The Basics Of LOVE

The song “Let’s get back to the basics of love” was blasting out of my triaxial speakers and my 8-track player was humming as I was cruising in my 1970 Camaro many years ago; this was at the beginning of my redneck conversion. In this song, Waylon and Willie were pleading with their love to simplify and refocus their relationship. The distractions of things of this earth had come between them and had separated them from each other. Life had become complicated and the relationship was heading for sure disaster.

 

This relationship each and every one of us has with our Creator is also a love story! Have the complications of life separated you from God; He is longing for you! Although at times we feel God has abandoned us and left us out for the buzzards and every blow that life delivers we land squarely on the chin because we chose to fight alone and not keep our guard up.“Put on the full armor of God, for you to be able to stand against the wiles of the devil; because for us the wrestling is not against blood and flesh, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the cosmic rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of evil on account of the heavenly things.” [Eph. 6:11-12] Saint John Chrysostom writes: “Having said that the enemies are vehement (intense) and violent, he adds further, that they defraud us of great things. What are these? The fight lies in the heavenlies. It is not about riches, nor about glory, but about our being lead to enslavement…. The rivalry and the fight are more intense when great interests are at stake; it is not in order that they may gain anything by the conquest, but that they may defraud us….He is doing his best to cast us out of heaven.” [Hom. 22, P.G. 62:169 (col. 159).]

 

God does not make mistakes, but He allows us to. And most of us tend to repeat our mistakes over and over again like the Pete and Repeat riddles we used to tell! The great deceiver is constantly trying to divorce you from your marriage with Christ! It takes a dedicated person in Love with their Creator to overcome their passions and redirect their life story. And we must never forget that God is a jealous Bridegroom and has provided for us all the tools necessary for us to restore our relationship with Him! It takes some work!

 

Just as Waylon and Willie sang, we need to get back to the basics of love! We can do this each and every day focusing on the following basic priorities: Belief in Jesus Christ as our Lord, God and Savior with His Father and the Holy Spirit; Daily prayer- morning, noon, or night; develop a rule that works for you, pray without ceasing; Weekly worship- Vespers and Divine Liturgy; Love of Neighbor- Everyone is your Neighbor, Almsgiving- sacrificial giving to the needy; Fasting- weekly- Wed and Fri and Sunday before communion and our seasonal fasts; Sacramental- Regular Participation in Confession, Holy Communion and Holy Unction; Reading Scripture- daily, lectionary, study and memorization; Education- study the lives of the saints, bible study, pilgrimages and seminars; Support the Mission of the Church- stewardship of time, talents and treasure; Ethical/Moral- Practice & Purity- transforming our thoughts, words and actions.

 

I pray that our relationship with our Creator grows stronger as we age each and every day and the love in us can be perfected in His light! Glory to Thee!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 11-10-13; 12-2-18

LOTTERY LOSER

In our news we hear stories of the Mega-Million lottery winners and we get carried away dreaming of all the things we would do if we picked the right numbers. But we easily forget the millions of folks that spent their three dollars and lose week after week. Now for the most part, folks could afford to lose three dollars but some people have become addicted to the possible thrill of winning. Take a chance and it will forever change their lives, just one quick moment and a shortcut to financial security and a brief feeling of happiness. Winning the lottery, one can afford everything the world can offer and still be a big loser!

 

The doctor in the Gospel reading today may be asking for a shortcut as well as he asks a direct question and is hoping for a quick remedy for salvation, the treasure of everlasting life. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”(Luke 10:25) And the answer Jesus gives him is a life-long struggle against our selfish lottery. We easily spend our eternal wealth on things of this world instead of investing wisely in our everlasting life. After all, don’t we have plenty of time to cozy up to Christ when we get closer to our death? But since we know not when our time is near we are taking a chance on salvation.

 

Salvation cannot be bought with a three dollar ticket; no, salvation will cost you everything but yet you will live in abundance. God wants more than your tithe, your attendance or your time, He wants your heart! And once you surrender that vital life-sustaining organ He will transform you into a Good Samaritan, one who just like in the Gospel today, was not blinded or deafened by the evil one. He seized the opportunity to help someone in need. He loved more than himself or his family!

 

And we read this Gospel in St. Luke now, about forty days before the Holy Nativity. We read this Gospel now in hope of reminding us to open our hearts and let God reign. We read this Gospel now instructing us that Christmas is not about how much money we can spend but it is about how much can we love? If the world was filled with love there would be no demand for a Mega-Million lottery!

 

The Fathers of the church see the Good Samaritan as an image of Christ. His actions originated purely from love. And just like the Samaritan, He was hated and rejected. He was beaten and hung on the cross in humiliation and yet He gave us all a place to rest and to heal, His inn, the church. He has paid for all of your needs and will stand here beside you, nursing your wounds and your brokenness. If you had not been wounded and broken by the world, would you still need Him? Will you surrender your life of lottery and embrace His loving care?

 

I pray that during this Advent as we approach the Holy Nativity of Christ you will find time to surrender everything that you are for everything that He is, and you will indeed be a Mega-Million winner. Glory to Thee!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 11-25-18

FOLLOW THE BREADCRUMBS

I think I have always been attracted to things that glitter and are brand-spanking new. These were things I did not have in my younger years since I grew up dirt-poor. We made do and fixed the unrepairable to last another day. From that foundation I gained a vantage point that those glimmering things seemed to mean stability, since the absence of wealth proved to be quite an eager struggle. I was determined that while I was young and healthy I needed to secure my retirement years by working hard and taking risks. After all, I had little to lose and the world to gain! I bet on the one thing I knew I could trust; me!

 

I didn’t really know we were poor until I begin to embrace my independence and wanted a car, insurance and money for upkeep. I viewed the car as a means to get on my feet and pounce on the world and all it had to offer. I liked to work hard so I was on my way to stability and freedom! Look out World, here I come!

 

No doubt, we are supposed to work hard and save for our future, but we cannot be selfishly hoarding and not helping the poor and hungry. And please don’t forget your tithe to the church. With everything, we first submit to God, our hearts, families, time, talent and wealth. Blessed Theophylact writes about the Gospel reading this morning: “The Lord, then, fashioned this story to teach those who show no mercy and give no alms what punishments await them, and to teach those who are suffering what good things they will enjoy on account of the sufferings they patiently endure in this life.” (Bl Theophylact, commentary on Luke 16:19-31)

 

In this Gospel reading the rich man thought he had it all but yet God refuses to call his name. God does not know him, or as St. Gregory of Rome says: “Now our Lord mentions the name of the poor, but not the name of the rich, because God knows and approves the humble, but not the proud.” The rich owned the world but failed to know the One who created it and therefore lost everything!

 

It is easy to find the world and lose yourself. It is so easy to get caught up in things that glimmer and miss the life-sustaining crumbs in life. Our Lord has given us a path to follow which offers us wealth not of this world but a richness that cannot be stolen or decay. We just need to follow the path the church has to offer: prayer, fasting, almsgiving, loving our neighbor, forgiveness, humility, tithing, suffering, repentance, attendance, and mercy.

 

As we age we come to realize as our health begins to fail that we must trust in the Creator and not the created. Follow the salvific bread crumbs He has placed for you on your path to salvation and in all things praise the Lord. And I pray that one day you and I will be carried away by the angels into the bosom of Abraham.

Fr. Gabriel Weller 11-4-2018

RIP

And He approached and touched the bier, and those bearing it stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to thee, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to talk. And He gave him to his mother. [Lk.7:14-15] The young man was lifeless, his very heart had stopped beating. His future plans were now in shambles, his mother was grieving for her considerable loss. And then into the darkness of death walked the brilliance of Eternity. And those members of the young man’s body that were dead were now restored to life.

 

In the future both the mother and son would repose in their mortality because this life that we now struggle with is only temporary. But there is another kind of death that we wrestle with that is even greater than mortality. If we spend our days and hours without Christ we will truly learn what it means to suffer. Venerable St. Bede wrote: “Whoever will not guard his senses, leaves open a way for death to enter!”

 

Our body will one day return to the earth but not be lost, and our soul will embrace judgment. Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believeth in Me, though he die, he shall live; “and everyone who liveth and believeth in Me, in no wise shall ever die. Believest thou this?” [Jn. 11:25,26]  The following ideas are recorded in the Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs on the Orthodox Faith: “We believe that the souls of the dead are in a state of blessedness or torment according to their deeds. After being separated from the body they immediately pass over either to joy or into sorrow and grief; however, they do not feel either complete blessedness or complete torment. For complete blessedness or complete torment each one receives after the general resurrection, when the soul is reunited with the body in which it lived in virtue or vice.” According to the Eastern Church the soul can exist in only one of two states after the particular judgment; it thus rejects the Roman Catholic teaching of purgatory as a third state. (The Epistle of the Eastern Patriarchs on the Orthodox Faith, paragraph 18)

 

Perhaps there is some deathly darkness in your life and you are needing the Great Healers touch. “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10) Be not afraid for God is working in our lives to save us from our own destruction. His grace is an invisible action in our lives with visible life-changing results. His grace is the love of your Father longing for you to come home. Let go of this world and its death and thirst for the next! Do not be troubled and hold on to Christ who is waiting for you to come home!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 10/20/13-18

YOU’RE STUPID!

In these polarized times in our country, it is often a common sight to see folks on opposite sides of topics show so little love and respect for each other. We all seem to surround ourselves with like-minded folks since in these days disagreement leads to hate and intolerance. Just look at my friend list on FACEBOOK and you will see a large majority of my “friends” share most of the common views I share. Social media is taking away an important aspect of communication which is reading someone’s body language and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and present. We are not taking time to love each other and lift each other up in prayer! True caring is taking some of our precious time and freely donating it to others, even those not on our “friends” list!

 

Written words are often misinterpreted, just look at the ever fracturing Protestant Church and the self-interpretation of scripture alone path it has taken. We constantly see things someone says or writes being recreated by someone else’s viewpoint or a group of folks that have lost their ability to love across lines of differences and just looking for a way to inflict division and hurt. After all we are right and everyone else is wrong!

 

We learn a lot from people with different stories and viewpoints. We can only learn from them if we openly communicate and not from behind the keyboards of our laptops or screaming at each other across the lines of protest! And when we get to the point of telling someone to go to hell that is exactly what we are giving them, instead of the love of Christ we have allowed our hearts to slam the doors of loving our neighbor closed like a prison door entrapping us to a sentence of judgment. Absence of God is pure Gehenna.

 

Many of the folks we strongly disagree with are also in their churches this morning, worshipping the same God. How do we defuse this political time bomb? It is a 4 letter word of action that we have forgotten how to practice. It is a 4 letter word that has offered all a way to salvation. It is a 4 letter word that is the exact opposite of the 4 letter word “hate” that we continually see in these times and at times even practice ourselves!

 

St. Paul tells the church in Rome: “Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another.” (Romans 12:10) And we hear these instructions from our Lord in the Gospel reading today: “But keep on loving your enemies and doing good, and lending, hoping to receive back nothing; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of the Highest; for He is kind to the unthankful and to the evil. [Lk. 6:35]

 

And for those folks who ardently deny the authority and existence of our God we need to remember that the seed for salvation has been planted in their hearts by the Creator and just maybe by our actions, we can show them an example of Christ that is supposed to be beaming from us like a morning sunrise breaking through a cry of darkness, and maybe they will see something they just cannot live without!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 10-14-18

YOU’RE A KEEPER!

I like fishing! In all the times I have been fishing there have always been rules and guidelines I needed to follow. The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries enforces rules and regulations concerning every aspect of fishing. This includes permits, seasons, limits and sizes for all types of fish. I have never been a great fish catcher but I do enjoy fishing. I love being out in nature and away from noise and the distractions of my smart-phone and the loud and noisy world.

 

In all the fishing adventures I have had, I don’t remember ever catching my limit but I do seem to be gifted in attracting really small fish, you know the ones you have to throw back. Some of these little guys have such small mouths I am really shocked they were even able to swallow the hook. And as I release them I usually give the small fish a few encouraging words like: come back when you’re a little bigger, or go tell your big brothers and sisters to come over for a bite! But even if the fish is too small, I really enjoyed the excitement of catching it.

 

In the Gospel reading today, the professional fisherman had an awful day fishing. The disciples had worked all night and had been unsuccessful. Not only did they not catch any keepers but they did not catch a thing! And then by the grace of our Lord and their obedience, although exhausted, they went right back to work and caught more fish than their nets could hold and just about sank their ships from all the weight of the fish they had caught.

