“O thou of little faith! Why didst thou doubt?”

It seems like for me, and I imagine a lot of other folks, that when times of trouble come, and they do come, my practice of faith gets neglected. I tend to pray less or not at all, I fail the fast, my temper is shortened and it boils my blood as I practice loving myself more than others, and I hide in the shadows of the world binding my wounds and feeling forgotten and abandoned by God! Where is my faith? Where is my salvific practice?

 

As I stand on the bow of Orthodoxy sailing Eastward, I try to reflect upon my past struggles and thank God that He did not forsake me. I was not always able to see Him in the midst of the storm but at some instant when I quit panicking and surrendered my quest for control and then started my return back to the practice of faith that we Orthodox know, His loving presence was evident and had been there all along! I had doubted God, but He had not doubted me!

 

We hear the word “doubt” in the Gospel reading this morning. The Greek word for doubt here in the Gospel means wavering or hesitation. Peter sailing through the lake in the midst of a mighty storm began to waiver (Matthew 14:31). Our Lord was not visibly with him and Peter doubted, just like we do when a test comes. Just like we do when we find ourselves in an unfamiliar situation or a trial of our faith and we ask ourselves, where is God? Why am I alone?

 

And then in the fourth watch Jesus appeared. The Fathers explain that there are four steps to His divine mercy: in the first watch of the night God sent the Law to Israel; at the second watch, He sent the prophets; at the third watch, He gave His Son to the world; at the fourth watch of the night, when we are doubting and ready to give up, He comes back in glory to lead us into His Kingdom.

 

I think we have all been blown around by violent storms. We have thought to ourselves, I don’t think I am going to make it, or we think when people find out how messed up we truly are and what terrible choices we have made, they are not going to love us and cast us out with the demons! We all struggle. The crafty serpent entices us all by the rotten fruit of temptation. He tempted us when mankind was in his purist form and he is certainly working over-time distracting us now! We daily navigate the currents of sin-infested waters luring us to take our eyes from Christ and instead focus on our own abilities and past failures. Saint Kosmas said: “the fear of God compels us to fight against evil; and when we fight against evil, the grace of God destroys it.” (St. Kosmos Aitolos +1779)

 

O thou of so little faith, why do you doubt? Do you not know that you are deeply loved?  Glory to Thee, O Lord, Glory to Thee!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 7-29-18

ONE FOR ALL and ALL FOR ONE

One for all and all for One we shouted joyfully as we kids went off on our banana bikes and our very next adventure. Maybe trying to somewhat mimic the Three Musketeers in our time together, but definitely claiming to be inseparable and watching out for each other! We were brothers of some type of order or a secret promise made and solidified with our blood brother hand shake laced with spittle and dirt. We were discovering the unknown and trying to comprehend our existence. And folks knew if you messed with one of us you would be surrounded by all of us!

 

We here at Holy Myrrhbearers are also blood brothers and sisters, minus the spittle! Our group of believers supports each other with service and prayer. Here in the church we all have the same God and it is through the sacrifice of His Blood that we all should be one in love and spirituality through Jesus Christ our Lord. We are in the same mind or the same truth: “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. (John 14-15-18)

 

We heard in the Epistle reading this morning: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all be speaking the same thing, and that schisms may not be among you, but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same sentiment.” [1 Cor. 1:10]

 

It is against our blood brother and sister commitment or our promise to the ancient tradition of the church to divide this body of believers by any means as we find in the instructions written to the church in Corinth: “God is not a God of confusion, but of peace” [1 Cor. 14:33]. The Apostle calls us to be about the same purpose and understanding or as St. John Chrysostom says: “united both in mind and in judgment.” We trust our spiritual improvement to the proven tradition given to us, protected by the lives of the martyrs and through the wisdom and teachings of our forefathers and foremothers.  And we follow the proven rubics of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia as our bishops direct. We do not allow or encourage schisms to grow among us as unwanted weeds of conflict sucking away the nutrients that mystically sustain our fellowship.

 

And it is in the practice of all these things that we find oneness and the perfecting of love. It is a sacrifice we make to separate ourselves and our families from the world and to strengthen our bond in spiritual growth and be a valued part of our family here at Holy Myrrhbearers. “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to Whom be the glory to the ages.”[Rom. 11:36] ONE for all, and all for ONE!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 7-22-18

HIGH TIDE

Of the time I have spent at the beach over the years, the most enjoyable minutes for me have been when we take a walk on the beach. I prefer early morning or late evening walks. I like it when it is a little cooler and the day is beginning with the arrival of the sun casting its rays upon the water, or when the day’s activities are done and darkness will soon cover the sand. I enjoy the seabirds floating gracefully through the air and the sand fiddlers busily scurrying across the sand! And I like to witness the waves continually rolling to shore and the sounds of their motion bring me peace. Even with the crashing of a storm or the retreating of the tide, the waves continue to break again and again. The waves coming ashore always erase the evidence of the past days activities on the sand.

