Quiver Full of Excuses

“A kiss thou gavest Me not, but she from the time that I entered did not cease from ardently kissing My feet. With oil thou didst not anoint My head, but she anointed My feet with perfumed ointment. For which reason I say to thee, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”  [Lk. 7:45-47]

 

Are you right with the Lord? We read that even in the Gospel of Saint Luke this morning, not even the Apostles were zealously attending to our Lord. Perhaps at that time, they too had not surrendered all that they were to the Lord of lords. (Deuteronomy 10:17) Perhaps they were distracted with some things in this life. Perhaps they too had taken for granted what Jesus is offering. Excuses are like flies at a summer picnic; they are plentiful and only eat a little. Of course, I have never been fond of eating food after a fly claimed his share, and so my food is wasted. Research published in Science Reports in November 2017 shows that houseflies and blowflies carry several bacteria on their bodies that are harmful to humans. If you don’t swat away those flies, you will be a food basket short of a picnic.

 

Excuses and wasted opportunities are what separate me from salvation! If you are like me, there is always tomorrow or another picnic! I fail to make the most out of my opportunities with a quiver full of excuses. I, just like the Apostles, am failing to attend to my Saviors needs. I too seem to be more about life on Earth and not attentive enough to the health of my soul. I too am less concerned about by sinfulness and more concerned about my stomach, or my bills, or my schedule. Or as Saint Mary of Egypt stated it: “May God protect us from the Evil One and his schemes, for fierce is his struggle against us.” (St. Mary of Egypt)

 

When I was younger I always figured I had plenty of time to make things right with the Lord. Once I had things figured out and established a safe haven and steady income, I knew there would be plenty of opportunities available to me later, when I had time. That was my plan, but not His! It takes quite an effort to quit being a piddly demigod and ingest the triune God deep into my soul.

Rather than letting myself blow to and fro with the great infectious gusts of life, instead safely anchoring my ship of salvation to the very Rock that does not waiver and does not hate me or thirst for my destruction, but yearns for my surrender and yearns for my repentance and for my attention, for with my attention He can teach me salvation! We only have one life of choices to make for the next life will be decided for us. Won’t you come? Won’t you surrender all the dark waters you are sailing through and let down your anchor and willingly secure your future and your salvation on the Rock of Golgotha? No more excuses, there just isn’t time!   

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 4-5-2020

CAST OUT

We heard in the Gospel reading this morning: And after He entered into a house, His disciples were questioning Him privately, “Why were we not able to cast it out?” And He said to them, “This kind can come forth by nothing, except by prayer and fasting.” [Mk. 9:28-29]

Faith can only be understood when one is in communion with God. Saint Symeon the New Theologian writes: The soul cannot live unless it is ineffably and without confusion united to God, who is truly the life eternal (cf. 1 John 5:20).” (Saint Symeon the New Theologian Source : The Discourses, pp. 182-184) We are all born outside of Paradise. Because of Adam and Eve’s choices, we struggle daily to have that life supporting connection with our Creator. When we chose to miss church, hate our neighbor, be stingy with our money, and live for the world and all of its rust and stench, we have closed the doors to paradise and cast ourselves out into the darkness of death. We remember the words recorded by Moses: And He cast out Adam and caused him to dwell over against the garden of Delight, and stationed the cherubs and the fiery sword that turns about to keep the way of the tree of life. (Gen 3:24)

St. John Climacus writes on renunciation of the world: “Some people living carelessly in the world have asked me: ‘We have wives and are beset with social cares, and how can we lead the solitary life?’ I replied to them: ‘Do all the good you can; do not speak evil of anyone; do not steal from anyone; do not lie to anyone; do not be arrogant towards anyone; do not hate any one; be sure you go to church; be compassionate to the needy; do not offend anyone; do not wreck another man’s domestic happiness; and be content with what your own wives can give you. If you behave in this way you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven.”’(THE LADDER OF DIVINE ASCENT by St. John Climacus, page 4)

We all possess the very tools necessary to overcome death! St. John Climacus reminds us: “The Fathers have laid down that psalmody is a weapon, and prayer is a wall, and honest tears are a bath; but blessed obedience in their judgment is confession of faith, without which no one subject to passions will see the Lord.” (THE LADDER OF DIVINE ASCENT by St. John Climacus, page 12)

Now, In the midst of this Corona virus epidemic, many Christians are feeling “cast out” and separated from God. At this point in Virginia, only a handful of worshippers can attend services and this number is likely to decline at anytime. Gov. Northam, in his executive order, declared: “Violations of paragraph 1” — which states that “all public and private in person gatherings of 10 or more individuals are prohibited” Thus, under Virginia law, they are Class 1 misdemeanors. The Code of Virginia spells out the punishment in § 18.2-11. It says: “The authorized punishments for conviction of a misdemeanor are: (a) For Class 1 misdemeanors, confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.” Holy Liturgy will continue, in some form. So maybe we will be shut out of church and shut up in the jailhouse.

Did you ever think you would see the day that here in the USA you were being prohibited to attend a Christian worship service? Perhaps it is a violation of our Constitutional right under the 1st Amendment but it is of a greater authority that we should love our neighbors more than ourselves. Those that are more susceptible to catch this new virus are of greater value than our momentary loss of freedom. What a great example of what lent is supposed to be about! But rather a spirit of humble-mindedness, patience, and love bestow upon me Thy servant.

You may currently be “cast out” of the celebration of the resurrection of Christ but rest assured you are with us in our preparatory prayers at the table of oblation. You are with us in the many litanies chanted on your behalf of all and for all. You are with us through your Holy Baptism in which the door that had been shut by the sin of Adam is opened and we become true children of God.

Fr. Gabriel Weller 3-29-2020

THE PROWLER

When I read St. John’s scripture today (John 10:9-16), I heard the word “thief”, it sprang out at me! Being an electronic security professional, I immediately thought of our slogan “We’ll keep an eye on the creeps, so you can get your sleep”! The word “thief” aroused a tangible sense of vulnerability within me. We for the most part, have no control over what a creep or a thief will do. Our defense is to merely protect our families and belongings by adding obstacles to the freewill of the bandit. We lock our doors, we plant sticker bushes in front of our accessible windows, we install timers on our lights, we hide our valuables, we install electronic security systems with protection signs on our mailboxes, we keep guard dogs, and so on and so on. In our great country today, there are some people that chose to steal, rather than work.

When someone experiences a break-in, they normally have a story that falls into the category of surprise. A business owner will tell us that they normally don’t keep extra cash overnight, but…. A homeowner will struggle with the violation of their sanctuary. What they deemed a safe-haven has been torn-asunder. In the Gospel this morning, we too find Christ reminding us of our salvation and its fragility. Our salvation is of great value and should not be left to chance!

We need to keep our lampadas burning, for light deters a prowling bandit. Our prayer closets need to show continual signs of wear and tear for they will act as sticker bushes, deterring the prowling creeps’ attention. We need to keep our doors locked by attending church services and receiving the Holy Communion which will protect our hearts. We need to place a barrier of protection around our homes by having our priests come and bless are homes annually. And finally, we must not store up treasures on this earth. Our treasure must only be God.

We must protect and maintain what belongs to God. You are what belongs to God! “The thief cometh not, except that he might steal, and slay, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly. [Jn. 10:10)  St. Gregory Palamas writes: “Adam chose the treason of the serpent, the originator of evil, in preference to God’s commandment and counsel, and broke the decreed fast. Instead of eternal life he received death and instead of the place of unsullied joy he received this sinful place full of passions and misfortunes, or rather, he was sentenced to Hades and nether darkness. Our nature would have stayed in the infernal regions below the lurking places of the serpent who initially beguiled it, had not Christ come. He started off by fasting (cf. Mk. 1:13) and in the end abolished the serpent’s tyranny, set us free and brought us back to life.” (St. Gregory Palamas, The Homilies Vol. II)

The remainder of the Lenten fast is yet before us, although with the threat of the virus it will change our normal routines. We don’t know the extent or the severity of this prowling threat, but perhaps this is the time that you will get your life right with the Lord! This can be the greatest climax for you as we travel to Jerusalem and to the most precious Holy Pascha. Most of us have new opportunities and ways we can increase our faith which will keep our vigil lamps burning brightly. The only thing that will keep us from the warm love of God is our failure to repent and our failure to forgive! Our President can’t save us, our Congress can’t save us, the CDC (Centers for disease control and prevention) can’t save us, CVS and Walgreens pharmacies can’t save us! For it is only His grace and love that saves us! And that salvation is eternity, not here! For our bodies can be very ill but our souls can be very much alive and healthy!

Let us commit ourselves, and one another, and surrender all of our life unto the Alpha and the Omega. And through the prayers of St. Gregory Palamas and all the Saints, O Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us, and save us! Amen

Fr. Gabriel Weller 3-15-2020

NO TRESPASSING

The sign at the corner of my neighbor’s yard reads “No Trespassing”! In the past, my neighbors had some problems with thugs coming to visit and threatening their family’s safety, so they posted the sign so if the need arose, they could have unwanted visitors arrested and hauled away!

The sign seems a quite unfriendly to passers by that don’t know the whole story. It is definitely not a warm welcome or a “let’s sit down and have a glass of ice tea” invitation, but the sign is effective and is easy to read with its’ big reflective letters! Signs provide for us information. Even here in our church we use signs. We have a street sign, donation sign and an infant care sign, just to name a few!  And at times here at the church we all wear a “No Trespassing” sign around our necks! When we are hurt and offended when someone crosses our property line of safety or if someone hurls insults at us with their slingshot tongue of oppression, we become less hospitable and tolerant! We immediately put up our “No Trespassing” sign and close and lock the door

Here in this hospital of Orthodoxy, we all fall short of perfection. We are all here because we are sick, injured and hurt. Sin can be an immobilizing life-threatening infection. But we are called to try to nurture and love others despite our bleeding wounds. We do not want to seem unwelcoming to passer-bys on this road to salvation! Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic, a former bishop in Serbia said: “He who has no patience with us when we sin does not love us.”  He further states, “Patience, forgiveness and joy are the three greatest characteristics of divine love … Without these three characteristics love is not love. If you give the name love to anything else, it is as though you were giving the name sheep to a goat or a pig.” 

All of mankind needs the forgiveness of our loving God and we must seek it! Our God is a merciful God and we must offer thanksgiving and praise and make a healthy salvific attempt to live a righteous lifestyle!  Suffering and dying on the cross, Christ says these words: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” [Lk. 23:34]  What better example do we need? Why do we delay when it comes to forgiveness?

Elder Paisios of Mount Athos says it like this: “When we are wronged and accept this injustice, then in fact we gain. For example, am I wrongfully accused of having committed a crime and imprisoned unjustly? That’s fine. My conscience is clear since I have not committed that crime, and on top of that, I have a heavenly reward. Is there a greater benevolence? I don’t complain to God; instead, I glorify God, “How can I thank you, my Lord, that I didn’t commit that crime? If I had, I wouldn’t have been able to bear pangs (painful emotion) of remorse.” That’s when jail can become Paradise. Has someone struck me unjustly? “Glory be to you, O lord! Perhaps I may be able to pay off a sin; I, too, had once struck someone.” Have I been insulted unjustly? “Glory be to Thee, O Lord! I accept out of love for You, for You. Too, were struck and slandered for me.”“(Spiritual Struggle pg 88, Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, Spiritual Counsels III)

Forgive those armed with double-barrel tongues of malice and may the aching blood seeping from your wounds be the healing blood of Christ to all humanity. And hopefully the reflective letters on our sign will no longer read “No Trespassing” but will read a hearty “WELCOME”.

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller revisited 2/2020

BLUE RIBBON

At the recent county fair, there are several buildings dedicated to house the blue ribbon award winning pickles, pies, quilts, sewing, photographs, paintings, pigs, cattle, chickens, woodworking, you name it!! Folks from all around the area bring their best animal, works or crafts to the fair to compete with their neighbors to see who has entered the most prized works and will be judged the most perfect! These folks worked hard to achieve their blue ribbon.

We heard in the Gospel this morning about an even greater prize: “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” [Mt. 19:16] The rich young man asks our Lord if he is doing enough to be awarded the ultimate prize of heaven. There is a difference being a rich man rather than a good steward. Blessed Theophylact makes a clear distinction between thetwo. A rich man is one who has funds, and properties, and lands, and houses, and he gives to no one. He steals: He is a thief, because he is stealing from the poor. A steward is a person who has substance also. He has money; He might have land and have houses, but he also has mercy and shares his riches with the poor. Then he is a good steward of his wealth.

The young man had virtues and a strong inclination to abide by the law and he had worked hard. But he also had a love of things more than his love for God. He did not understand that everything he had is God’s and seemed to covet his possessions! There is certainly not a thing wrong with having wealth, but there is a thing wrong with being stingy!  If we chose to be comfortable and have all kinds of toys but we chose not to tithe our church and help the poor and those suffering from tragedies, we will briefly enjoy the wealth of the world but our soul will sink in the depth of poverty where the worms never cease. (Mark 9:48)

Some of us also struggle with attachment to things. We over extend our budgets in pursuit of material things we believe will bring us happiness and starve the poor and the needy and only give what is left-over to our church and His ministry. We have trained ourselves to serve an idol, a demi-god which is increasing our vanity in the world and making our salvation harder to obtain. We have become rich with stuff but lost the ultimate prize! Sometimes we get so obsessed with stuff and that buzz we get when we purchase something; it seems almost as an award for ourselves, for our efforts. Some of these demi-gods of stuff consume our precious time as well replacing our prayer time with hell. The thief uses our attachment to things to get his foot wedged squarely in the door as an unwanted intruder, ready to harm us and our families and steal our salvation!

We remember the profit Malachi saying: “Bring the entire tithe into the storehouse so that there may be food in my temple. Test me in this matter,” says the Lord who rules over all, “to see if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until there is no room for it all. (Malachi 3:10) And also our Lord’s parable in St. Luke: And he spoke a parable to them, saying, “The land of a certain rich man produced well. “And he was considering within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, because I have no room where I shall gather together my fruit?’ “And he said, ‘This will I do: I will take down my storehouses and build greater ones; and there will I gather together all my produce and my good things. “‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, thou hast many good things being laid up for many years; be taking thy rest; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘Fool, this night they demand thy soul from thee; and what thou didst prepare, for whom shall it be?’ “Thus is the one who treasureth up for himself, and is not rich toward God.” [Lk 12:16-21]

So where is that line of division that separates putting away for our future retirement and being a poor steward? The ability to define the difference between ownership and stewardship is one of the hardest lessons to understand. Each and every one of us is unique and has been given free will of all of God’s creation. But our time here is limited and everything here is on loan from the Creator. Give Him His tithe and prove that you can be a good steward of talents and He will increase you. Our tithe is our best offering first, our blue ribbon achievement, with total trust in He who created it all, and we will always have enough for our families and for our future. And in that pursuit with our very best effort and His abundant grace we remember: “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” [Mt. 19:26]

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 9-7-2019

UNBELIEF

In the midst of trials and tribulations I reflect upon the plea of the father we heard today in the Gospel: “I believe, O Lord; help Thou mine unbelief.”[Mk. 9:24] We exist here on this Earth for a very short time. We are perishables! Maybe Tupperware, refrigeration or vitamins may help preserve our human bodies but our time here is limited. Some folks desire to spend their time enjoying all the world has to offer and neglect preparing for the judgment which follows our Earthly death. After all, how do we who are so hell-bent have hope for salvation? How do we who do not know God well enough to make Him our priority, have hope?

You know that even as a child when I screamed and cried I was fed or my britches were cleaned or whatever I needed was attended to. I depended on others but now, I am independent. Every day I decide how I am going to spend my awaken hours and my somewhat limited amount of energy. Every day I decide either to be distracted from my salvation or attracted to my Creator.

The pure Virgin chose to be obedient to God! “And Mariam said, “Behold, the slave of the Lord; may it be to me according to thy word.”[Lk. 1:38] We see today in the Feast of the Annunciation that God made the impossible possible because He has not given up on us! We see how Genesis 3:15 comes to life in that the head of the evil snake will be crushed by the seed of this obedient Virgin, death to the world through the life blossoming from the blood stains of the Holy Cross.

The head of the deceptive Satan is also crushed by our acts of humility as we put others needs ahead of our own. The serpents head is crushed when we make it a priority to attend church, pray, repent and confess, offer our tithes and talents every day and every week. Be obedient, there is nothing in the world that is worth losing our soul for. Lord, help our unbelief!

We find our hope in the very way God came into human-form, lived His life, suffered and died on the cross, descended to Hades and freed the captives and rose again on the third day. It is never too late to unlock the chains of sin and be obedient to His needs!

When you leave here today we may never see each other again, things happen, life happens! Are you ready? Are you still a dictator or are you a true slave of God? Do you believe in only tangible things, things you can create or touch with your own hands or see with your own eyes? What is it going to take to surrender all that you are for all that He is? Become dependent on Him as a child in need! Lord, help our unbelief!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 4-7-2019

Go Around!

Many times as we are traveling we are asked to go around an obstacle, whether it is a fender-bender, road construction, stalled vehicle, loose cattle or whatever. In order for us to get to where we need to be, we need to detour a bit before we can get back on the path that leads to where we really need to be.

On this the second Sunday of Lent, we hear the story of the healing of the Paralytic. Not all the healings of our Lord were written about because there were so many, but this story was deemed important enough to be heard again and again. The paralytic wanted to be healed but there were obstacles in his way. Fortunately he had surrounded himself with like-minded folks going the same way and willing to help.

Many times as I try to move closer to God obstacles spring up from out of nowhere like Spring Daffodils in March! Some of these derailments seem to be life itself but many are the choices I have made. Sometimes the obstacles in our way can be seen more clearly when we gaze into the mirror and see the greatest obstacle, the one standing there looking back at us, the great stained image of lacking. This lackey is one lacking to love God more than self and laziness or allowing stuff to obstruct us on our path, the only bridge across the great divide; the road to salvation. (Zechariah 14)

St. Gregory Palamas taught that our soul or nous has an appetite directed towards God “the only good one, the only judge, the only one who provides pleasure unmixed with any pain. “But when the nous is in the unnatural state, when it departs from God and is darkened, then desire is dispersed into many self-indulgent appetites: “drawn on the one hand towards a desire for foods that are not needed, secondly towards the desire for unnecessary things, and thirdly towards the desire for vain and inglorious glory”.

Where is it that we really need to be? Listen to St. Gregory: “We who are in Christ’s ranks should long for the world above. Let our desire be directed towards the kingdom He promised us. Let us shun enjoyments which drag down our soul, fear the hell-fire with which pleasure-lovers are threatened, flee self-indulgence, drunkenness, fornication, prodigality(extravagance), greed, injustice, vanity, pride, hatred, anger and inhumanity. These are the things which give the evil one power, alas, over ourselves and the world. We should escape from the world’s deception and from its prince, and show through our good works that we are the work of God’s good hands. By so doing, we shall make best use of the present, and enjoy the promised eternal benefits when the time comes.” (St. Gregory Palamas – Homily 33)

Which path are we on? The crippled paralytic knew the path to take. With each step we take and each detour we make we should constantly be checking our compass as we head towards the Eastern Gate and the return of our Savior. May the prayers of all the Saints and the Blessed Theotokos help and guide us on our journey. Glory to Thee!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 3-24-19

CAR-WASH

I felt the need earlier this week to wash my car unknowingly just days before our next winter weather event. It had warmed up outside a little, the early spring birds had been chirping in the morning hours and the grey days of winter seem to be loosening their grip a little. I chose the automatic bay as I swiped my frequent washers card only to be rejected. I had no available credit left so I used another piece of plastic and into the wash I went, minus nine plastic dollars. It is nice to have a clean car but it is also important to wash away all the abrasive ice-melting chemicals that have attached themselves to the sensitive metal parts of my vehicle. Those chemicals are great for melting ice but really bad for rotting away metal. So without leaving the comfort of my heated seat, the exterior of car would be cleaned! And then when I got home with a little effort, I used our shop-vac that sucked out all the loose dirt and debris on the inside of my car.

I got on this topic of clean because this upcoming week is clean week for the Orthodox. We begin clean week with a time to ask forgiveness of our church family and friends. Lent is a spiritual growth time of self-examination, and it usually is a struggle with our pride, anger and at times our health, as we try to navigate the waters where we deny ourselves of our usual worldly habits and make more time for Him.

All of the Orthodox Lenten practices are done to help us grow closer to God and give up a little more of our control by changing our usual routines. Hopefully we will increase our Orthodoxy during this Lent and continue even when meat and cheese becomes our staples once again. We begin clean week with a wash-cycle of forgiveness. Blasting away at these sins that cling onto our hearts and rot away our love of Creation by showing great mercy on each and everyone, just as your Father has shown great mercy on you! Or as St Paul says: “Carry one another’s burdens, because it is the way in which you will have fulfilled the law of Christ.” (Gal 6:2)

It takes an effort, rather than choosing the auto-wash where we sit on our butts instead of taking action with a scrub brush of prayer, repentance and forgiveness. We see in the writings from the prophet Joel: “Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” (Joel 2:12)

The word “lent” is derived from the Germans and means “the beginning of life.” And so it is with us that just as a rose bush must be pruned before spring removing all the dead wood we too must sever our magnetic hold on the world and our love of ourselves! In order to love God intensely we must learn to love all of His creation. Not the kind of love where we have to agree with everyone and their choices but the kind of love that hopes for eternity for everyone.

And as for my clean car, of course it snowed once again and I will need to return to the car wash this week. Just like the dirt on my car, Lent it is a constant practice to clean ourselves. We have so many opportunities over the next several weeks here at the church to help us get clean, check out our calendar. Identifying as a Christian is not so much a word as it is a plan of action.

Fr. Gabriel Weller 3-10-2019

OLE GOAT

Who am I? My love-of-self tells me I am a knight in shining armor and should be very comfortable with my efforts thus far! But in reality, I am an ole goat! Let me take a moment to explain how I came to this rationality!

When I was a young man, I had land that was overgrown and out of control and so I purchased a young nanny goat that we named Geraldine. Geraldine became a pet and would follow me around like a dog and even go for a ride in my Ford Escort. As she grew older she became less of a pet and more like a goat. The overgrown lot was more than she could handle so I traveled to the stock sale and bought a Billy goat that we named Geronimo. As they grew I quickly learned not to turn my back on them, especially Geronimo, as I seemed to be invading his space. The Billy wreaked havoc on my brush and outside my fence line at the neighbors Christmas tree farm. Geronimo and I became a bit unpopular with the neighbors, although his efforts while he was inside the fence did clear the lot. The goats loved all the wild vines and shoemake trees, and of course the neighbors Christmas trees! Sorry Harry Lee, the Christmas tree farmer.

Now sheep on the other hand tend to stick together and follow their leader. There is strength in numbers where as my goats never backed down from anything and were very independent. Many times Geronimo would be standing on top of a stump like he was the king! I tried to negotiate with him and explain his place in life and in the pecking order of things but he was only listening to his own drummer. He became more and more hard-headed and eventually Geronimo and I took a ride back to the stock sale due to his neglect of my fence, his love of evergreen needles and his dominance over everything and everyone.

Well, this ole goat tends to be a bit like that hard-headed Billy goat that used to deny my fence and savor Christmas trees. We heard in the Gospel reading this morning about the sheep being on Christ’s right and the goats on His left. “Then shall the King say to those on His right, ‘Come, ye who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom which hath been prepared for you from the foundation of the world. [Mt. 25:34]

As a goat, I tend to neglect the needs of others because I am too busy with my own stuff. Archimandrite Thaddeus of Strabulovich said:”There are no atheists! They do not exist. Even the enemy believes and trembles; only he does not do good!”(Archimandrite Thaddeus Strabulovich of Vitovnica)

Righteous Martyr Maria, an Orthodox nun who helped many needy folks in Paris during WWII, including saving many Jews, was herself arrested and imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp because of her acts of love. Before she died, she stated: “At the last judgment I shall not be asked if I was successful in my ascetic exercises or how many prostrations I made in the course of my prayers. I shall be asked one thing: did I feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoners; that is all I shall be asked.”

As the church moves into the nurture of lent, let us be more about seeing and helping with each other’s needs, performing acts of kindness, practicing patience and forgiveness and be about following the examples Christ gave us, and in that we will become more like a right-sided sheep and less like an independent ole hard-headed goat!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 3-3-2019

FREE-WILL

We hear in the Gospel Reading this morning the story of the son enticed by the world and its emptiness who realized he needed to find his way back to his father. (Luke 15:11-32) As I take a moment to reflect on the choices I have made thus far in my life, if I am honest I would have to say I wrestled with God for control of most of my life and still do.

In truth, if we let our free-will lead us away from God we are surrendering ourselves to the devil, becoming his slave and turning our backs on God. What seems like freedom only entraps us with addictions as we have less time for God and a false need for stuff or temporary pleasure where true happiness is not present. There is nothing normal about missing church services only abnormal temptations keeping us away. We become our own god with our self-love and its hate-potion that brings us more into solitude and separated from the flock of believers and to a place where the evil one will quickly corner and devour us.

Is the pig-slop the world is offering us really that good? Why do we keep eating it then? Our Father has prepared a great banquet for us, won’t you come? Every week we offer confession and communion and He is here, welcome home! Let us spit the rancid worldly slop out of our mouths and come home. He loves YOU! He wants to be your Father! Our Creator wants a son and a daughter, not a slave, and He will give your soul a place of rest when your time on Earth is finished. What does the world have to offer?

True freedom only comes from obeying God. A friend of mine some years ago asked me this simple question: If you’re not serving God, then who are you serving? St. Justin Popovich writes: “In truth there is only one freedom – the holy freedom of Christ, whereby He freed us from sin, from evil, from the devil. It binds us to God. All other freedoms are illusory, false; that is to say, they are all, in fact, slavery.” + St. Justin Popovich, Ascetical and Theological Chapters, II.36

Walking away from God enslaves us to death so we have the freedom to choose life in Christ or death in the world. Christ conquered death with His death so that you and I can choose a life of freedom, a life without end, a life lived in His will. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)

In the kontakion we heard today: “I have recklessly forgotten Your glory, O Father; and among sinners I have scattered the riches which You had given me. Therefore, I cry to You like the Prodigal: “I have sinned before You, O compassionate Father; receive me a penitent and make me as one of Your hired servants.” (Kontakion of the Prodigal Son)

Come Home!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 2-24-2019