The New Scribes Among Us
The following is a reflection of Matthew 9.1-8.
The events of past few weeks have filled us pain. We have seen peoples, nations, and our faith under attack.
We have seen the unimaginable carnage.
We have seen darkness erupt into the day overwhelming our senses.
We have seen Evil, with impunity, stand before the world announcing its presence amongst us.
We have seen the demons, and they are beside us.
In a quiet sleepy town in northern France, we have, no doubt heard of a priest’s blood being co-mingled with the blood of Christ.
We should all be angry, afraid, sorrowful, and praying.
I fear the direction the world is going – in part because of the horrors we are seeing.
What I truly fear are governments and political leaders – across the world – telling us, instructing us, and defining for us what we are to think of the carnage we see. Governments and their leaders, afar and here in America, are attempting to herd us, to move us as animals, to manipulate our minds and our souls, and tell us what we may and may not think.
The very liberties and free will that our God endowed us with – our very God-given nature – is being denied and stripped from us. Our very thoughts can become secular crimes.
Sadly, but not unexpectedly, the demons are working hard to de-sensitize us to the realities of the world – and world leaders, political and religious, are succumbing and telling us we should do the same. It is an ungodly alliance.
World and national leaders are going to great lengths to define terrorism – direct or distantly influenced acts of malice, even those that are ill-defined. World and national leaders, given their deeds, are only succeeding in demonstrating their fear of fear – their fear of people who think for themselves, especially their fear of people who possess God endowed the liberties and free will.
World and national leaders are ultimately fearful of having to define evil. To do so would be to acknowledge it exists. To do so would be an acknowledgment of an existential evil that threatens humanity. It would also be an acknowledgment that a greater good exists.
To do so, they would lose their thrones and godhood.
Our present world leadership is in the same position “of the scribes who said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.””
We who can see the world for what it is, see the battles between light and darkness, the battles between Good and Evil – and who call it such – we are today’s blasphemers.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, do not surrender yourselves to the leaders of this world. Do not yield your heart and mind to man. Do not let a man define what you may and may not believe.
Yield your heart to the Lord. And be willing to say, as the Christ did, to the leaders of this world who attempt to define you, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?” The “evil in [the] hearts” of our leadership today is not acknowledging evil.
Be with God. Exercise your free will in the service of the Lord. Serve Him with all you have within you. Gravitate to Him Who is loving and kind. And recognize evil when it is before you.
What is “this” referring to…
Homily – July 26th, 2015
8th Sunday of Matthew
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit! Amen.
Christ is amongst us! He is and ever shall be!
In today’s gospel reading from Matthew, we read the now familiar story of the multiplication of the loaves of bread and fish to feed the >5,000 people.
Now what is missing from the reading (14-22) is the prior verse, verse 13, which states: “Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart.” The question begged is to what is “this” referring to. “Now when Jesus heard this…”
It is very important that we know what preceded the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. So let us step back one verse: “Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart.” The “this” to which Matthew is referring is the execution of John the Baptist. When Jesus heard of the execution of the Baptist, he withdrew – no doubt in prayer, in sadness, and grieving for the execution of the new Elijah that had come to the earth to announce the coming of the Messiah, our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
We must remember that John was not only a prophet, he was also a cousin of our Lord. We can imagine them growing up together – playing, frolicking as children do, and knowing each other well. We can envision how over time and years, they each took a different path in announcing the work of the Father – and the startling meeting that took place at the river Jordan wherein John said, it is you who should be baptizing me . . . to which Jesus responded, let it be so for now. In other words, Jesus was saying: let us (John and Jesus) do the work of the Father and follow His will. And thus John baptized Jesus.
At this point the biblical role of the Baptist diminished, while the role of Jesus ascended. There was no less love between them; thus when Jesus heard of John’s beheading it was natural that he would grieve – and perhaps seek to be alone . . . to pray.
It is at this point that we get into today’s gospel reading. Imagine, Jesus is going off to pray – to be alone, but the people are following him – seeking him out. And Jesus cannot turn away from the people. Despite his grieving, Jesus is responding to the needs of the people. He is praying for them; He is healing them of their illnesses and infirmities. In His time of grief, He is not attempting to escape them, but welcoming them. You can probably safely say that He is giving them the love that He had for the Baptist. Jesus is not only doing what the Father wants, but what John the Baptist would have wanted Him to do for the people – share his love.
And in doing so, the daylight is beginning to fade . . . and the apostles are worried about earthly things, like dinner time and the people getting hungry. They in fact suggest to Jesus that he dismiss the crowd so that they might return to their surrounding villages and obtain food.