 

 

If only my prayer life was like waves crashing on the beach, unstoppable, always busily rolling in. I long for that since of stability in my life that I see in nature, the birds glide without effort, the sand fiddlers go about their business and the tide comes and goes. But with the ability to choose God or deny His existence I sometimes find myself thinking I am above His creation. I am in charge! Why does it take a storm crashing upon my feet for me to surrender my will? Were we not made for one thing! After all, everything in creation has a purpose and all of creation, with the exception of we humans, do not get distracted with separation from our Creator!

 

The evil one can provide you with earthly treasure but you will never be truly joyful. There will always be something missing. We will always need the next thing as we continue to chase our tail around in circles seeking our next high! We are created and we are always longing for something. People and things cannot fill that void, there is only way to find true happiness and that stability that we all seek! Listen to the words of the psalmist! (Psalm 148) Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels, praise Him, all His host! Praise Him, sun and moon, praise Him, all you shining stars! Praise Him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the Name of the Lord! For He commanded and they were created. And He established them for ever and ever; He fixed their bounds which cannot be passed. Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling His command! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars.Beasts and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds! Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and maidens together, old men and children! Let them praise the Name of the Lord, for His Name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven. He has raised up a horn for His people, praise for all His saints, for the people of Israel who are near to Him. Praise the Lord!

 

God’s grace and forgiveness can erase our sinful existence from yesterday like the waves consuming the beach at high tide. In Letters from a Russian Monk, Father John writes it like this “There is no sin that is beyond God’s mercy, and the sins of the whole world are like a handful of sand thrown into the sea.” With the grace and cleansing we received at our Holy Baptism which is repeated with our confession and consuming of His Most Holy Body and Blood at Holy Communion, we can be wiped clean and stand strong to face yet another day, storms or not, being about our Father’s business! Now may the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded among one another according to Christ Jesus, that with one accord and with one mouth ye may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom. 15:5-6)

Fr. Gabriel Weller 7-15-2018

FOLLOW THE LEADER

It wasn’t that long ago that I enjoyed playing a game called “follow the leader.” I was a bit smaller and a lot more flexible back then. My friends and I would take turns setting out on a new adventure adding stunts like hopping on one foot, crawling under obstacles like the dining room table, walking backwards and one time, blind-folding each other and using our ears to try a imitate the leader. I believe I cracked my head on something that time!

 

This game was a good experience for me in life as I quickly learned by example, watching and listening as my sponge-like brain gained knowledge. If you want to learn how to do something, watch how others do it. When I later started my professional life, I was put with a senior technician and was told to try to be like him, or hopefully for the most part, maybe without the grumpiness and the grumbling!

 

And as I later became a senior tech, the boss started to put newbie’s with me. Some of these folks were really sheltered when it came to working with their hands and even working with the simplest of tools. I watched many a new-hire drilling holes with the drill in reverse but over time and with plenty of examples and patience, they started to imitate what a good technician was capable of!

 

Well it mostly comes down to how good a teacher the leader is. And of course in life, we come to realize that not every leader is setting a good example. In our maturing in life, we usually all go through times of rebellion and choosing to follow corrupt leaders in our days of demi-godness. But when our mortality becomes clear and we realize we have been wasting our time away after things of this world, we look for examples that help as we try to become more like God and as we seek eternal life. I have heard it said that there are no such things as atheists, only people not wanting the God they have seen exemplified in us!

 

How can we be a better icon of Christ? We hear in the Gospel reading our Leader inviting us to: “Come after Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” [Mt. 4:19] And then later in His teachings He defines what we need to do: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens. Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall find mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are they who have been persecuted on account of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens. Blessed are ye whenever they reproach you and persecute you, and say every evil word against you falsely on account of Me. Be rejoicing and be exceedingly glad, for your reward is great in the heavens, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. [Mt. 5:1-12]

 

So there you go, follow that leader! Perhaps if your priest was a better example of Christ and followed His teachings faithfully, you too would be a better icon of the One who loves! Please pray for me a sinner!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 6-10-2018

IT’S A FAMILY TRADITION

I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Ex 20:2-5) … for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God.

 

We here that echoed from the Apostle Matthew: “The one who loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and the one who loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” [Mt 10:37] Some of us parents sometime struggle to remember that our kids are His kids first and ours just for a short time and we shouldn’t put them on a king’s throne but instead on a path to righteousness. And by setting God as our true Father, we are to honor our human mother and father with respect but with the realization that we do not belong to this world. And in all of our busyness we and our family need to continue to snuggle closer to God, our refuge and fortress. (Psalm 91:2)

 

We set a tradition for our children by the way we prioritize our faith practice at home and here in the church. They see how we stand fast during the storms of life and how we practice forgiveness and forbearance in all of our relationships with other icons of Christ. They hear how we lift up our brothers and sisters who are struggling and not gossip about them. We take time to sit down and eat as a family and to begin before each meal with a prayer offering of thanksgiving? A family that prays together stays together! We set God as a priority when we study our bible more than our social media devises, and we make time to help our neighbors in need.

 

“Lord, I am not fit that Thou shouldest come under my roof.” [Mt. 8:8] How to we become holy? For me, that is a huge task! A sales person once asked me:”How do you eat an elephant?” And as I contemplated that enormous task, they responded: “One bite at a time!” And so it is with our becoming a saint and a bright reflection of the Christ who showed us how to be saintly. We need to continue moving in the direction of holiness one bite at a time, decreasing in our self-centeredness out of our love for Christ. It is a decision to seek after an eternal life and not the death of sin.

 

 

You and I are sales people for the Kingdom of God! You know I have never purchased anything from a salesperson who did not believe in what they were selling. How convincing are you? It takes practice to close the deal: prayer, fasting, study, attendance, tithing, and loving. It takes us realizing that our time in this body is short lived and we had better get busy!

 

The Maker of heaven and earth puts people on our path every day; close the deal! I am not asking you to drag them to church but I am asking you to love them in a Godly way. That effort will build His church! You don’t need to be a scholar or a people-person but all you need is to take time in your busyness to share a little of your light with another person. You have to care! Love thy neighbor as thyself! It’s our path to becoming a Saint! It’s another one of our Family’s Tradition!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 6-20-18

DOWNCAST

And at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God; and the prisoners were listening to them. And suddenly there occurred a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and the bonds of all were loosed. [Acts 16:25-26]

 

The world didn’t want to tolerate followers of Jesus Christ. Paul and Silas were publicly beaten with rods then locked up in chains and cast into prison for doing the work of the Lord. They were unsure of their outcome but even in their dejected predicament, they continued to praise the Lord, praying and chanting hymns. And in their faithfulness, the Earth quaked and released their imprisonment without collapsing the prison walls in on them. And if that was not enough, the jailer after seeing all these miracles asked to be saved. And so he and his whole family were baptized, men, women, children and servants!

 

What seemed to be an impossible circumstance became an opportunity to share the love of God, bringing the lost into the Light. Isn’t it better to fail at succeeding than to succeed in failing? Why not expect good things to happen even when things seem impossible? Doesn’t St. James say that everything good comes from above? (Jas 1:17) Paul knew his time on Earth was short but he chose to press on, no matter the cost! Paul and Silas clinged to the truth, the life and the way. (John 14:6) When you have something that great, you want to share it! You have to let the love of Christ ooze out from you like fog rolling through the valley!

 

Most of us seem to get weighted down when our burdens seem heavy. Prayers become an unwanted task as we feel abandoned and self pity becomes a heavy familiar friend as we imprison ourselves by our own lack of faith. Our eyes turn from the Light and look for isolation in our darkness. “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” (Matt 8:26)

 

A great friend and protestant pastor who inspired me to change would quote from John Wesley and say to me: “Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn.” Orthodox folks call that radiant consuming passion incorruptible joy! A burning fire rooted deep in the crevices of everything that we are! In his letter to the church in Philippians, Saint Paul writes: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”(Phil 4:4-7)

 

Be about your Father’s Business! (Luke 2:49) Everything That Is, Is His! Are You? What in the WORLD is more important?

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 5/13/18

HOG SLOP

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the greatest sinner of them all? We often check our outward appearance in the mirror before we go out into public. We want people to see us at our best and really not know our inner secrets and struggles! After all, mirrors don’t lie, or do they?

 

But who needs mirrors? Our outward and inward appearance can now be sampled on the new social media channels. Back before this reality social media, it was much easier to be two-faced, giving folks only what we wanted them to see. Now, there are hard-drives recording our thoughts, choices and actions just about all the time. Who are we working for, Christ our God or the great deceiver? St. Paul instructs us: “And everything, whatsoever ye may do in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the God and Father through Him.” [Col. 3:17]

 

We’ve all heard the expression “You are what you eat!” In Luke 15 we read: “And he was longing to fill his belly from the husks, which the swine were eating. [Lk. 15:16] Back on the farm we called that hog slop and my impression at a young age was that only the hogs would eat it. And yet we all prodigally seek worldly death filling the last minutes of our lives with slop? After all, every minute could be our last minute! We continue rooting around in the bottom of the trough for substance when the end of our Earthly life in nearing.

 

Why do we look in the trough when our Creator has given each and every one of us great wealth? We are to inherit a great Kingdom with life never-ending! We just have to turn from our streak of independence just like the prodigal son and be about our Father’s business. Blessed Theophylact writes: [Lk. 15:17] “Then he came to himself, he became rational, and came to repent from his wanderings about outside.” [P.G. 123:407C (col. 953).]

 

A banquet has been prepared and the nutritional value is not of this world. Won’t you come? We read in the 23rd Psalm: “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” Won’t you come to the table that has been prepared? Turn away from the troughs of hog-slop, repent and come home. Your Father is waiting, He is longing for your embrace!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 2-4-18

“I’M A GONNA”

“Every tree which produceth not good fruit is cut off and cast into the fire.” [Mt. 7:19] The story of the stingy tax collector Zacchaeus begins our journey towards lent. There in the ancient Canaanite city of Jericho, a man that was dead in sin crawled up out of his rut into a tree and embraced the Lord, no more hiding, no more excuses!

 
We visited this tree in 2010 in Jericho and discovered that a Sycamore tree in the Middle Eastern region is a type of fig tree, ficus sycomorus. This species is well known to have a massive root system to sustain it. And then I am reminded that when Christ begins His journey to Jerusalem to His crucifixion, he curses a similar fig tree for not bearing good fruit. In the Gospel of St. Matthew: “Let there be no more fruit from thee forever.” And forthwith the tree was withered.” [Mt. 21:19] That was a different tree at a different time but this fig tree in Jericho in our Gospel reading today bore good fruit! Repentance had come to Zacchaeus. Saint Ephraim the Syrian says: “The fig that cast its fruit, that refused fruit, offered Zacchaeos as fruit; the fruit of its own nature it gave not, but it yielded one reasonable fruit!” [Hymn III on the Nativity, in Nicene, 2nd Ser., XIII:230.]

 
Zacchaeus tells Jesus that he is GONNA CHANGE! Zacchæus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, the half of my possessions, Lord, I give to the poor; and if I extorted anything of anyone by false charges, I give back fourfold.” [Lk. 19:8]

 
We have read the scripture: “But let your word ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and ‘no,’ ‘no’.[Mt. 5:37] And we know that Zaachaeus did what he said he was going to do and found repentance. He was even later made one of the Seventy Apostles. And after the Lord Ascended; he traveled with Peter and later became Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine.

 
Saint Gregory the Great writes: “Each of you, in his own way, inasmuch as he has a place in this present life, takes up the ground like a barren tree, if he does not produce the fruit of good works….A person who troubles the hearts of others is taking up the ground; a person who does not use the place he holds for good works is taking up the ground. But it is our duty to make intercession for people like this.” [Hom. 31, Forty Gospel Homilies, 251; Hom. 31, P.L. 76 (col. 1228).] We are to pray for each other to be fruity! We are to serve each other in love and action. Don’t be stingy, seek life in Christ!

 
Taste and see that the Lord is good! Climb that fig tree; pull yourselves up out of the sinful ruts that seem all too familiar and say to the Lord: “I’M A GONNA CHANGE”! And let your very existence thirst for the Lord like that invasive rooted sycamore tree seeking life-sustaining water, bearing good fruit in the middle of your desert!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 1-21-18

SELFISH LOVE

As my time left on this earth becomes shorter I often reflect upon what really brings me joy and happiness. Around this time year in the past, I usually had a short and long list of things I coveted and desired. But I now struggle to even give basic gift ideas when asked. After all, I already have a large collection of stuff!

 
Well, I am not ready to kick the bucket yet but material items are not as precious to me now as is inner peace and love of creation. Living in a community of blood-kin, I will always have a feeling of belonging and acceptance. Being part of a church family I will always know I am deeply cared and prayed for. But the most satisfying belief I treasure is knowing that the One who created me loves me and wants what is selfishly going to draw me closer to Him!

