Have you ever asked God for something only to wait and wait and wait without an answer? God always answers prayers with one of three options: ‘yes’, ‘no’, or some variation of ‘let’s wait and see.’ Are you patient enough to wait for His answer? It requires a great faith to allow God the time He chooses in answering our prayers, and even deeper faith when the answer is ‘no’ because sometimes we just ask for our own selfish desires.
When Jesus encountered the Canaanite Woman who had been asking for the healing of her daughter, His initial response was to ignore her. In fact, He tried twice to put her off, and not response even saying, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs." (Matthew 15.26) but she was relentless in her call, “Lord have mercy on me!” Eventually her daughter was healed, as Christ honored her deep faith, "O woman, great is your faith!
When God gives us gifts, He does so with a purpose. He doesn’t just give us gifts for us to bury and give back to Him someday unused. In the Parable of the Talents, we learn about the risk in not doing anything with the gifts that God has given to us, in particular, the gift of the Church and the Orthodox way of life. God has given the Church to us for us to take the Church out into the world to grow the Church and return it to Him increased.
In the Parable of the Talents found in the Gospel of Matthew 25.14-30, which is meant to help us understand how God will judge each member of the Church, only one servant is condemned as wicked, lazy and worthless. He was condemned because he hid the talents that his master had given him, rather than using the talents to accomplish the will of his master. The others in the parable were praised because they were faithful to their master and used the talents for his will. They were escorted into the kingdom.
The call to saintly life is no less important today than it was in the ancient days of the Church. As a gentle reminder, the word saint (Άγιος in Greek) means “not of the world” or “not worldly” and reflects our call as Christians to be focused on the Kingdom of Heaven rather than earth. As Saint Paul reminds us, we are all “called to be saints” but let’s face it, we rarely remember to live according to our calling. It doesn’t help when our society perpetuates confusion about various moral outrages.
Just as God has provided simple flowers that peak through the snow to let us know winter is coming to an end, He provides the Gospel story of Zacchaeus to remind us that Great Lent is just around the corner. If we desire to see Jesus and to be saved by Him, it will require some effort and planning on our part. Zacchaeus ran ahead and climbed up a tree to see Jesus. What are going to do to be ready for Great Lent so you can see Jesus?
As Orthodox Christians we often hear others declare, “I don’t have to go to church to pray,” or “Jesus never said we had to go to Church.” Even worse…It doesn’t say in the Bible that we have to go to church to be saved. In fact, He did say, “Go to Church,” and He even commanded us to “Show the priests” that we have been healed.
Since the creation of humanity, we have struggled to see the world as God sees it. The Scriptures are filled with stories of our ancestors failing to see the world through God’s eyes, even to the extent of not recognizing Christ when He appeared just over two thousand years ago. Sometimes we look at the world, and our situation within it, and think God must be angry at us and is punishing us. Reality is different. In fact, God is saving us, and has been saving us ever since Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden of Eden.
Ever since Adam and Eve walked in Paradise, humanity has struggled to see the world as God sees it. He created everything so that we might enjoy eternity with Him, and “everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” (Genesis 2.31) He made creation to lead us to Him. But there was danger lurking in the Garden, and the serpent began to tempt our ancestors, just as he tempts us. He tricked them into seeing God’s creation through selfish eyes rather than God’s eyes.
Just days after Christ was born, the world began to fight against Him. Herod sought out to kill Him, just to maintain his power and influence over the people. Not much has changed in two thousand years. The world still hates God and His Church and is still trying to kill our children. An angel sent Joseph to protect the newborn Christ and His mother. Our job is to protect our children, bring them to Church, teach them to love the Lord and feel God’s love and protection.