But Jesus will have none of this earthly answers and what He does is miraculous – a miracle in more ways than we can imagine. Our surface and earthly minds tell us that, very simply, he took five loaves of bread and two fishes and fed the multitude. And . . . yes, he did do that. But he did so much more.
Think of this contrast . . . and this contrast is important.
John the Baptist was murdered as a result of a promise made at a royal earthly banquet. Present at the banquet were the local royalty, those in favor, and held in high esteem by the ruler of the day.
In contrast, Jesus fed the weak, the poor, and the suffering – the common man – at, also, a royal feast, a heavenly feast; at a banquet served by a miracle of God, the Father through His Son.
In the former, we have the banquet of man. In the latter case, we have the miracle of the Heavens.
But the analogy goes beyond that. We are contrasting the meal of man, pretending to be a god (small ‘g’) . . . and a heavenly banquet by God Himself. What we have before us is the difference between a pretend ruler, an earthly ruler, an earthly minister – and the Eucharistic Meal that is to be served by God in His Holy and Heavenly Church. This is why we are here today, for the latter – not the former. This is why Jesus took command of the apostles and the multitude – He did not ask, “he ordered” – “and they all ate and were satisfied.”
This is the Eucharistic Meal that our God is offering us today, despite the tragedies and difficulties of this life. This is the Eucharistic Meal that God is offering us in the next life – the eternal life. Only this time he is not “ordering” – He has given us the freedom to chose, to participate, and to love.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
You are the light of the world . . .
Homily – July 19th, 2015
Sunday of the Holy Fathers
[I would like to express my gratitude for your attendance and observance of this holy day – your participation, this day, with your relatives, neighbors, and friends.]
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit! Amen.
Christ is amongst us! He is and ever shall be!
I continue to marvel at the wisdom of the Holy Fathers in their establishment of our ecclesial calendar, our readings, and the compilation of the feast days – more than ever each Sunday it becomes evident that the hand of God is present in our lives.
On this day we have the convergence of three events: the Gospel reading for the day; today is the Sunday of the Holy Fathers; and tomorrow is the Feast Day of the Prophet Elias or Elijah. It all fits within our Lord’s divine plan.
First, let us look at the Gospel reading –
Today’s Gospel reading is from Matthew (5:14-19). The reading begins with the words from Jesus:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
“You are the light of the world” applies eternally; not only to the Apostles to whom our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ was speaking – but to each one of you. “You are the light of the world.” In other words, as Orthodox Christians and caretakers of God’s creation, you are charged with enlightening the world to God’s will – His divine mercy and love.
You ought not take the light you receive from this divine liturgy, from Holy Communion, and keep it to yourself – “put it under a bushel” – no, you are charged, and this is not optional . . . you have the responsibility to place the divine light “on a stand, and give light to all” – all whom you meet and encounter.
This is not an idle responsibility, rather it is one that must be taken seriously as stewards of His Holy Church and His creation.
It is a charge that the Holy Fathers of the church took seriously; and it is the Holy Fathers that we commemorate today. The 3,281 Holy Fathers of the Seven Ecumenical Councils between the years 325 and 787 who defended our faith from heresies and gave us our faith as it exists today. Many of the Holy Fathers were exiled, martyred, and imprisoned because of their faith – but they collectively lived their faith together. These Holy Fathers were the divine light “on a stand, [giving] light to all” and it is their light that shines upon all of us today.
Then there is the Prophet Elias (Elijah) who shed “light” on the known world in preparation for the coming of the Christ.
We read in Ecclesiasticus 48 “Then stood up Elias the prophet as fire, and his word burned like a lamp . . . O Elias, how wast thou honoured in thy wondrous deeds! and who may glory like unto thee!” (1, 4).
And we read elsewhere in Matthew: “And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him (17.1-3).” This, of course, was at the Feast of the Transfiguration.
And, finally, how does this all apply to you?
You are the light of the world. You have assumed the mantle of the Holy Fathers. And you have the charge to follow Elijah.
In the Gospel of Mark we read: “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (9.16).”
Pray my brother and sisters that on this Sunday and every Sunday, indeed on every day, that we reflect on our sins and passions that we may be healed . . . pray daily for one another.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Weapon of Christ . . .
Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew is so timely!
Have you noticed that things in our nation have changed in the past year, months, weeks?
To this change, one might respond with: “Father, it is ‘out there’ and it is not my problem . . . and (they might add) it does not affect me.”
Well, you’re right, it is not your problem; but I will add: It does affect you.
Let us look more closely at the Gospel reading and its application to the events of the past few weeks. The reading begins . . .
“At that time, when Jesus came to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, two demoniacs met him, coming out of the tombs (…coming out of death and darkness, and they were…), so fierce that no one would pass that way.”
Notice the boldness and power of the demoniacs, who were “so fierce that no one would pass that way.” In other words, the demoniacs had power and authority – control – over their region. The few had power over the many.
Indeed we have such a movement in our nation that is “so fierce that no one would pass that way” – no one dares cross swords with them, not even, in their mind, our God! Only their god (small “g”) of secularism, relativism, positivism – and whatever the philosophy, flavor, or illusion of the day might be – is what defines the present day. There is no eternity in their way of life.
This small percentage of people define “god” (small “g”) in accordance with their terms and we – you and I – are expected to abide by their rules lest we encounter the “fierceness” of their beliefs.
This past week in the on-line version of Time Magazine, there was an article, the headline of which is: Orthodox Christians Must Now Learn To Live as Exiles in Our Own Country.
I disagree. If I may borrow a phrase on this Independence Day weekend: these colors don’t run.
While I understand the sentiments of its title, I will not, nor should you, live as “exiles in our own country.”
I will acknowledge that to be an Orthodox Christian today is to be counter-cultural; but I and you should acknowledge our love to God, our Orthodox Christianity, and our faithfulness to its truth and authenticity.
Let us return to the Gospel reading, which continues by stating: “And the demons begged him, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of swine.””
Well, the good thing about the foregoing is that the demons of the time recognized Jesus. It would, however, seem that the movement of this age does not recognize – nor give credence to – Jesus or any of God’s beliefs.
Therefore, in today’s political environment, we would never hear the words of the Gospel – “If you cast us out” – no, we are more likely to hear, “we cast you out.” Each one of us here today, all Orthodox Christians, would be cast out – by the few – if it were possible. To many in society, we are portrayed as the demons; we are the non-believers; we are the ones who ought to be cast out. But that is not going to happen.
And the Gospel continues, “And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood.” This is what the movement of today would do to us! . . . tell us to leave the neighborhood! . . . “their neighborhood!” – the same thing that was told to Jesus!
The Gospel does tell us that Jesus, being among unbelievers, did leave . . . “getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city.”
Unlike Jesus, Who was in a foreign land, we are in our city.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, during this time of change in our nation we ought to heed the advice of St Paul, in his letter to the Romans: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (12.2). In other words, know who you are. Know you are Orthodox Christians! Live as Orthodox Christians! Know your faith and its authenticity.
Let the challenges of this life become a source of “renewal of your mind” and your heart to reinforce your faith and commitment to God and His will.
Do not live in exile or fear. And you might ask: why? Because we are not of this world.
In the Gospel of John (17), we have the words of Jesus praying to the Father stating . . .
“I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine . . . Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one . . . I have given them thy word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world . . . keep them from the evil one . . . Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth. I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
The prayer of Jesus was not only a prayer to the Father for the apostles and disciples; it is also a prayer for each one of us.
“I am praying for them [meaning: each one of us – today] . . . I am not praying for the world but for those whom thou hast given me, for they are thine [“they are thine” – because we, each one of us here, belongs to the Father – everything belongs to the Father!] . . . Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one [“even as we are one”: this is why we are in Church today – to be one with Christ, to participate in the Holy Eucharist] . . . I have given them thy word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world.”
We may become “hated because [we] are not of this world.”
If we are “hated” it does not mean we have to hate [them] back or run into exile. On the contrary, we have to do the exact opposite. We must live an exemplar life as Orthodox Christians filled with the love of God. We have to be witnesses to the actual truths – the authenticity – of our faith and our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
There is nothing that will confound the ills of this world more than the authentic love of Christ.
Love is not an ideal; it is a weapon, a weapon of Christ – the very weapon he employed in ascending the cross – for the apostles, his disciples, and each one of us. Let us commit ourselves to being “one with the Father” through a bond of eternal love. Let us use the weapon of love to strengthen our families, our neighbors, and the world.
Written in an email . . .
I will share, up front, with you that which I shared with a person that is “shopping” for a parish, practicing what is known as “churchianity” or “parishianity” and at the end end of their exploration of various parishes, they will decide what is to be their home. Our faith and faith’s journey is all about “the altar” and nothing else; all else is about self. This is my journey. This is the journey I want the parish to undertake and or be on. This is the help I need – from you and others.
Be persecuted . . .
“Be persecuted, rather than be a persecutor. Be crucified, rather than be a crucifier. Be treated unjustly, rather than treat anyone unjustly. Be oppressed, rather than zealous. Lay hold of goodness, rather than justice.”
– Isaac of Nineveh
A recommended site: Isaac The Syrian
The Antithesis of Love . .
Never place your conclusion . . .
Never place your conclusion before the facts. Or never reach your conclusion before you have all the facts. In order to live by the foregoing, you must actively seek to listen. To do otherwise is a total failure of leadership.