Monday, November 30, 2015

Baptism is just the beginning

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. (Matthew 28.16-20)
The Gospel of Matthew ends with the words invoked at every Orthodox Christian Baptism. With these words, the Church BEGAN the work of making disciples of all nations, and each Baptism BEGINS a NEW life in Christ. Saint Paul teaches:
Brethren, do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6.3-11)
It is a privilege and great blessing to be allowed by the grace of God and the authority of His Church, to baptize infants and adults into Christ. But the baptism is only the beginning. As with any life, without growth and nourishment life ends in death, spiritual as well as physical. And how do we grow and nourish our NEW LIFE IN CHRIST?

The life of the Church, with her prayers, fasting, almsgiving, sacramental life, house blessings, Holy Scripture readings, Matins, Vespers, Supplications, Anointings, Holy Water blessings, feeding programs, clothing drives, visitations....get the picture? The Orthodox Christian Way of Life IS the nourishment and growth of the soul if we fully embrace the life in Christ that was given to us at our Baptism. Otherwise, baptism is just another “thing” we Orthodox do, rather than the beginning of a “life” we live.

Live as Children of Light

Look around at any family gathering and you will no doubt
see children acting like their parents. Parents often look at their children
with pride as they “see themselves” in their children because children often reflect
their parents. In fact each of us reflects what is most important in our
hearts. Like the rich man in the Gospel (Luke 18.18-27) our heart can also be
cold and greedy and turned away from the love of God. A quick look at news
coverage during the Thanksgiving Holiday, and we can see the priorities of many
in our society. Shopping malls are filled with angry and sometimes violent
shoppers grabbing for that discounted product, while their brothers and sisters
are living in the streets with nothing to eat. The world can be a dark and
lonely place, and for those lost in the darkness, just a glimpse of light can
bring hope for a better tomorrow. As Saint Paul said, “For you were once
darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”
(Ephesians 5.8) As Orthodox Christians we have an opportunity to reflect the
Light of Christ for those lost in the darkness, and bring hope that there is
Way out of the darkness. We have an opportunity to reflect the Light of Christ
so others will see the Light and follow the Light to the Church. If we indeed
are children of light, then we should reflect our Father’s Light.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

If it hurts it might be your pride

Today’s Gospel Reading: Luke 10:19-21 - The Lord said to his disciples, "Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will."
Jesus promised the disciples that nothing would hurt them, but as we know only one of the original twelve died of “natural” causes. The rest were martyrs. We became His disciples and people hurt every day, physically and emotionally. What did Jesus mean when He promised that nothing would hurt us?

I received a note from someone recently asking advice on how to respond to a situation when they were hurt. The person asked, “In orthodoxy we are taught to turn the other cheek when someone strikes us.  I have followed this throughout my young life however now I wonder if there was something more to that?” YES, there’s always more to the story. The idea of turning the other cheek is more about US than the person who hurt us. Let me explain.

We pray in the 50th Psalm, “Against You only have I sinned.” If our sin is only against God, then the sins of others are also only against God, even though we may feel the action. The call to turn the other cheek is to guide us into NOT taking personally the sinful actions of others. In fact, it is our sinful pride that we think that any sin could be against us, because in our mind it is ALWAYS about us. We must remember the context of the “turn the other cheek” command of God. (see Matthew 5.39) Jesus is helping us to resist evil. Among the turn the other cheek commands are the following commands:
" You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' "But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. "If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. "And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. "Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. " You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? "And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5.38-48)

So what is it that hurts when someone sins? Our pride is hurt, and that then becomes our sin. What about the physical pain we feel from others? Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10.28) The only damage done when someone hurts us physically, if we hold off our pride, is a simple flesh wound. Flesh wounds might hurt for the moment, but they heal. We often think the WORST possible thing someone can do to us, from our earthly vantage point, is to kill us. That ultimately is what Jesus wants us to understand from today’s reading. EVEN if they kill us, that doesn’t hurt us because Jesus has conquered death. We will live forever with Him. What will hurt much more ‘later’ is the hell we created by pride and our own sinful passions. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Back to fasting

With yesterday’s 24 hour respite from fasting (in America) for the only day nationally set aside to thank God for our blessings in the rear view mirror, we return today to the Christmas Fast. The Christmas Fast, meant to prepare our soul to encounter Christ at His Nativity in a few short weeks, is rarely practiced in America, at least from so-called cradle Orthodox. With “the holidays” and “holiday parties” at every corner, it has become increasingly difficult to fast for the forty days before Christmas.

