Monday, April 4, 2016

Suffering is Real


Hello. My name is Father Athanasios
Haros and I'm the Pastor here at the Transfiguration of Our Savior Greek
Orthodox Church in Florence, South Carolina. I'm your host for Be
Transfigured Ministries. Here at Be Transfigured, as we say, we invite you to
live a new life in Christ. We feature our sermons and our bible studies and
other special events in the life of the Church. We do it to inspire you to
join us living a new life in Christ. I hope you'll enjoy this. I'll be back
in a moment after this video to share some information about our ministry.

As a priest, you can imagine I have
the distinct opportunity of witnessing a lot of suffering in life. As a
priest of the Church, as a priest of God, I have a unique opportunity of
sharing in the suffering and grief and struggle of our families. Sometimes
even of complete strangers who know I'm a priest. When they're struggling
with something, they might even see me on the street corner or in one of our
restaurants and stop me and share with me a particular struggle that they're
having. It is a opportunity for me and I would even say it is a blessing that
I have.

Unfortunately, in our world today
there is a trend, a tendency in our society to try and pretend that we could
somehow in life eliminate suffering. That somehow it is possible to go
through life and never suffer. There are entire movements in our society. One
that comes to mind that has gotten a lot of attention lately, we used to call
it suicide, but now they call the right to die movement. If you remember,
there was this big, public awareness of this particular woman in Oregon who
having been diagnosed with cancer decided she didn't want to suffer, nor did
she want her family to suffer, so she decided to kill herself instead.

This is a tragedy in our society
because all of us know we cannot avoid suffering. It is real. It is painful.
There are so many ways that we suffer. As human beings, some of us suffer
physical ailments. Some of us suffer emotionally. Some of us struggle because
of a job situation. Some of us struggle because of a strained family
situation or a friend situation. Some of us have mental situations that we're
struggling with in our mind. Each and every one of us is struggling with
something today, right here and right now.

That's why I believe, my brothers
and sisters, it is such an opportunity and a blessing when I am blessed to be
able to share that suffering with all of you because in our suffering we grow
stronger. In our suffering we tend to draw closer to each other as a family,
but most importantly, we tend to grow closer to God when we struggle and when
we suffer. It is a great blessing for me to be allowed to share that with all
of you.

The reason I think it is a tragedy
in our society, because if we try to avoid suffering, we quite honestly are
simply avoiding our human reality and we try to escape life which is what
this women in Oregon chose to do. She decided to escape life, instead of as
the Church teaches and as Christ invites us in this morning's Gospel to
welcome our struggling and to welcome our suffering.

Our Lord this morning says,
"He who desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his
cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever
loses his life for My sake and the Gospels will save it." If we go through
life, my brothers and sisters, trying to eliminate every possible suffering,
trying to avoid every struggle in our life, we will lose what life really has
to offer. That is the opportunity to grow closer to God.

As I have grown these last several
years, I have come to appreciate when St. Paul said that he was thankful for
the thorn in his side. As in my own life, I have realized that the more I
understand my own struggle in life, the more I understand the things that I
suffer with, the more patient I am with everybody else. The more mercy I tend
to have on other people. The less frustrated I get, the less angry I get
because I realize if I am struggling and the way that I am struggling, the
more I understand that the more that I understand that everyone is struggling
and everyone is suffering. It actually gives me the ability in any little way
that I have to offer to offer the grace and mercy of God. This is why St. Paul
reminds us that we have a High Priest who can sympathize with our weakness.
In all its points He was tempted as we are, yet without sin.

When Christ, my brothers and
sisters, invites up to embrace our suffering when he says, "Deny
yourself, take up your cross and follow Me." He literally means to follow
Him in understanding each other's pain and suffering. That is how we're going
to be able to live the love that Christ has to offer us. If we go through
life always turning the page and wanting to avoid our suffering and wanting
to avoid our struggle and wanting to pretend that we can somehow make
everything always wonderful and rosy, we will go through life focused only on
ourselves. We will not be able to see each other. We will not be able to feel
each other's pain. As we heard last week in the gospel with the paralytic, we
will not as friends be able to lift each other up when necessary, if we are
so focused on trying to pretend that we can go through life without a

Our Gospel this morning, my
brothers and sister, halfway through Great Lent is reminding us what our Lenten
journey is all about. It is to help us train ourselves to embrace the
struggle of life, to embrace the suffering of the cross. At the end of the
Divine Liturgy we're going to take the Precious Cross and we're going to
process it all the way around the Church as a reminder of our destination of Great
Lent. We're going to join Jesus Christ at the Cross on Holy Thursday and Holy
Friday. That is why we are engaged in this Lenten journey. Not simply because
out of custom, but because we want to follow God.