 
We find a similar love in “Good Parenting.” Put a coat on, look both ways before you cross the street, share your toys with your sister, do your homework, don’t pick your nose (or at least not in public), clean up your mess, eat your dinner – there are starving folks in the world, are all examples of things we heard in our developmental years and they are also things we share now with our younger generation. It is not nagging but it is a selfish genuine parental love coming from someone who deeply cares. It comes from someone who wants us to learn to love each other as Jesus has taught us!

 
We heard in Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae that we must put to death everything in ourselves that prevents us from doing God’s will. “But now ye also put off from yourselves all these things: wrath, anger, malice, blasphemy, foul language out of your mouth. Cease lying to one another, since ye have put off the old man with his practice”. [Col. 3:8-9] It is so easy to misplace our sense of direction and especially when we add stress to the Nativity Season. After all, stress is deeply rooted in love of self!

 

 

 

It seems that in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, as we mature we find that time is the most coveted gift we have. Visit the shut-ins, offer gifts or deeds of love, pray for everyone you encounter, especially those that irritate you and spend every last minute of your life preparing for the judgment that will soon follow. “Whenever the Christ, Who is your life, should be made manifest, then also ye shall be made manifest with Him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry, On account of which things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.” [Col. 3:4-6]

 

 

 

I pray that this Nativity season will bring you heavenly peace and joy as we let loose our worldly crutches and selfishly strive to be more Christ-like in our remaining time here and now. And that in every moment someone makes us angry we cease the opportunity to recognize that we are not the most important thing in our lives, but how we selfishly spend our precious time left loving all of God’s creation is.

 

 

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-24-17

I BELIEVE IN PRAYER!

Boy, we have had a busy week!! My wife was released from the hospital Friday. Her sister, after have been given this kidney on Tuesday was going to have to have it removed two days later. The kidney was not working. It was not a good fit! Something was wrong! And her sister Sophia would need to stay at the hospital for several more days with the hope of a somewhat normal life being postponed, in wait of another matching kidney donor!

 
Where was God? After all, we prayed and prayed and prayed. We literally had folks all over the world praying, thanks to social media. The two sisters had confession and communion days earlier. We did akathist to the Great Surgeon and Healer St. Luke, Archbishop of Crimea (1877-1961). We anointed the two sisters with oil from the lampadas of St. Panteleimon the Great Martyr and Healer, and the healer Saint Matrona, the Wonderworker of Moscow (1881-1952).

 

 
My wife offered this sacrifice knowing full well the risks to her life and health and the slight possibility that her kidney may not work for her sister. She is a very giving person, unless of course you are asking her to hand you the TV remote while she is watching her Hallmark Christmas Movies or her WWE Wrestling Divas. Don’t cross that line! But there were so many tests done and redone in the past several months to ensure success. Why then, why did we have this outcome? Where was the Great Surgeon Luke? Did he take a knee? What went wrong with our holy oil and our fervent prayers?

 

People know us by our love! They will know you by your love! We read in the Gospel this morning: “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” [Lk. 12:20-21] Our prayers for others are a sacrifice of our precious time helping us to be less self-centered. Sacrifice for one another is riches. Let God be in control and allow His love through your actions to encompass those around you! And that action through your prayers was like a warm blanket wrapped around them this week! We are family!

 
Hear the words of St. John of Kronstadt: “Do not let pass any opportunity to pray for anyone, either at his request or at the request of his relatives, friends, of those who esteem him, or of his acquaintances. The Lord looks favorably upon the prayer of our love, and upon our boldness before him. Besides this, prayer for others is very beneficial to the one himself who prays for others; it purifies the heart, strengthens faith and hope in God, and enkindles our love for God and our neighbor. When praying, say thus: ‘Lord, it is possible for Thee to do this or that to this servant of Thine; do this for him, for Thy name is the Merciful Love of Men and the Almighty.’” (St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ)

 
I believe without hesitation that Blessed St. Luke was all over that hospital at the time of the surgeries helping and guiding. I believe all your prayers were heard and the lampada oil is aiding in the healing! We all remember the words of St. Paul: “And we know that to those who love God all things work together for good.” [Rom. 8:28] The results we selfishly asked for may not have all been granted but God is in control, and I trust Him! He loves Tatiana and Sophia and He wants what is best for their salvation. And He loves you too!! Everything that is, is His! Thanks be to God in all things!

 
Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-3-17