From my perspective the difficulty is what brings the benefit. Fasting in and of itself doesn’t bring much blessing. It in fact is the very willingness to depart for the secular trends that nourishes our soul. Think about it this way; if every time we were faced with the choice between the Church and ‘society,’ we chose society, our soul would sink deeper and deeper into the pit. On the other hand, when we are willing to at least attempt to choose the Church’s way of life over the society, we have already won the first battle, if not the entire war.

When I teach fasting to teenagers I often say, “If you can’t say ‘no’ to a hamburger, what makes you think you can say ‘no’ to sex on a Friday night?” Likewise, if we can’t for a few short weeks care more about our soul and fast in preparation for Christmas rather than attending every holiday party we can fit into our schedule, what makes us think we will be able to choose other holy options in our path? Once we have accepted that society is the way we choose, what chances do we have to be generous rather than greedy, sharing rather than selfish, honest in business rather than shrewd, content rather than contemptuous?

These are the real battles of a Christian in society, and fasting trains our body and soul to choose the holy life of the Church, which has been guided by the Holy Spirit, rather than the secular life of the world, which is guided by sin and evil. So today, the day after Thanksgiving, having given thanks to God, we return to fasting....for the good of our soul.

Have a blessed remainder of the Christmas Fast.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good! for His mercy endures forever!

Psalm 135 (136)
  1. Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
  2. Oh, give thanks to the God of gods! For His mercy endures forever.
  3. Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords! For His mercy endures forever:
  4. To Him who alone does great wonders, For His mercy endures forever;
  5. To Him who by wisdom made the heavens, For His mercy endures forever;
  6. To Him who laid out the earth above the waters, For His mercy endures forever;
  7. To Him who made great lights, For His mercy endures forever --
  8. The sun to rule by day, For His mercy endures forever;
  9. The moon and stars to rule by night, For His mercy endures forever.
  10. To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn, For His mercy endures forever;
  11. And brought out Israel from among them, For His mercy endures forever;
  12. With a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, For His mercy endures forever;
  13. To Him who divided the Red Sea in two, For His mercy endures forever;
  14. And made Israel pass through the midst of it, For His mercy endures forever;
  15. But overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, For His mercy endures forever;
  16. To Him who led His people through the wilderness, For His mercy endures forever;
  17. To Him who struck down great kings, For His mercy endures forever;
  18. And slew famous kings, For His mercy endures forever --
  19. Sihon king of the Amorites, For His mercy endures forever;
  20. And Og king of Bashan, For His mercy endures forever --
  21. And gave their land as a heritage, For His mercy endures forever;
  22. A heritage to Israel His servant, For His mercy endures forever.
  23. Who remembered us in our lowly state, For His mercy endures forever;
  24. And rescued us from our enemies, For His mercy endures forever;
  25. Who gives food to all flesh, For His mercy endures forever.
  26. Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven! For His mercy endures forever.

Since today is the ONLY day in our Nation’s public life that has been set aside to give thanks to God for our blessings, seen and unseen, I offer this prayer from Be Transfigured Ministries. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Don’t Ruin Christmas!

A month ago, in a mall in Charlotte, NC., shoppers were taken by surprise to discover a “Glacier Experience” had replaced the traditional Christmas Tree to feature Santa Clause for their annual holiday pictures. Almost immediately shoppers led protests and social media online went viral with outraged parents bewailing their children’s ruined Christmas. Boycotts ensued....and eventually Simon Malls replaced the glaciers with Christmas Trees. Just weeks after the glacier fiasco, Starbucks made news with a plain red “holiday” coffee cup. Again shoppers went viral online with their anger and accusations that the company was being politically correct and some even suggested persecuting Christians. Starbucks, unlike Simon Malls, has not changed their decision, but it should be noted the Starbucks annual “holiday” cup has never said Merry Christmas, but rather included snowflakes and candy canes designs.

It seems a shame to me that Christians have turned Christmas into such a secular and commercialized holiday, even to suggest somehow shopping mall decorations and coffee cups could ruin Christmas. And let’s not forget the Santa Clause image we see in stores IS and HAS BEEN a commercial endeavor for many decades. The world has long since forgotten the story SAINT Nicholas, the ORTHODOX Christian Bishop of Myra. If anything has ruined Christmas, it has been using Christmas to sell toys and gadgets simply to increase profit margins for large corporations. Twinkly lights and snowflakes hanging from a fur tree don’t “make” Christmas anymore than Santa and his elves make Christmas.

