Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Is Prostitution A Sin in Las Vegas?

Having just spent a week with teenagers at St. Stephen’s Summer Camp for the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Atlanta, I began to ponder this question this morning…..well not really but I thought it was a grabber for the title of today’s post. Of course I believe prostitution to be a sin anywhere, but do you?

The reason for this question is that our youth today are often confused by the difference between legality and morality. The devil has done his job pretty well convincing our society that so many behaviors should not be avoided that rather than address the morality of such behaviors as prostitution, hard moral questions are considered from the perspective of legality and freedom. True, we are all free to participate in any behavior whether or not the Lord desires it and I am in no position to force anyone to love God and live by His commandments. Thus: legality and freedom!

But with freedom comes responsibility. Just as anyone in our American society is “free” to take money from someone else’s cash register, there are consequences to that behavior – jail time. In working with teens especially I have found the line between legal and moral just as fuzzy as could be. Young people speak of smoking cigarettes with the same candor and gravity as they do drinking and sex. For a minor all three are illegal and, in the minds of many teenagers, therefore equal in gravity. You see now why I picked the title?

Would any teenager discuss the “sin” of smoking cigarettes fifty years ago or the sin of “just one drink” when they were working their daddy’s farm in the 19th Century? Times have changed and so has the perspective of sin and morality in our American society but God’s laws and commandments have not and will not change. What was against the will of God “then” is still against the will of God! Of course I must state the Orthodox Church does NOT teach that a simple drink is sinful.

The manner in which we live is a direct reflection of the love we have for God. The more we love God, the more we love ourselves. Why else would Saint Paul give husbands the command to, “love their own wives as their own bodies?” (Ephesians 5.28) Saint Paul continues, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” (Ephesians 5.29)

But we do damage to our own bodies every day with such behaviors as prostitution and dangerous sexual acts. What makes things worse is that the devil has convinced us that legal means moral. I hear it too often, “But Father, it’s not illegal….” Time is crucial, before we lose more of our children and they leave the Church in search of happiness and fulfillment. The Prodigal Son did that once. (see Luke 15) and he found starvation and suffering and emptiness. That what awaits us too if we don’t take our moral arguments back away from the legal system and teach our children (and live it ourselves as adults) that God has a plan for us. He has a desire for us to live a certain way. He has saved us from the emptiness and pain of the world.

As school starts in a few weeks and our children are returned to the temptation of society from sunrise to sunset, bring them to the Church and invite them to spend time with the priest attend confession and get supplied with the spiritual tools they will need to remain focused upon Him this school year.

Friday, July 15, 2011

What’s All This Talk About Good Works Anyway?

In his letter to Titus Saint Paul writes, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men. And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.” (Titus 3.8,14)

There has been a lot of talk about good works and charity in our Church because of words such as these from Saint Paul. Many often ask, “So what are good works?” The answer can be different for different people. Some suggest that good works is always being nice to strangers. Others teach that making sure the Church expenses are always paid is doing good works. Still others suggest that good works is helping the poor. Based upon these words by Saint Paul we could say they are all correct.

Saint John Chrysostom offers us this answer. To maintain good works “is both to succor the injured, not only by money, but by patronage and protection, and to defend the widows and orphans, and to afford a refuge to all that are afflicted.” In fact, this is the work of the Church if we are to live as Christians. Chrysostom continues, “What means, ‘that they be careful to maintain good works?’ That they wait not for those who are in want to come to them, but that they seek out those who need their assistance.”

Let us head the words of Saint John Chrysostom when he says, “For in doing good actions, it is not those who receive the kindness that are benefited, so much as those who do it that make gain and profit, for it gives them confidence towards God.” Now let’s get out there and get to work!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

It's not all about us; it's about HIM

Two very famous commercial slogans have shaped our way of life in America. “You deserve a break today,” and “Have it your way,” may sell millions of hamburgers but is this message what we want to be teaching our children? Marketing giants have profited great amounts of money on the prevailing idea that human beings are inherently selfish. In fact studies have shown that our social structure, at least since the early 1970’s, has not only taken advantage of this fact but has encouraged it. We live in a society that doesn’t just tolerate selfishness, it pokes fun at anyone who doesn’t put their own comfort and needs ahead of others.

This is what makes the Gospel so difficult to hear. “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof.” (Matthew 8.8) Today there are few who argue that anyone is worthy of God’s special attention….except of course themselves. Many are quick to admit that “he” or “she” isn’t worthy of God’s love but, “WE sure are!” We would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would say they didn’t think themselves worthy of God’s love. NONE OF US ARE, at least if you believe what you read in Holy Scripture.

And then again, ALL OF US ARE worthy of His love. Just as the centurion confessed his being unworthy of Jesus even walking into his house, the Lord said, “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel.” (Matthew 8.10) Our Lord makes the time for each of us in our need no matter who we are. We could all learn a lesson from the centurion: “A little less ME and a little more YOU.”

It was humility the Lord blessed in the centurion and it will be our humility He will bless when we learn that it’s not all about us; it’s about HIM.

The Forty Maxims

I don't remember where I got these, but Presbytera came across them the other day in our computer and I really liked them, so in case I haven't posted them before.....here are the "Forty Maxims"

1. Be always with Christ and trust God in everything.

2. Pray, fast and do acts of mercy.

3. Read the Scriptures regularly.

4. Read good books, a little at a time.

5. Practice silence, inner and outer.

6. Cultivate communion with the saints.

7. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.

8. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.

9. Be honest, first of all with yourself.

10. Be faithful in little things.

11. Do your work, then forget it.

12. Do the most difficult and painful things first.

13. Face reality.

14. Be grateful.

15. Be cheerful.

16. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.

17. Never bring unnecessary attention to yourself.

18. Listen when people talk to you.

19. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.

20. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.

21. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly.

22. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis.

23. Flee carnal things at their first appearance.

24. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine.

25. Don’t seek or expect pity or praise.

26. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.

27. Don’t judge anyone for anything.

28. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.

29. Don’t defend or justify yourself.

30. Be defined and bound by God, not people.

31. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.

32. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty.

33. Be strict with yourself.

34. Be merciful with yourself and others.

35. Do nothing for people that they can do for themselves.

36. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.

37. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.

38. Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy.

39. When you fall, get up immediately and start over.

40. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame.