In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16.19-31) the un-named rich man was in the torment of Hell because he refused to serve the sick and poor man named Lazarus. Many times we think that it is the poor that benefit from our charity, but according to the Gospel, this is not the case. When we feed the hungry, their stomach might be filled, but it is our soul that fills with the love of God and enjoys unity with Him. As an alternative, when we refuse to help the poor, while their stomach might remain empty, their soul is filled with the comfort and love of God.
I’m one of those types that likes to watch the news. I was in college during the first Gulf War, and learned quickly that the only way to know what is actually going on in the world is to watch as much “raw coverage” as I can. I learned young not to wait for the news to tell what someone said. I wanted to hear it myself, to make a judgement myself about what was said. That is a luxury of the modern cable TV and internet world. In the past, we had to trust the message to be given to us by those we trusted.
Yesterday the Greek World celebrated OXI Day, the day which commemorates the courage of the Greek people against tyranny during World War II. It is a day which does not honor ‘greekness’ per se, but the willingness to stand up against those who would oppress others to make the world look like they desire, rather than how God desires. What does this have to do with our life in Christ? OXI is the Greek word for ‘No,’ and we would do well if we said ‘no’ to sin more often.
The other day, I wrote about the tradition of the spiritual father in the Orthodox Church. I realize that it is one thing to speak about having a spiritual father, and it is quite another thing to choose a spiritual father. If we are going to be obedient to him, then we should know, as much as we are able, that he is leading us to the kingdom. Not every spiritual father is the same.
In our attempts to convert the world, we forget sometimes that WE don’t convert anybody. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that accomplishes any conversion of the heart to Christ. We forget sometimes that our interactions with nonbelievers, or believers who doubt, are not about proving that God is real. He can prove Himself to others. Our interactions are about proving that WE believe in Him, and that WE are willing to risk everything to follow Jesus Christ.
Many times I am approached by parishioners and even visitors with questions about faith and the Orthodox Christian way of life. Questions range from how and when to fast, how often to receive Holy Communion, and a large variety of questions about life choices. While I am always ready to have such conversations, I also understand that not everyone understands why we even bother to ask the priest such questions.
If you consider the first believers of Christ, they were not strangers, but members of His family. John the Baptist was His cousin, James (also called Iakovos whose Feast is today) was Joseph’s son, and many other relatives surrounded Him in the early days. As the Church developed throughout the centuries, a similar trend continued. There are many cases of what I would call holy families made up of parent-saints and sibling-saints. James, the Apostle and Brother of Our Lord was just one of them.
When we are small toddlers, our behavior isn’t always what it should be. In our innocence, not having learned proper behavior skills yet, our parents often tolerate tantrums, outbursts, and even selfish arguments about the ‘ownership’ of toys as we scream MINE. Eventually, as we grow, we learn that such behaviors are inappropriate. We call that growing up. Unfortunately, we don’t always ‘grow up’ when it comes to our spiritual behaviors.
There was an elder who described three reasons we do good things while we are alive. One reason is to avoid the punishment of hell. The second reason is to earn our reward in heaven. The third reason we do good is because we love God, whether we are punished or rewarded. It is the third reason that will ultimately mean we experience our reward, if we receive a reward, as heaven because it is the only reason that is not based upon selfish objectives.
Last night in Bible Study, we were led to discuss the concept that the logic of the world is foolishness to God, but that His logic was foolishness to the world. This creates constant tension in every moment, at least the significant ones, in our lives. Do we make plans based on God’s logic or the worlds?