Christmas is the queen of Feasts as Saint John Chrysostom says. Without Christmas, there would be no Pascha, and without Pascha, our life would be in vain. To prepare to celebrate the coming of the Creator of the Universe into creation requires more than lists of good little boys and girls, or waiting in line to sit on the Santa’s lap. It requires prayer, fasting, reading the Scriptures, Holy Confession, remembering and helping the poor, attending Divine Liturgy often, and being prepared to receive Holy Communion – the Body of Blood of Christ – at EVERY Divine Liturgy. If anything can ruin Christmas, it would be forgetting to prepare our soul to receive God.

Fortunately for us, we have another chance this year to “get it right” and worry more about our souls than our Christmas stockings.
  • Serve the Poor
  • Read and Study the Scriptures
  • Fast.
  • Schedule Holy Confession
  • Attend Divine Liturgy OFTEN

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Don't waste another moment

Today’s Gospel Reading: Luke 17:26-37; 18:8 - The Lord said, "As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of man. They ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was in the days of Lot -- they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all -- so will it be on the day when the Son of man is revealed. On that day, let him who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away; and likewise let him who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot's wife. Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together; one will be taken and the other left." And they said to him, "Where, Lord?" He said to them, "Where the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
Many Christians bewail the fact that morals continue to erode in our society. Consumerism is at an all-time high. The sexual revolution and abortion rights advocates have turned God’s gift of sexual intimacy into nothing more than a one-night stand with the same privileges as selling goods in the marketplace. Obscene wealth builders look with disdain at those around the world struggling for a slice of bread. The world truly has returned the days of Lot and Noah. “Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?” There is still hope! So long as we awake with the ability to breath and repent, there is hope. But time is short as Saint reminded us.
Now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. Romans 13.11-14

During these weeks of the Christmas Fast, TAKE the time (you won’t find it easily) to rededicate your life to growing closer to God. Rather than extra shopping trips during your lunch break, stop by the Church and light a candle, venerate the Holy Icons, and pray. Make an appointment with your priest for Holy Confession. Don’t waste another moment.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Kingdom of God is in our midst

Today’s Gospel Reading: Luke 17:20-25 - At that time, when Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, he answered them, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, 'Lo, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you." And he said to the disciples, "The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, 'Lo, there!' or 'Lo, here!' Do not go, do not follow them. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation."

When Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, He spoke of the future and, as in today’s Gospel lesson, in the present. His desire to live within our hearts is nowhere more obvious than His reminder, “The Kingdom of God is in the midst of you,” He was speaking of Himself being in their immediate presence, but we cannot forget that in the Church, through the Holy Eucharist, He is STILL present among us. Every time we are in Church we are in His presence and therefore in Heaven. Something to think about next time we are tempted to look only to the future. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Appearing to Care

Today’s Gospel Reading: Luke 16:15-18; 17:1-4 - The Lord said to the Jews who came to him, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and every one enters it violently. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one dot of the law to become void. Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery."  And he said to his disciples, "Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, 'I repent,' you must forgive him."

It struck me this morning when I read the Gospel for today. Especially since the terrorist attack in Paris, it occurs to me so many desire to be SEEN as being compassionate that they will go to extreme ends to display their solidarity through Facebook and other forms of social media. I’ve grown tired of the various meme’s pulling at my Christian heart strings with pictures that show Joseph and Mary being “locked out of America” as refugees; as if CLEARLY one must be the chief hypocrite for even wanting to discuss the question of the recent refugee crisis. We are so preoccupied with APPEARING to care, I wonder how many of us really care in the first place. If we did.....the world would already be different.

So I will remain silent for now on the refugee crisis, not because I don’t have an opinion, but because I’m not sure the current conversation is even a conversation. If you have been a fan of my blog for any time, you know my thoughts about politics and faith, and you know my thoughts about wearing our faith merely as dressing rather than converting our hearts.

I received a text message yesterday from someone who wanted my advice on “how” she should be thinking about the refugee crisis. My response was that it is too deep for a text message. She shared with me that she was conflicted. I said, “You should be.” The problems of our world are real and the only way we will ever truly be able to address them is when we stop worrying about being justified by men, and start worrying about being justified by God.....but let me warn you.....that will mean MUCH more discomfort than merely posting a meme showing Native Americans rejecting the pilgrims because they no longer accept refugees. It will require genuine repentance in your heart and mercy from God.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

I Choose God

The Orthodox Church Lectionary is a tool through which each devout Christian reads the Holy Scriptures daily. In the wisdom of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, Orthodox Christians read the entire New Testament, with the exception of Revelation, each year “piece by piece” each day. The readings for today are as follows:

2 Thessalonians 2.13-3.5 - But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work. Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you. Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.

