The past six months have been quite a struggle for us, both our Cathedral Community, and for us as citizens in general. Whether we agree with one side or the other about the proper precautions and safety measures put in place by the Church, or our local, State and Federal governments, one thing is certain; we have been forced to place the needs of others before our own.
Arguably the most popular scripture passage quoted at a sporting event reminds us of God’s love. John 3.16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life,” isn’t just a teaching about how much God loves us, but how much He wants us to love others. Even though we do not live up to the standards God has established for, and though we are not worthy of His love, STILL God endured the Cross so that we could live. Today God is calling us to love others in the same way He loves us.
For those of us Gentiles in the Church, we are reminded that we were brought into the Church by Christ because the Jews were disobedient to God. That’s good news for us. However, Saint Paul reminds us that we are strangers, adopted into the Church, and if God removed the Jews who were native to the Church, He will not hesitate to remove us if we are disobedient and selfish with the Church. Then there is the really good news! There is still time for us. We are still able to change and live obedient lives, producing fruit for God.
The Commandments of God, whether they are in the Old Testament, the New Testament, or the Holy Canons of the Church, are meant for one singular purpose. We do not obey the laws of the Church just for the sake of being obedient, but to train our hearts to learn to live and to love as God wants us to live and to love. God invites us to leave everything else aside to follow Him and to love others more than we love ourselves. Keeping the Commandments of God, if we are willing, will shape us.
It’s election season! You can’t turn on the radio or the internet without being bombarded by political commercials or arguments. There is no secret that many of the issues that plague our society are based on morality, and that morality often pits Church against State in the courtroom and congress hall. What is our Church view on the state law and our religious law?
We all the know the pain of being hurt by the words and actions of others. Too often I hear “I forgive but I don’t forget.” When we refuse to forget what others have said or done to us, we truly haven’t forgiven them, but we are holding on for some future moment when we can hold it over their head. Christ has warned us, it is only when we forgive AND FORGET, just as He has done for us, can we be forgiven by God and welcomed into paradise.
The Gospel lessons we hear each Sunday don’t often include Christ’s direct warnings about the future judgement. More often we hear the Lord teach in parables, as He does today, but the lesson is often left in poetic terms for our hearts to peel back the layers of the parable to determine which part is for our inspiration. Today’s lesson is different because it ends with a very clear warning from Christ, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you, if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18.35)
(edited from an original post "Why Last Night’s Prayer at RNC by a Greek Orthodox Bishop Didn’t Give Me “Warm Fuzzies” to reflect current events)
When confronted with illness, most especially when healing does not come, we are tempted to challenge God, “Why!?” The same was true for the Disciple who were unable to heal a boy who had a demon. Christ’s response to them, and to us, “Because of your unbelief.” We must take the seed of faith planted by our parents at our baptism and nourish and cultivate the seed to become a great tree of faith strong enough to move mountains. The seed of faith requires prayer and fasting and the sacramental life of the Church.
When we are faced with the storms of life, it can be very tempting to focus on the storm rather than Christ. It is very easy to become crippled with fear when we take our eyes off Christ. God is present in the Church and He promises that when we need Him, we will find Him in the Church. When we turn our attention to God, and when we leave the cares of life outside the doors of the Church, we will be comforted and protected by God.