PATCHES

Of all the dirty jobs I have had over the years, I would have to say harvesting hay and straw is at the top of my dirty job list. Not only was that job a real workout in the heat of the summer, the amount of dust, dirt and allergens circulating around me was like an intense fog rolling down the mountain moistening my skin. Handling the hay bales gave me thorns in my hands and arms and holes in my Wrangler Jeans. Usually by the end of summer my clothes had patches on top of patches!

At the end of the day, I had dirt where my eyes couldn’t see and Grandma Hazel would have to visually check my clothing and see if I was even allowed in the house. And then of course when it was time to eat, Grandma would send me back to the sink again, where another heavy application of soap was necessary before I could sit at the table next to Granddad, the ear thumper! Yes sir, manners were taught at that table.

Clothes and skin come clean with some strong soap and heavy scrubbing. Holes in our clothing can be repaired and I am sure patches will be popular again real soon as I have noticed a lot of torn clothes being worn by our youth in much need of repair. You may want to stock up now on patches now as they may fly off the shelf like toilet paper when the patches wave hits!

We all have been invited to the table of our Lord, won’t you come? Won’t you put on your wedding garment by revisiting your Holy Baptism where you were clothed in the garment of salvation, laying aside the filthy old man? In the confessional the dirt of sin is removed and then washed by the blood of the Lamb which awaits you at the chalice in celebration of our mystical union with our Savior Jesus Christ. After all, that is why we are here!

If you come today to bring your children to receive these precious gifts mystically found here in the chalice, thank you. Glory be to God! It is important for them to be here and truly a blessing, but why not you? Do you really think the dirt and holes in your baptismal garment have made you unworthy? Our Lord offered His most precious life for you! Won’t you come? Come to confession and let those deep wounds begin to heal. Our Father will bind your rotting flesh and patch your life back together as only He can do, if you will allow Him in. We need you, we are family!   

A new day is coming, get out of you death bed and come to the wedding. St. John Chrysostom adds this warning: “Great is the punishment for those who have been idle, indifferent, and lazy. For even as those who showed insolence and gave injury by not coming, so also dost thou by thus reclining with a life corrupted.” [Mt. 22:12.] [Ib., P.G. 58:681, 682 (cols. 650, 651)

Fr. Gabriel Weller 9-13-2020

You Can Build His Church!

I hear every now and then, how can this small group of believers build a church? The task is enormous and the cost seems to be beyond our grasp. And now we can add the COVID-19 as another stumbling block or reason to question moving forward with this project. Has Fr. Gabriel lost his ever so limited connection with sanity?

Well, first of all, tithing is a spiritual discipline we all need to practice if we profess to be Christians. Simply put, if we don’t tithe now, why should God entrust us with more? I hear every now and then someone say that we just can’t afford to support the church as their bills are so high! This can mean that they have chosen to live beyond their means and not put God first, or they have truly been overwhelmed with unforeseen expenses! However, tithing is a necessary tool that we need to align our financial decisions with our spiritual growth. You can either choose to put your faith in God or in the paper dollar.

Secondly, you must know that our Father is very wealthy! We hear again and again these true words chanted: Everything that is, is His! (1 Corinthians 10:26) “For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine. “If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine, and all its fullness.” (Psalm 49/50:10-12) You see, money simply is not a problem.  So I ask, is everything His?

As a group of believers living in this community for decades, it is frankly our duty. We must plant our roots here in this fertile soil.  We must provide a proper space to worship God correctly. We desperately need a correct space for Worship, Communion, Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals. We need a place to rear our children in the ways of God. We need a mighty fortress to weather the storms with a hedge around it to protect His fruit! (Mt 21:33) The church building is a sacred place where man can offer himself fully. The church building is the heart of Christian life and it is where God offers Himself to man and man offers himself to God. The buildings architecture reflects this truth and helps our deification process. St. Athanasius the Great says: “God became man so that man might become god.” “Let the Christian consider well when he enters the church that he is entering another heaven. That same majesty of God which is in heaven is also in his church, and on this account the Christian must enter with reverence and awe.”

So then how do you eat an elephant, one fundraiser at a time? Yes, we need projects and many willing hands, don’t expect others to do all the work! After all, we are instructed to tithe our valuable time as well! Don’t sit back and miss this opportunity, we need you! God is calling you and we need your talents! We need folks that can organize a fundraiser and include help from the church family, and include our neighbors. It will be a blessing for you and for them! This is a time of growth!  This is a time to grow spiritually and grow deeper into the community by inviting our neighbors. As we remember: “Let all your things be done in love.” [1 Cor. 16:14]

Here the words of St. John Chrysostom: “The church is an enclosure, if you are within, the wolf cannot enter, but if you stray outside, the wild beasts will get you… Do not wander from the Church; there is nothing more impregnable than the Church. She is your hope and your salvation. She is higher than the heavens, firmer than rock, wider than the world; she never grows old, but is forever renewing her youth.” (St. John Chrysostom)

Next week, we will break ground! Glory to God! Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan is coming to break the ground and prepare it for spiritual fruit! There will be plenty of opportunities to help in the near future! But we need sweat-equity, don’t be lazy! We need a thousand small money-making projects. We need continuous prayers. We each need to attend to the body of our Lord, His people!

With faith, we will not only take a bite out of this elephant, but with thanksgiving we will keep on chewing until this beast is consumed, ears, tail and toenails! Through the prayers of the Holy Myrrhbearers, who sacrificed so they could attend to the body of our Lord, pray to God for us!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 9-6-2020

1, 2 Skip a Few

I think one of the greatest inventions in the last decade has been spray paint! I probably have six or eight cans myself just waiting for the next project! Spray paint arrived on the market in 1945 by the hands of Ed Seymour in Sycamore, Illinois. It is a faster way to paint with less cleanup time, although it seems to be a bit thinner and may require a second spraying but I think spray paint is an important product for most folks. Paint can be used to help prevent decay and weathering from the natural elements. Some people put a new coat of paint on something they are preparing to sell so that it sells easier and real estate agents will tell you, a home with fresh paint sells faster and for more money.

I have also seen some folks misuse spray paint by covering up problems before they sell their item or home and hide defects or rotten wood, or as we say around here, they put lipstick on a hog! Instead of doing the work and making the necessary repairs, they spray over it, masking over the defects and taking advantage of any potential new owner, buyer beware!  

I am writing about spray paint today because it is just as easy for us to spray over weathering and rot as it is as we sometimes do the very same thing with the Law of God. For starters, our Good Lord has given us 10 Commandments to live by. Over the years, I have heard them referred to as the 10 suggestions and I can only imagine that these folks own a lot of spray paint as well. I think if you struggle like me, you are a gold-medal holder on most of the Commandments but struggle with one or two! And it is easier to see other folks failing as if we have masked over our sinfulness like spraying paint over our imperfection so we appear flashy of almost sparkling new.

The young man in the Gospel reading this morning seemed to be masking over the commandments. The young man saith to Him, “All these I kept for myself from my youth; what lack I yet?” [Mt. 19:20] And our Lord quickly points out his attachment to gluttony as he has starved the poor with what he was entrusted with. St. Basil writes: “But now your money sticks to you closer than the limbs of your body, and he who would separate you from it grieves you more than someone who would cut off your vital parts. For if you had clothed the naked, if you had given your bread to the hungry, if you had opened your doors to every stranger, if you’d become a father to orphans, if you had suffered together with all the powerless, what possessions would now be causing you despondency?” When wealth is dispersed, in the way the Lord advises, it naturally stays put; but when held back it is transferred to another. If you hoard it, you won’t keep it; if you scatter, you won’t lose. For (says the scripture), “He has dispersed, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever” [Ps 112:9]. (St. Basil the Great: Sermon to the Rich)

Our Creator has given us rules to live by that are for our own benefit. We can freely choose another path in life if we want, but those other paths do not lead us to Him. With our limited view of our life and the future awaiting us, there are consequences for our choices. Who do you trust? The next time I reach up on the shelf for a can of spray paint, maybe I will reflect upon my choices of masking over my sinfulness because skipping over one or two leads to more than a few as the door of sin if opened, the deceiver will usher many more demons in. Sin loves company or as it is written in Proverbs: A violent man entices his neighbor, And leads him in a way that is not good. [Proverbs 16:29] We were not created for Earth, but for heaven.  I need to stop masking my shortcomings and work harder on my salvation! Please forgive me a sinner!

I am the LORD your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me (Ex. 20:2–3). You shall not make for yourselves a graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them (20:4–5). You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain (20:7). Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work (20:8–10). Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you (20:12). You shall not kill (20:13).  You shall not commit adultery (20:14). You shall not steal (20:15). You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (20:16). You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s (20:17).

Fr. Gabriel Weller 8-30-2020

Closed FOR GOOD!

Driving around town this week, I am deeply saddened to see businesses closed and some of these businesses are closed for ever! I have enjoyed our variety of choices in places to eat and places to shop. I have enjoyed the many choices we have had for entertainment. I have enjoyed the choices of buying from the big corporate chain stores and I have enjoyed purchasing from the small local businesses that more reflect the heartbeat of our community.

The effects of the Rona of 2020 will be felt for decades. The decisions made right and wrong have had a huge impact on all of our futures! The depth of anguish and despair neighbors are suffering from is new to our generation. And still even in the midst of this great dilemma, we as an American people are still greatly divided. Instead of coming together as a nation as we did during previous epidemics and hardships, we have separated even more. There seems to be no sign of forgiveness and trust, as billionaires jockey for control of the greatest asset this country has, the heart and trust of the American worker, farmer, mother and father, business folks, educators, and service persons. Because of what folks have been through or the way they or their families were treated in the past has caused their distrust of everything and everyone to be nakedly exposed! Forgiveness has been forgotten as we substitute our own vanity ahead of loving our enemies. (Matt. 5: 43-48) Their hearts may be closed for ever!

Our great nation once dedicated to serving God has now been diffused into serving a bunch of little popes chasing a paper dollar, with their own little pope understanding of how people should live and how things should be. People not fearing God that put individuals’ perverted rights to choose higher than the laws of God, are in positions of leadership and masking the voice of Holy Scripture! It is truly a misunderstanding of the love of Jesus, who loves all and wants salvation for us all. Salvation is not accepting sin as normal but loving folks struggling to survive in this shattered world and loving people who are deeply hurt and confused. It means loving folks enough too still say no, this is not good for your salvation, but I love you, for I too have my own heavy cross to bear! These demonic choices separate you and me from the pure love that is available to us all. Quit settling for deceptive love that will rot you in the box, where the worms never cease! (Mark 9:48) It is NOT okay!

The actions of some people seem to highlight that they too are also closed FOR-GOOD! Our great nation of people has forgotten how to forgive. It seems as though we are encouraging each other to be little popes, making our own rules based upon our own wounded and lustful mindset. We have become our own traveling circus, while yet expecting someone else to clean up behind our asses and elephants! Who will you serve? You simply have to believe in something. Through our own limited understanding or the teachings of evolving science, we choose to accept only what our pee-brain analysis can conclude. And if something doesn’t fit into our four cornered box of understanding, we distrust it. In these choices we have become enslaved and our master is the great deceiver! Living on our own perception instead of trusting the One who created us all, we lack faith as death comes knocking upon our door!

Saint Paisios writes: “The Church is suffering today because Divine illumination is missing and people understand things as it suits them. The human element gets involved; passions are arouse, and then, the devil comes and thrashes about. That is why people who are governed by their passions should not seek to govern others.” (Saint Paisios the Hagiorite +1994)

“O thou and evil slave” who then will you serve? (Matt 18:32)

Fr. Gabriel Weller 8-23-2020

I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!

I’ve heard the phrase “I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up” so many times! It is a slogan used to sell wireless medical pendants to folks that find their physical stability to be a challenge at times. As advertised, with the push of a button, another person has been notified and will start a procedure to check on your welfare. It begins with an attempt of a conversation on the phone with a series of questions that helps the operator discern how best to help you. A neighbor or loved one can be contacted and if need be, and a medical person can be dispatched to your home to help you with your struggle. Since so many people live alone and find themselves secluded, this can be a great aide.

This is also a very orthodox phrase as well. It is the very words spoken by the great saints of the church through the course of their life as they called out for help in the midst of their struggles and asked God for help to get up! We all fall short and miss the mark at times! The writer of Ecclesiastes writes: “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.”(Ecclesiastes 7:20) And we read in Proverbs:”Everyone is bound in the chains of his own sins.”[Prov. 5:22] And please don’t look here for perfection as I have thick calluses on my knees, not from hours of lengthy prayers but from my frequent hard falls from the ladder of accent.

The good news for us is we have a gracious and loving Father who yearns for our return. We are never alone! Even in times when we find ourselves dreadfully tormented, there is always hope! Saint Ambrose recorded this: ‘But whoever are outside the promises of the heavenly commandments are in the outer darkness, because God’s ordinances are light, and whoever is without Christ is in darkness, because Christ is the inner light.”(Mathew 8:12) So for us, we need to be constantly seeking the Light. The darkness is deceiving; it is a silver-tongued salesman trying to sell us an ole clunker! And we all know that a clunker’s metal is rotting away and mechanically unable to get us where we need to go! Sometimes an ole clunker looks good but can’t even make it up the hill!

When I think of myself as an ole clunker, I am reminded of a show called Vegas Rat Rods. It is a show about reviving old clunkers into high performance vehicles. The Rat Rods still show plenty of rust and neglect, but their powertrain and drivetrain have been completely renewed and are once again, back on the road. Once the title has been surrendered and ownership changes hands, even though they still have some dents and wounds, the power house has been refreshed and with the push of a button or turn of a key, down the road they go.

You and I have some rust and some faulty parts as well. Life choices have taken their toll on us and we find ourselves rusting or scratching the deep itch from the worms of darkness eating at our flesh. We feel the pain of dents in our bodies from collisions we have had in life. Our past cannot be erased but it can be buffed and repowered to make us high performance vehicles on this bumpy road of life.

Your Father can restore that which is in you that is malfunctioning or dented. Your Father can help you if you just fall on your knees, repent and surrender your title of ownership over to Him. Stop being a little pope and get up! Come out of the scrap yard of life and let the Great Mechanic put you squarely on the road to salvation, super powered by the love of Christ and fueled by the Holy Spirit.

 

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 7-5-2020

How Bright Is Your Bulb?

Over the years I have installed a lot of light fixtures. Some of the installations have been to replace a light fixture that was broken and leaving people in the dark. Some of the fixtures I have installed were purchased to change the ambiance or look of a room. But here lately I have been installing more efficient fixtures that use LED bulbs and use less power.  

I have also repaired many light fixtures as well. In troubleshooting a broken light, sometimes the fixture is bad, the bulb is broken, the light switch is burned out or there is a problem with the circuit breaker or wiring. Nevertheless, the fixture has left us in the dark!

Our body is also a light-fixture. If we energize our body with Christ, it will be like a beacon piercing through the thick darkness, unquenchable. (Mt. 6:22-23) In this world today it so easy to get unplugged or disconnected from the narrow road that energizes our salvation and we then experience a dim or unworkable light. There are some troubleshooting techniques we can use as well to repair our broken spiritual light. But you will need some tools to repair your broken light! To be concise, listen to the words of Fr. Seraphim Rose: “Orthodoxy is life. If we don’t live Orthodoxy, we simply are not Orthodox, no matter what formal beliefs we might hold. (Fr. Seraphim Rose, Living the Orthodox World View -A talk delivered by Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) at the St. Herman Pilgrimage, August 1982, St. Herman of Alaska Monastery, Platina, California)

There it is! Practice what the Holy Tradition teaches and watch yourself glow! Do not glow from the created light from your smart phone or flat screen but glow from being energized by the Word of God from a light uncreated! Glow from living the commandments! Flip your switch on by saying your prayers, no excuses! Glow from cleaning the dirt and scum off of your dim bulb through repentance and confession. And most of all, receive the Body and Blood of the Great Illuminator, our Lord, Jesus Christ (John 8:12). As Fr. Seraphim Rose says, if you are not doing these things, you are not Orthodox, no excuses!

There is a great cost to being Orthodox, it will cost you your life! By I tell you that it will be the greatest thing you ever do, but it is a life-long commitment! Surrender it all, every day, every hour! Life on Earth will be over for us very soon, don’t delay. What in the world is keeping you away? Hear the words of Saint Theophan the Recluse: “Refuse to listen to the devil when he whispers to you: give me now, and you will give tomorrow to God. No, no! Spend all the hours of your life in a way pleasing to God;” (From Unseen Warfare, St. Theophan the Recluse and St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain)

There is still time to repair your light-fixture! You have the tools and know-how available to you. Follow the footsteps of the Saints of the church. If your bulb is not brilliant and flickering light a lightning bug, you are most likely plugged into to the great deceiver. St. Leonid of Optina warns us: “Beware of passionate attachments to the world. Although they deceive you with peace and comfort, they are so fleeting that you do not notice how you are deprived of them, and in their place come sorrow, longing, despondency, and no comfort whatsoever.” (St. Leonid of Optina)

Be about your Fathers’ business and keep your light shining! Glory to Thee who has shown us the Light, Glory to Thee!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 6-27-2020

DEDICATED

 Sadly this year St. Seraphim’s camp has been cancelled. Folks have come from all over the east coast to attend this youth camp for the last 25 years. There are so many activities and new friendships that blossom from this week of camping spent in the mountains of the Poconos. But with so many restrictions and unknowns, it just is to complex this year and we will have to count the days until next year when we can be awakened to that good morning siren!

As I reflect on previous camp years, I smile as memories flood my mind of the tug of war competition, the capture the flag battles, the Olympic Games, and of course the crafts and so many other activities. You come to realize that the folks on your team and in your camp will try their best not to let you down so you can claim that victory!

Instead of being deep in the woods of Pennsylvania, we campers find ourselves in the midst of a lot of crazy stuff going on around us and all over the world. In today’s Gospel reading our Lord is asking you, can He count on you? If there has ever been a time of confusion and uncertainty, it is happening right now. Can He still count on you or will you let Him down (cock-a-doodle-do)? (Mathew 26:34)

Do we love our neighbor when we don’t love folks that are not part of our blood-line? Do we love our neighbor when we turn our backs on oppression? Do we love our neighbor with looting and destruction of property? I ask these questions as we want to know where we should be as Christians in the midst of this turmoil. I think Archbishop Peter answers this well when he recently wrote: “Since the day of Her foundation, the Holy Church always defended and cared for the oppressed, widows, orphans, and homeless. (Acts: III, 45; IV, 34-35; VI, 1-3) Besides, all charity was of free will and non-compulsory. (Acts: V, 4) And so it was throughout the ages… The Holy Church was always against any kind of revolutions or forceful overturning of power. Instead, She supported civil evolution. For example, being persecuted, She peacefully, without any riots, changed the course of the pagan Roman Empire, having completely regenerated it. The same was done by Orthodox Christian missionaries, who spread the Holy Gospel among different nations. Now we are experiencing great turmoil in our United States. Attempts are made to destroy all foundations of law and order. In the name of “justice” we see looting, destruction, and mayhem. The Holy Church was always against such actions, and Orthodox Christians cannot participate or support them. Apostle Paul writes that we should pray for the land we live in and its authorities. If there is peace in the land, so will the Church and Her children live in peace and prosperity. Therefore, we should enforce our prayers for our American land and its peace and tranquility.”(His Grace Peter, Archbishop of Chicago & Mid-America)

Just as when Christ was surrounded and betrayed in the midst of a great conflict, He asked Peter to sheath his sword (John 18:11), we too must show Christ-like love without causing harm in the midst of this strife. “Everyone therefore who shall confess in Me before men, I also will confess in him before My Father Who is in the heavens. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father Who is in the heavens.” [Mt. 10:32-33] I pray that I won’t fail you now as we navigate these new troubled waters (but I am sure I will). And I pray that you will continue to be a part of our loving family, and hope we can weave our bond of love even stronger through never ending prayer and sacrificial love.

 

“O Lord Jesus Christ our God, do Thou calm the agitation and discord in our American land, banish from us slander and conflict, murder and drunkenness, bitter disputes and scandals, and burn out of our hearts every impurity, conflict and evil, that again we all may love one another and abide, as one, in Thee, O Lord, our God, as Thou has commanded and directed us. Grant peace to Thy Church and to Her children, that with one heart and one mouth we may glorify Thee, our Lord and Savior, unto the ages of ages. Amen.”

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 6-14-2020

Holy Myrrhbearers

The Holy Myrrhbearers: Saints Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome (daughter of Joseph), Mary (Joseph’s sister) the wife of Cleopas, Susanna, Mary and Martha (Lazarus’s sisters), Obedient to the observance of the Sabbath, the women waited until very early in the morning after the Sabbath to launch their plan into action. They were going to do something costly, something dangerous, something maybe even foolish in the eyes of others, but they knew in their hearts that it was the right thing to do.

The Holy Myrrhbearers were poor peasant housewives with the exception of St. Joanna, who was the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza. Yet the Evangelist Mark tells us they purchased large amounts of pricey myrrh, ointments, and perfumes with which to anoint the body of the Lord. These humble servants sacrificed the little they had saved up for their own families for ‘a rainy day’ because they realized they needed to tend to the body of our Lord. Jesus’ presence in their lives had been priceless and they were not going to spare any expense to anoint the body of the One who loves without measure.

The Holy Myrrhbearers literally put their lives at risk to accomplish their goal. Cities in the ancient city were walled for good reason – the territory outside the walls was an unsafe area and the domain of wild animals and thieves, especially after dark. Since our Savior’s tomb was in the garden near Golgotha, it was beyond the safety of the city walls. The women deliberately and knowingly stepped out into this vulnerability in order to express their love, in order to do what their heart commanded of them. Even more, assuming if they made it safely to the tomb, the Roman guards would certainly have used any force necessary to prevent them from entering the tomb. But they were not paralyzed with the danger and risk, and they took action!

There is a powerful lesson here for all of us. For all of us profess our faith in Christ, but do we possess the fearless, trusting, unhesitating faith of the Holy Myrrhbearers? Too often, despite our initial good intentions, we allow ourselves to be hindered from expressing or acting out our faith. We fear the COST of living as Christians, whether in actual financial terms, or in terms of the time and energy or emotion it takes to sacrificially offer ourselves to others! We fear the DANGER of living as Christians – it always seems so much easier to maintain the status quo, so much safer to keep doing the same old things in the same old way, even if it means passing up the opportunities to allow Christ to manifest in our little corner of the world. We fear looking FOOLISH by living as Christians, in a world that holds values and priorities that too often are very different from the Gospel. Pride, Vainglory and Perversion of our created sexuality have been the demise of many great civilizations and have seemed to be the most sought out activities here in this once great nation. No, the love of Christ is not always a yes with total acceptance! It is a yes we love you but we must separate ourselves from warped teachings. We cannot marinate in sewage and place our youth on a path of self-destruction and emptiness. We need to speak out loudly and we need to speak out now, and we must take action!

And in this time of pandemic, we need to put our prayer time first and foremost. Even if we can’t be at church, we can be the church where we are. Don’t get lazy or allow this to be the new norm, it is a time when we must increase, we must deliberately make time to separate us from the goats. And we must remember how precious our time here is, as one family, seeking the Kingdom of heaven!

Pray to God for us, Holy Myrrhbearers!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 5-3-2020

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