Luke 16.1-9 -  He also said to His disciples: "There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. "So he called him and said to him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.' "Then the steward said within himself, 'What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. 'I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.' "So he called every one of his master's debtors to him, and said to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' "And he said, 'A hundred measures of oil.' So he said to him, 'Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.' "Then he said to another, 'And how much do you owe?' So he said, 'A hundred measures of wheat.' And he said to him, 'Take your bill, and write eighty.' "So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. "And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.

In the Gospel lesson for today, if we take at face value JUST the verses written, we might think that Jesus was praising shrewdness and dishonesty. But this parable does not elevate shrewdness. Instead it suggests that eventually the shrewd and dishonest steward will eventually fail, and THEN his only hope will be those FOR whom He was dishonest. Notice it isn’t the master who will be his friend in the end, but those who profited by his dishonesty. (see Luke 16.9)

But in the next verses, though they are not read today) we find a deeper understanding...
Luke 16.10-13 - "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. "Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? "And if you have not been faithful in what is another man's, who will give you what is your own? "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."

If we read these verses we understand meaning Christ wants to understand. He MUST choose our friends. Are we going to choose those who will only support us when we are shrewd and dishonest? Or will we choose God who will stand by us in our struggle and pain? I don’t know about you, but I choose God as my friend, and if that means I lose some friends in this life who would only support me when I am shrewd, then sobeit.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Have people forgotten?

"Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luke 15.10)

With all the ranting about terrorism and bombing them back to oblivion, I can't help but wonder if people have forgotten this truth from God. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What is the cost of following Christ?

Gospel Reading: Luke 14:25-35 - At that time, great multitudes accompanied Jesus; and he turned and said to them, "If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build, and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace. So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is fit neither for the land nor for the dunghill; men throw it away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
As we continue on our “Advent” journey to Christmas to welcome the King of Kings into our hearts, we can’t forget to calculate the cost first. Are we willing to leave everything behind to follow Him in to Heaven? In the coming weeks the Church will ask us to spend more time in prayer, reading the scriptures, fasting, going for Holy Confession, serving the poor, and learning to place Him first in our lives. Being and Orthodox Christian in today’s America, especially during the so-called Holiday Season, offers an excellent opportunity to place God first.

Our society celebrates the “Holiday Season” for many weeks of shopping, parties, parades, banquets, and more shopping for gift exchanges. HOWEVER.....the Church asks us to spend the same weeks preparing for Christmas. We will celebrate AFTER Divine Liturgy on Christmas. It won’t be easy politely rejecting invitations to Christmas parties so we can attend Great Vespers on Saturday evenings. It won’t be easy fasting in an office filled with holiday desserts. It won’t be easy, but it will be worthwhile. It is the cost of being Orthodox Christian in America. Now you know the cost....are you willing to join the journey?

Monday, November 16, 2015

A New Start

Each year, the Church invites us to embark upon a journey toward the Nativity many call “Advent”. The very next day, [that’s today] the Church commemorates the Feast of Saint Matthew with the Gospel message, “For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Matthew 9.13) Repentance is the start of every new journey, and we are blessed to take advantage of the opportunity for a fresh start each year during “Advent” as a preparation for Christmas. Frankly that is just one of the blessings of the Church Calendar as the cycle repeats itself each year. Each year is a chance for a new start.

Yesterday I preached about being addicted to sin. You may watch the sermon here.  I spoke about the truth that every addict awakes in the morning wanting to kick the addiction. This morning it occurred to me that “Advent” is another “morning” when we can get a new start. It gives us another chance to rededicate our life to Christ and welcome the Nativity (in just 39 days) with a new outlook, no longer a slave to the sin that captures our hearts daily.

Have a blessed fast.


The Church is filled with them; people who live sinful lives
and then arrive Sunday morning acting like angels. It turns many people off
from “religion” and even more from attending Church on Sunday mornings. It is
common to hear the excuse, “I have no intention of changing my behavior, so
instead of being a hypocrite I just stay home.” What if everyone in Church
wasn’t a hypocrite but an addict? What if instead of enjoying their sinful
lives, people in Church on Sunday morning awoke every day committing to the
Lord they would change, but by NOON had already fallen into their old habits?
What if everyone were addicted to sin? And then.....what if YOU understood YOU
weren’t better than anyone else, and 
addicted to sin just like everyone else. You could finally be a love
your neighbor as yourself.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

And who is my Neighbor?

The Gospel tells of a certain lawyer who “stood up and tested” Jesus trying to trick Him. He asked a question many of us ask either directly or in the secret of our prayers, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10.25) Our contemporary society seems to be preoccupied with this question. In hospital waiting rooms every day, family members of terminally ill patients are asking doctors, “What can we do to save his life?” Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year, mostly during the last few months of life trying to achieve eternal life, or at least prolong death indefinitely.

The answer Jesus offers to us is not at all what we might expect. Following a dialogue with the lawyer and offering the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10.37) What exactly are we supposed to do? The Good Samaritan was the only one who actually went TO the dying man and co-suffered with Him, while all the others kept their distance. It was the Good Samaritan whom Jesus defined as our “neighbor” – turning upside down the hypocrisy of the lawyer. In order for us to have eternal life, we must go up close to those who are suffering and bear their suffering along with them.

The Samaritan “went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care o him.” (Luke 10.34) This was not at all what the lawyer had in mind when he proudly asked, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10.29) presuming he had no equals, and that he was above the others. Eternal life was not something he would do for himself, but what he would do for others. So the next time you find yourself asking what can be done so you can live longer, consider the answer....and then go out and co-suffer with someone in need.

Monday, November 9, 2015

We can Live Through the Pain

Many ask, “If God doesn’t give us more than we can handle,
the why do people starve to death?” This very popular question is based upon a
misunderstanding about God’s love. God doesn’t give us struggle. He allows
things to run their natural course. God does promise, and the Gospel bears
witness, that when we remain united to God in faith and humility, we will
always be able to endure the pain and suffering. We will be able to handle
anything even death itself if we remain united to God in prayer, faith,
humility and peace.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Humility is the Center of Salvation

An important Jewish leader had begged Jesus Christ to come to his home because his twelve year old daughter was very sick. Jesus agreed and, surrounded by a huge crowd of followers, was on His way to the house when He was interrupted by devout and humble woman. This woman, sick for twelve years, believed with all her heart, that if she just was able to reach out and touch Jesus, she would be healed. Unlike Jairus the Jewish leader, she didn’t beg Jesus. She didn’t even want anyone to know she was there to be healed. In fact you could say she was sneaking up to Him to be healed, and would have just walked away after she was healed if she could.

This is exactly what she tried to do when Jesus cried out, “Who touched Me?” (Luke 8.45) Still trying to remain unknown, even though she had been miraculously healed, she kept herself hidden until Jesus insisted, "Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me." (Luke 8:46) Meanwhile, Jairus twelve year old daughter died from her illness and his servants had come to tell him, "Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher." (Luke 8.49) Jairus was content to step away and return home when Jesus stopped him, "Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well." (Luke 8:50)

The humility of both Jairus the Jewish leader and the unnamed woman are at the center of the Gospel story. Jesus healed many thousands of men and women during His earthly ministry. Why would the Gospel take the time to tell us of these two particular women? There must be something more that Saint Luke wanted us to learn than just that Jesus has the power to heal. The story is about the humility of two faithful followers of Jesus Christ. In both cases, it wasn’t about the power of God, but their humble faith. “Be of good not be afraid....” (Luke 8.48, 50) were the words of God for these humble servants. When we are humble, there is no need for sorrow and fear.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Using the Government to feed and cloth the poor doesn't make you a better Christian

I have a question for those who want free college education.....are you willing to teach for free? For those who want free health care...are you willing to cure for free? For those who want free public transportation....are you willing to drive for free? For those who want a free school lunch program....are you willing to grow, harvest, clean, cook, serve and clean afterward for free? There are many examples throughout Church history, such as the Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian who the Church honored this past Sunday, who DID cure for free. Many HAVE taught for free in the name of Christ. Using the government to educate, cure, feed and house people doesn't make you a better Christian. Loving people outside your door enough to do it yourself makes you a better Christian.

Monday, November 2, 2015

We Must Love Others First Before We Can Learn to Love Ourselves

You’ve heard it said that you must learn to love yourself
before you can love others. I disagree. Loving yourself in only self-love, and rarely
leads to loving others. In the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazaros, we hear of
a man who loved himself so much, he never recognized that the poor man outside
his door needed compassion. Even in death the rich man couldn’t pass beyond his
love for himself as he called, “Father Abraham have mercy on me and send Lazaros
that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue.” (Luke
16.24) It is only when we love others that we can finally learn to love
ourselves as God desires.