The only way we can follow God, my
brothers and sisters, is to embrace our struggle and to embrace our
suffering. The Cross of Christ is a reminder that God has reversed death. God
has taken the reality of suffering and he has made it life giving. Only we
Christians can fully understand that reality of God. This is why we as Orthodox
Christians always maintain a Cross of Christ in our Church to remind
ourselves that the instrument that used to mean death now means life.

Unfortunately for many of us brothers
and sisters in other Christian traditions, many don't even have a cross in
their Church. If they do have a cross, it is never the cross that includes
Christ crucified as we have our Stavromeno behind the Altar. Because so many
of our brothers and sisters go through life trying to pretend that there is
no suffering. But life only comes when we decide to give our life up for
Christ. Our Lord says, "He who desires to save his life will lose it. He
who loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it." This is
the message of our Great Lenten journey. The Church has offered us this fine
tuned way of life. 2,000 years tried and tested by holy men and women of the Church;
life of fasting.

If you have not embraced the fast
yet, my brothers and sisters, I invite you embrace the fast beginning today.
Take as much of the fast into your life as you are able. If you need help,
talk to me and I'll help you set up some kind of a fasting situation for you.
But in the fasting of our Great Lenten journey is how we learn to embrace our

I was in Atlanta this past weekend,
as you know and we had a beautiful meal. Completely Lenten, it was delicious,
but I really would have liked a hamburger. I have to tell you. I really would
have liked a hamburger. In that moment, I was reminded Great Lent is not
about me. Now, I have to be honest, you can look at me, I'm not suffering
from food deprivation here, but I have come to appreciate even in the
struggle of searching for the recipe. Even in the struggle, especially
because I was out of town, trying to find a restaurant to eat that had some
kind of a menu that supported fasting. Admittedly, it was a small struggle.
Okay, we found a place. It was the health food place. They had hummus and
they had wraps and things like that, but we had to go searching for a place.
We had to decide that maintaining the fast was important enough for our life
that we wanted to go out of our way. It would have been much easier to drive
to the McDonald's which was right next to the hotel and get a hamburger, but
we didn't.

In those small ways, my brothers
and sisters, is how we learn to embrace the struggle that God has given us.
I'm here to tell you if we cannot learn to avoid a hamburger, there is no way
we're going to be able to avoid the other sinful temptations that are coming
our way. The Church knows what the Church is doing. The Church has been
guided by the Holy Spirit these 2,000 years. As St. Paul reminds us, our High
Priest, Christ, who gave us this way of life, he knows how it feels to
suffer. He knows what it is to be hungry for 40 days. But he also knows the
benefit in that struggle. The opportunity for us to spend a few weeks where
our relationship with God is more important than our own comforts and our own

Halfway through Great Lent, the Church
reminds us don't stop now, don't give up. The destination now is in sight.
It's like all those road trips I used to take as a young man. You get on the
highway, you start driving and you see the sign. I used to drive many times
from Denver to Kansas City. It's about 550 miles. You leave the city of
Denver and one of the first things you see is Kansas City 500 miles. As
you're going, eventually you see a sign that says, Kansas City 100 miles.
It's no accident that the highways does it to remind us where our destination
is and to remind us, don't worry, you're going to get there.

In that same way, the Church lifts
up the Cross today. Like that sign post on the highway, you're halfway there.
The destination is in sight. Don't pull off now, don't give up now. Dedicate
yourself to making it to the end of the journey to embrace Christ and follow
him and to join him at his Cross on Holy Thursday and Holy Friday. That is
the great blessing that is offered today. We'll sing, “Your Cross, your
precious cross, O Master, we venerate and we glorify Your Holy Resurrection.”
In our struggle is life. There's life in the Cross. There's life in the way
of life for the Church. If we want to follow Him. "Whoever desires to
follow Me," Christ says. It's up to us to join Him at the Cross. Glory
the God for all things.

I'm back. I hope this video was an
inspiration to you. I hope it helps you live a new life in Christ. Please,
share our message of hope with your friends and family and invite others to
live a new life in Christ. Find more information about Be Transfigured Ministries
by joining us on our website at
You can also find many of our videos at the Orthodox Christian Network, our
partners at As we say at Be Transfigured, until next week,
God bless you and don't forget to live a new life in Christ.

Be Transfigured is a production of
the Transfiguration of Our Savior Greek Orthodox Church in Florence, South
Carolina and presented by the Orthodox Christian Network. Contributions in
support of this ministry may be sent to:

Be Transfigured

2990 South Cashua Drive

Florence, South Carolina


or online at our website at

No comments: