APRIL FOOLS

Now deep into the season of Lent, are we broken in need of the Great Healer or are we April Fools? King David wrote in Psalms 14:  “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” (Psalm 14:1)

We too are fools when we go through the motions but forget repentance and we then mirror the Pharisee Simon in the Gospel reading today. At times we all do it! We come to church, we pray, we even serve others but we are deathly distracted!

 
The Pharisee Simon had the Alpha and the Omega reclining at his table and he was distracted. He was distracted about everybody else’s stuff instead of seeking healing for his brokenness and his lack of repentance. Instead of judging others we should be putting ourselves under the broken and lifting them up. Christianity is a team sport! Our faith is only as strong as our weakest member!

 
Loving God is joy! Joy blossoms as we help others and consider no good deed beneath ones dignity. Joy is the true belief that we will one day be kissing His feet and washing them with our tears. And until that day, we need to be on the narrow path too salvation. The sick seek healing! Why are we here? Is it visiting hours or have we come to be admitted to the hospital? Hopefully we will not wait until things get much worse and we need the emergency trauma center? Every person on this Earth has a sickness called sin. But this sickness does not have to be fatal! There is a cure and His name is Jesus!

 
The church shows and instructs us how to be on that narrow path of healing. But we must come with humility. The absence of humility is the deathly cancer called self pride. Sinless humility means that we see ourselves as we really are and according to St. Isaac, it is greater than the raising of the dead. “There is a humility that comes from the fear of God, and there is a humility that comes from the fervent love of God. One man is humbled because of his fear of God, another is humbled because of his joy. The man humbled from fear of God is possessed of modesty in his members, a right ordering of his senses, and a heart contrite at all times. But the man humbled because of joy is possessed of great exuberance and an open and insuppressible heart.” (St. Isaac of Syria)

 

Evening, morning and noonday we praise Thee, we bless Thee, we give thanks unto Thee, and we pray Thee, O Master of all: Direct our prayer as incense before Thee, and incline not our hearts unto words or thoughts of evil, but deliver us from all that hunt after our souls; for unto Thee, O Lord, O Lord, are our eyes, and in Thee have we hoped, let us not be put to shame, O our God. For unto Thee is due all glory, honor and worship: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

 
Fr. Gabriel Weller 4/2/2017

FOLLOW ME

We have this little fluffy dog named Emma and when I take her outside I attach a 10’ retractable leash to her collar. She has a mind of her own and likes to investigate Leashthings in the briar patch so I try to get her to follow me. After all, I am taking her for a walk and not the other way around! Well as soon as we step out the front door we encounter our first hurdle. There is a post holding up our porch roof and Emma goes left and I go right. And then when we step out onto our driveway we start to navigate around our vehicles and again she goes left and I walk to the right. Maybe she is unorthodox!

 
I think in her mind I should follow her. After all she has a much keener ability to smell and therefore knows where she wants to go. I, on the other hand, want to steer her away from water puddles, mud, thorns and briars, and big animals that may have an appetite for small fluffy dogs!

 
When it comes to following, I too struggle. In my pursuit of Theoisis I tend to trust my sense of direction more than God! Like my little fluffy dog, it seems as though I prefer the water and mud puddles of life and even an additional bur in my fur every now and then. Saint Gregory Palamas wrote: “Even when your body does nothing, sin can be active in your mind. When your soul inwardly repulses the evil one’s attack by means of prayer, attention, remembrance of death, godly sorrow and mourning, the body, too, takes its share of holiness, having acquired freedom from evil actions. This is what the Lord meant by saying that someone who cleans the outside of the cup has not cleansed it inside, but clean the inside and the whole cup will be clean.”

 
By following God and His commandments, Saint Gregory insisted that we become united in prayer and holiness with the Lord. The paralytic in the Gospel reading today experienced Christ’s healing and strength and we too can experience the same things if we follow Him by obeying His commandments and move toward a holier life. In this pursuit we will welcome and cooperate with our Lord’s mercy.

 
There is a retractable cord connecting you to the mercy and love of God. It has a long, long cord and we can stretch it as far away from the great Sheppard as we chose too, and stretch it long enough to stick our noses in the briars of life and deep into the mud puddles of a lost world. Stay close and let our Lord lead you in your walk on this Earth the minute you awake, each and every day, and follow Him.

 
Fr. Gabriel Weller 3-12-2017

———–I-WALK-THE-LINE———-

straight_and_narrowSome years ago when I was spending my summers on the farm with my grandparents, occasionally I would take off on my green banana bike and pedal 3 miles down the gravel road to visit my Aunt Jean. Living on a neighboring farm, Aunt Jean and her sister Aunt Josephine would take turns feeding the farm hands and I could learn a lot listening to the conversations at the dinner table. After hearing many stories and filling my belly with homemade bread and plenty of home-cooking, the farm hands would go back to their chores and I would leave the kitchen to escape dish duty and find Aunt Jean’ stack of 45’s. I’d fire up the old record player, place the vinyl on the turntable and listen to a song recorded by Johnny Cash: “I Walk the Line.”

 
In the song, ole Johnny had fallen in love and decided he would realign his life on the straight and narrow. Of course we all know saying and doing are two different things and usually it takes a lot of work! The greatest love we experience here on this earth is one of choice and to achieve this great measure of love, we have to make sacrifices.

 
As we here in the Gospel reading today, we always have a choice. Clothe me, feed me, bring me in out of the weather and give me something to drink. All of these requests ask us to sacrifice our time and money. A person with faith will want to help others. But by helping in these ways, are we just barely scratching the surface resolving their apparent needs or are we taking the time to look deeper. Have they simply had some bad breaks in life or is it their brokenness that keeps repeating these symptoms over and over again? It takes time and caring to really love! It takes mercy!

 
Along the straight and narrow path there always seems to be bumps and curves as we try to mirror the life of Christ. For someone to say that they are a Christian is to acknowledge that in life, they try to walk the line or it is say that they seek righteousness. The Lenten season offers many opportunities for sacrifice and plenty of paths for us to walk the line of righteousness. I have often said, what in the world is keeping us away? Well it is the world and its’ golden emptiness that seduces us away from the warm loving embrace of our Creator.

 
Great Lent offers each one of us a personal spiritual renewal. It is a time of struggle for us physically and spiritually. During this time of struggle we tell our stomachs no and we tell the world no, and Christ reappears as a priority in our lives. It is during this time that we embrace the words of Johnny Cash and say: I walk the line, because Jesus is mine!

 
Visit the shut-ins, volunteer at the soup kitchens and help your neighbor! And when that final time comes and we encounter our last judgment, will Jesus be ours and a life eternal or will it be obvious that we instead chose to serve the world and ourselves? “For narrow is the gate and straitened is the way that leadeth away to life, and few are they who find it. [Mt. 7:14]

Fr. Gabriel Weller 2-19-2017

85 lbs of baggage

I just returned from a week-long trip cross country and I drug 85 lbs of “necessary” luggage with me. It was a trip in which I needed to portray two separate identities, one as an electronic security professional and one as an eternal security clergy member of the Orthodox Church. airport bagBoth of these careers require me to dress in a certain manner and have a different style of work clothes. When I arrived at the airport, the TSA folks x-rayed and sniffed the suitcases for everyone’s safety. My little carry-on roller was free but my large suitcase cost me a twenty-five dollar fee. I took 85 lbs of baggage with me and returned with more stuff than I took!

 
Just as the airline charges me for extra baggage, in life there is a cost for maintaining all of my junk. I always seem to drag along with me scars and soreness from the past. It seems as though wherever I go and whatever I do, I am somewhat entangled with my history. My actions and reactions are mostly based upon my learned survival experiences. Even in my marriage I sometimes enter into my combat mode because a memory of hurt or distrust is still embedded in my heart and usually has nothing to do with my wife but, there it is, overreaction! Fight or flight!

 
Over the years I have been able to be rid of some of my unwanted baggage by means of confession, communion, prayer and forgiveness. But now, a year older and even more snow on my roof I still have a lot more stuff to surrender. I want to be dependent on Jesus but I seem to keep one hand clinging to my carry-on baggage.

 
As we enter into the Lenten season I ask this question, how much baggage are you dragging around? Why do we find comfort in own pity party? When I was younger and stronger, I never gave it a second thought to the amount of extra weight I was dragging around. But now I am beginning to realize how tiring it is and how much precious time I have been wasting. Remembering wrongs only injures my ability to be about my Father’s business. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall affliction, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” [Rom. 8:35]

 
If I continue to choose to limit my understanding of love based upon what I have experienced here on Earth I will be cheating myself of becoming the man God has called me to be. Instead of loving others as Christ does, my choice to treasure and continue to drag the baggage of mine and others sinfulness cripples my salvific attempt to draw near to the One who truly cherishes me. ‘God, be gracious to me the sinner.’ [Lk. 18:13]

Fr. Gabriel Weller 2/5/2017

PRO-LIFE SUNDAY (Palm Sunday)

“And on the morrow, after they came out from Bethany, He hungered. And having seen from afar a fig tree having leaves, He came, if perhaps He might find something on it. And after He came to it, He found nothing except leaves; for it was not the season of figs. And Jesus began to speak and said to it, “May no one any more eat fruit of thee forever.” [Mk. 11:12-14]

 
I start here with this Gospel reading hopefully placing our feet on the road Palm Sunday4from Bethany as we make our way to Jerusalem, the Great City of Peace. Jesus comes upon a fig tree along the trip and Saint Kyril of Jerusalem writes: “The first act after the fall was that of Adam and Eve clothing themselves with fig leaves [Gen. 3:7]. So now Jesus is making fig tree the very last of His wondrous signs. Just as He was headed towards the Cross, He cursed the fig tree—not every fig tree, but that one alone for its symbolic significance—saying, ‘May no one any more eat fruit of thee forever’. In this way the curse laid upon Adam and Eve was being reversed.” [Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 13(18), in FC, 64:16.] .

 
And in the Gospel today, we hear more about Lazarus. He had been dead for four days. His body was decaying and then Jesus said: Lazarus, come forth”. And the one who was dead came forth. “Jesus saith to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” [Jn. 11:43-44] Christ has power over life and death. Just as Christ restored to life Lazarus, so too can he also heal our deadness in sin, just as he withered up the dormant fig tree.

 
We heard in the vigil service last night: “And when they drew near to Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, toward the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent forth two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village, the one opposite you; and straightway ye shall find an ass which hath been tied, and a colt with her.”… Now all this came to pass in order that it might be fulfilled that which was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Sion, ‘Behold thy King cometh to thee, meek, and mounted on an ass, and a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” And the disciples went and did even as Jesus commanded them, and brought the ass and the colt, and put their garments upon them, and He sat down upon them. And the greater part of the crowd spread their garments in the way; and others were cutting branches from the trees and were strewing them in the way. And the crowds, those going before and those following, were crying out, saying, “Hosanna, to the Son of David; blessed is He Who cometh in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.” And after He entered into Jerusalem, all the city was shaken, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds were saying, “This is Jesus the Prophet, the One from Nazareth of Galilee.” [Mt. 21:1-11]

 
The very One who walked in the garden with Adam and Eve, fasted for 40 days in the wilderness, healed and restored life to Lazarus is now coming to Jerusalem as a sacrificial lamb. “As a sheep He was led to slaughter; and as a lamb dumb before him who sheareth him, thus He openeth not His mouth. In His humiliation, His judgment was taken away; but who shall describe His generation? For His life is being taken away from the earth” [Acts 8:32-33]

 
On Palm Sunday, we use palm branches and pussy willows to signify a great victory. So what is this great victory? We will hear later this week on Great Friday: “You transform the mortal by death, and the corrupt by burial; for as befits God, You have made incorruptible and immortal the nature you assumed; for Your body, O Master, did not see corruption, nor was Your soul abandoned as a stranger in Hades.” (Great Friday Evening Service, Fifth Ode) And Saint John writes: “And the light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness overcame it not.” [Jn. 1:5]

 

 

“When You, the Immortal Life descended to Death, it was then, that You put Hades to death by the lightning of the Godhead; and when You raised up the dead from the infernal depths, all the Heavenly Powers cried aloud: “O Giver of Life, Christ our God, glory to You.” (Matins of the Resurrection) Death can no longer restrain mankind! Jesus conquers death by death!

 
Jesus is on His way to free us from death! We will hear later this week about the suffering he endured for us! Notice how I use the word us? You say that was over 2000 years ago, how could it be so personal? Jesus Christ knew us personally and chose to be crucified for me, and for you! You see we hear the Creator telling the prophet Jeremiah in Chapter one: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee!” That is why you should be PRO-LIFE because it is not the man and woman that make a baby, it is the Creator! Now I can take lumber and build a deck but I did not make the trees! I can take flour and water and make communion bread, but man did not create water or wheat! God knew us before we formed! He chose us! And the Lamb knew that I would have a tendency to be attracted to sin like a big magnet at the metal-scrap yard and yet He loves me so much that He gives His life for me!

 
Dearest Lord, is this soul of such a sinful man really worth your absolute love and your long-suffering? “Hosanna, to the Son of David; blessed is He Who cometh in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.”Glory to Thee, oh Lord, Glory to Thee!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 4/24/16

Cracker Jacks

Back in the days before I could grow a beard, I use to enjoy a tasty snack cracker-jack-1oz-box-22known as Cracker Jacks. Now there are two reasons why I yearned for this succulent treat, there was a prize in every box and my taste buds were addicted to the sugary taste, and did I mention there was a prize in every box!

 
In every box I opened, the prize was always in the bottom of the box. The prize was never anything great but it still was a prize! I won!! So I had to ingest the 420 calories of sugary delight quickly or share with my sister or best friend to uncover the treasure buried in the bottom of the box. I always offered my accomplices the following disclaimer, “the prize is mine”!

 
Today as I continue on in life in pursuit of the American Dream, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” I sometimes find myself more attracted to the sugary instant rewards in life rather than the prize in the bottom of the box. After all, it takes so much work and patience to retrieve the great prize of life and I have so little time! Saint John Climacus said: “Let us seek to discover the things of heaven through the sweat of our efforts, rather than by mere talk, for at the hour of death it is deeds, not words that must be displayed.” The prize that I am digging for is a one way ticket to rest in the bosom of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. At the end of our time in this life that prize is salvation.

 
The sugary distractions in life are not healthy for me and separate me from the work I must do to be more virtuous. And we all know that too much sugar leads to decay. “For, as St John Climacus said, God reveals Himself, not in response to our exertions, but in response to the humility and simplicity that come through faith, that is, through the contemplation of the Scriptures and of created beings.” (St. Peter of Damaskos, THE PHILOKALIA, Kindle Loc. 32216-20) And we read this in the letter to the churches in Philippi, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about those things “ (Phil 4.8).

 
My American dream has been fulfilled! The life I seek is not of this world! The liberty I seek I submit to God and the pursuit of happiness I find is in the joy that comes from loving and serving others. To God be the Glory, Amen!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 4-10-16

Paralyzed In Sin

I am paralyzed in sin! Things I should do, I don’t. Things I see no evilshouldn’t do, I do. Holy Father in Heaven, heal this corpse from within the darkened depths of my soul!

Today in the reading from Mark, we here the story of how the man who was paralyzed was seeking to be healed. This took some effort on his part. First, he believed that Christ could heal him. Second, he found four men, whom also believed that Jesus could remove the physical impediment from this man, and those same four men agreed to carry the paralyzed man up to the roof, pealed open the roof and lowered him in.

We all have impediments that need the touch of God. We have to understand that if we are trying to overcome these sins alone by our own efforts and with only our limited strength that we cannot and will not succeed. We have to recognize our inability to be holy and pure by just our own efforts and that we have to seek help. Just as the paralytic men found assistance, we also have helpers! We can seek aid from the four Gospel writers as a means to move closer to Christ and we can practice the church disciplines to lower ourselves in humility helping us remove layers of sin, as we try to become a servant of all, a God-Seeker. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. […] Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does Christ does not belong to Him. But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness.” (Romans 5:5, 8:10)

St. Gregory Palamas affirmed that man carries in himself two tendencies, one for good, the other for evil. However, the tendency for good can only be developed in man through acquiring the grace of God, the divine energy sent to us from God, accessible insofar as our hearts and minds are pure enough to receive that grace. But this grace which enlightens and brightens us can only come to us if we repent, if we accept the process of fasting and prayer, tears and self-sacrifice.

 
And in the book of Jeremiah where hear these instructions: “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”(Jer 29:13) St. Irenaeus of Lyons stated that God: “became what we are in order to make us what He is” or God remains what He is when we are united to Him, but we become what we are not, yet what we were created to be! Let us ask for grace to repent and confess; let us ask Him to forgive and heal us; and let us then take up the labor of living the life of Christ for all to see, to the glory of God, and for the salvation of our souls.

“Light of Orthodoxy, Teacher of the Church; its Confirmation! Ideal of monks and invincible champion of theologians. Wonder-working GREGORY, glory of Thessalonica and preacher of grace. Always intercede before the Lord that our souls may be saved.”

Fr. Gabriel Weller 3/27/16

SPLINTER

[Rom. 13:12] The night is far spent; the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

 
When you work with wood you enviably get splinters in your flesh. I have been working on our log home frequently and have come to know this all too well. I keep plenty of Band-Aids and electrical splintertape in my truck for administering first aid.

 
In order for me to remove the splinter I need plenty of light and a knife or pair of tweezers to aid me in digging the splinter out of my flesh. I also need plenty of light and I now, with my failing eyesight, need my reading glasses to magnify the injury!

 
If I can’t see the splinter, I can feel that there is something foreign under my flesh. Sometimes I realize this immediately depending upon the size and nature of the splinter. However, sometimes I am unaware that I have acquired a splinter until an infection sets in and my skin turns red and it becomes tender to the touch.

 

I also suffer the effects from another type of splinter, but this one lodges in my heart and adheres to my soul. These splinters are foreign objects and should not be found in my temple of God, but I have even grown accustomed to their existence and chose to continue on in life ignoring the soreness and the infections they have caused.

 
These splinters are sin and they hide in the darkness of my self-justifying intellect. I like to feel good about myself and my actions and therefore ignore their existence! I allow the sinful splinters to separate me from the loving embrace of my creator which is the beginning of a life-threatening infection. Their existence distracts me from the light of Christ and I cling to the darkness seeking a place to hide them.

 
Saint John Chrysostom says: “As a wound, so long as it is embedded and concealed, running beneath the surface, it enjoys not a bit of attention, so also sin, as long as it is hidden, being as it were in darkness, is daringly committed with full license. But as soon as it is made manifest, it becomes light; not indeed the sin itself—for how could that be?—but the sinner. For when he has been brought out to light, when he has been admonished, when he has repented, when he has obtained pardon, hast thou not cleared away all his healed darkness? Hast thou not then his wound? Hast thou not called forth his unfruitfulness into fruit? For no one hides a blameless (irreproachable) life; whereas things which are hidden are hidden by darkness covering them.” [Hom. 18, P.G. 62:127 (col. 122); cf. Bl. Theophylact, P.G. 124:408 CD (col. 1108).]

 
When I realize I have caused someone pain, I need to examine my flesh for the splinter. Seeking Christ’s-aid by self-examination and exposing the splinters to the Light by study, confession, prayer and fasting, and then applying a heaping amount of the antibiotic of heartfelt forgiveness frequently.

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 3/13/16

“X” MARKS THE SPOT

old treasure map

As a young lad, I had quite the imagination. Being influenced by stories about “Huckleberry Fin”, “Peter Pan” and “Treasure Island”, you might find me looking for treasure maps and digging holes in the back yard. Although, I think our dog was usually blamed for the holes in my empty searches. But I could easily imagine how my life could be so much greater if I could only uncover the hidden treasure buried somewhere beneath the earth in my numerous searches. And I still today occasionally ponder about all the gold and jewels that were hidden by the pirates and has that plunder been accounted for? I have a shovel; does anybody have a treasure map?

Today I want to speak about a different kind of fortune. It is a treasure from God. It is the story about how our Creator loves us so much, that he sent his Son to show us how we should love by his actions, and then showed us how much our Father loves us by his Son’s death! It is so hard to comprehend that kind of love when our love for each other is so corrupted by vainglory, anger and pride.

Since the fall of Adam, mankind has perfected deception, self-love, sexual perversion in many shades of grey, and hate for all God’s creation. How can a vessel that was created by the very hand of God become so worthless? It is simply by our choice, for it is much easier to be carried down-stream by the flooding rivers of this fallen world than to cling to the olive branch of hope and fight the mighty currents of our perverted humanity.    

We must cling to the mighty words of wisdom found in the arsenal of Orthodoxy. When anger and resentment take root in us, we can look to our great Desert Father, Abba Dorotheus, who says that we can be healed of the sickness of resentment “by prayer right from the heart for the one who has annoyed us. We can pray such words as, ‘O God, help my brother, and me through his prayers.’ In this,” says Abba Dorotheus, “we are interceding for our brother, which is a sure sign of sympathy and love, and we are humiliating ourselves by asking help through our brother’s prayers. [7]”

We alone can only make these changes by seeking assistance from above. And we can find help in these times of fasting as we voluntarily make small sacrifices and spend more time seeking God. By removing ourselves a little bit more from the world, we can spend more time in reflection and prayer, asking forgiveness for the many short-comings we have and “bearing with one another, and graciously forgiving one another,” (Eph 4:32) just as Jesus bore our sins on the wood of the Holy Cross.

St. John of Kronstadt wrote:“Glory, O Lord, to the power of Thy Cross, which never fails! When the enemy oppresses me with a sinful thought or feeling, and I, lacking freedom in my heart, make the sign of the Cross several times with faith, suddenly my sin falls away from me, the compulsion vanishes, and I find myself free… For the faithful, the Cross is a mighty power which delivers from all evils.

Here, on the Cross of Christ lays your life preserver. When the muddy waters of life are consuming you, reach for the Cross. The Cross bears our life-blood. All our passions can be cleansed away at the Precious and Life-Giving Cross. Saint Irenæos wrote: “He destroyed the handwriting of our debt and fastened it to the Cross, so that as by means of a tree we were made debtors to God, so also by means of a tree we may obtain the remission of our debt.”

Fellow treasure hunters, my youthful exploration for hidden treasure has finally come to fruition.  I have followed all the clues and finally found my riches! The precious fortune that I have discovered will not perish and will not waiver in the plunging markets of life. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that everyone who believeth in Him should not perish, but may have everlasting life. [Jn. 3:16]  I have found my treasure, and the “X” of the Cross marks the spot! Glory to Thee; Oh Lord, Glory to Thee!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 3-15-15