10.38-40)

Saint James says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4.3) The root of the Apostles’ request was, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” (Mark 10.37) This explains why they didn’t receive what they wanted.

So what is that you want from God?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

It’s Not About Being Perfect, It’s About Becoming Perfect

In the Gospel of Mark we hear of a father who brought his son to Jesus for healing because the Apostles were unable to heal him. He called to Jesus, “’If You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’” (Mark 9.22-24)

Do you see how simple the Lord is? He doesn’t expect long theological explanations about death and faith and the resurrection. He doesn’t even expect the man to be perfect in his belief. The father’s doubt was obvious since I’m sure he had visited many doctors and nobody, not even the Apostles, could help his son. Although he had lost just about all hope, he held on long enough and had just enough faith to come to Jesus and confess his weakness, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And then his son was healed.

My brothers and sisters, the Lord does not expect us to have perfect faith, since we are not perfect. What He wants from us is enough faith to know our weakness and to confess to Him that we are dependent upon Him for help. There will be times when the struggles of life will seem to be beyond our abilities. It is just then that we must run to Christ, confess our faith in Him, and believe just enough that He can help us, and He will.

Sometimes the help comes in ways we cannot understand while other times the help is bold and obvious to all. Someday we will all be with the Lord in heaven and then our faith will be perfect. Until then, we continue to struggle and hope in the Lord’s wisdom and power.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Won’t You Join Me at the Cross?

This month we celebrate the Feast of Feasts, the Resurrection of Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, on April 24th. But before we can celebrate Pascha, we must journey through the rest of Great Lent and ultimately endure the mystery of Holy Week, when we listen as the Gospels recount the final days of our Lord’s Earthly ministry. No service of our Holy Orthodox Church conveys this awesome beauty and mystery better than the reading of the 12 Gospels on Holy Thursday evening. In fact the service makes up for more than 20% of our Holy Week Service Book, indicating just how crucial the service is to our journey.

Following each of the 12 Gospel readings we sing, “Glory to Your forbearance, O Lord, glory to You.” This response is unique to Holy Week, since throughout the rest of the year we sing, “Glory to You, O Lord, glory to You,” following the Gospel reading. There must be some significance in using the word forbearance, which is defined as patience, self-control, mercy, leniency, all words that reveal God’s action toward us as sinners, as He approaches His Cross.

During Holy Week the Church encourages us to “dig deep” into our souls and reflect upon our relationship with God with increased fasting, increased personal prayer, increased charity, and attending Church daily, as an offering to Him since we know all too well just how unworthy we are to be granted the many blessings He has given to us. The greatest blessing is life itself and eternal communion with Him in Heaven.

How can any of us dare to stand face to face with the Cross of Christ and suggest we somehow deserve what God has given us? We are all sinners and still God loves us and give us life. Isn’t that reason enough to praise His eternal patience with our poor judgment and daily life of sin? Despite our sinfulness He ascended the Cross for our salvation.

Make Holy Week this year a special time by setting aside each day and dedicate it to Him. Come to Church each evening and join together as we hear the beautiful words of the Gospel and Christ’s final days on Earth. Make a special effort to reflect upon your spiritual journey and take advantage of the services of the Church: Holy Confession, Holy Communion, and Holy Unction – all three vital and important elements for our salvation.

Great Lent and Holy Week are not for the fainthearted, but the Feast of Feasts, Holy and Great Pascha, is worth the struggle. He suffered for our salvation. Won’t you join me at the Cross?