 

I know as for me, when I am exhausted and have had a bad day at work or fed up with life in general, the last thing I want to do is be obedient to my Orthodox lifestyle. I prefer to selfishly set aside my salvific struggle and neglect church and prayer. I turn my back on my fishing net and leave my boat beached without any attempt to be productive in the waters of life. I disappear into the darkness of doubt and seek comfort from the world. Poor ole me!

 

After all, what benefit do I get from being obedient? St. Nikodemos tells us: “If a Christian obeys the commandments of the Lord more, grace acts with him more, while if he obeys them less, grace acts within him less. Just as a spark, when covered in the ashes of fire becomes increasingly manifest as one removes the ashes, and the more firewood you put the more the fire burns, so the grace that has been given to every Christian through Holy Baptism is hidden in the heart and covered up by the passions and sins, and the more a man acts in accordance with the commandments of Christ, the more he is cleansed of the passions and the more the fire of Divine grace lights in his heart, illumines and deifies him.” ~ St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain

 

We pray Thy will be done but you see it takes an effort on our parts. We have to be willing to cast our nets back into the stormy waters even when we are tired or we seem to be losing our battles in life! We have to be ready to work and our nets must be in good repair, ready and able to love our neighbors. We must shove our vessels out into the water trusting in the great commandments that hold our mighty ship afloat! And in the end when the Masters net is cast, we want to measure up and be a keeper! Glory To Thee!!!

And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. (Luke 5:10)

Fr. Gabriel Weller 10-7-2018

LABOR DAY

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers and was established in 1887 by President Grover Cleveland. Labor Day is an annual national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

 

There is another “Labor Day” we Christians celebrate and it happens more frequently! We, the laborers for our Lord are given one day week as a day of rest. The commandment given to Moses says “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.”

 

The Sabbath day is an important day. The One, who formed us from the clay and breathed His breath of life into us, clearly knows what is beneficial for our health. This day needs to be a day of rest and a day that is holy or set apart for God. “Come to Me, all ye who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. [Mt. 11:28]

 

In the ancient Jewish and Orthodox liturgical times, the next day begins at sundown. For the Jews the day of rest is Saturday. For us Orthodox people the day of rest begins after Great Vespers Saturday evening and completes Sunday evening after the reception of the Lord’s Supper. It is a celebration of the resurrection of Christ. In Genesis we read: “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”

 

Without keeping this day holy you will eventually need me to come visit you in the hospital when you are overcome with worldly stress and are falling apart or you will build a wall separating yourself from God, placing many obstacles in the way of your salvation and keeping you from your church attendance. We must return to God weekly with penitence and humility and to be renewed by the blood of Christ! If we think we do not need this day of rest then we are placing ourselves above God! “But if thou art willing to enter into life, keep the commandments.” [Mt. 19:17]

 

“For we are God’s co-laborers; ye are God’s cultivation, ye are God’s building.” [1 Cor. 3:9] May you have a blessed labor day this weekend and a blessed restful Sabbath day each and every following week!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 9-2-18

Autumn Olive (thorn in my flesh)

Up on the mountain we have a thorny bush that grows faster than church gossip. It is the kind of plant that spreads quickly and chokes out all the good vegetation in its path. Their leafy branch shadows the ground and suppresses growth from everything else. Its thorny undergrowth inflicts wounds on those that oppose its path or try to uproot its branches. This wicked bush or weed has many names; Autumn Olive, Japanese Silverberry, and Spreading Oleaster are just a few, and it is akin to the Russian Olive as well. It is even considered to be a noxious plant by the USDA. And every time I try removing one of these wild unwanted plants, besides the thorns digging into my flesh I usually find a blood-sucking tick hanging on to my skin as well!

 

It seems as though this unwanted plant flourishes and the beautiful lush plantings we have made seem to struggle. And then there are the deer that leave the wild olive alone while they buffet-line the flowers and bushes we have planted. Needless to say, it is with great effort and sacrifice that we will hopefully conquer our landscaping up on the mountain and yet the thorny olive will continue to reestablish itself every chance it gets!

 

It takes a tremendous effort to be a good gardener or landscaper. With the battle we wage against rocks, tree roots and that ornery Autumn Olive we find ourselves downtrodden at times! And on our journey to salvation, it also requires a tremendous effort and at times we feel a bit whipped as well. You and I are the workers here in the vineyard of our Lord. We are to remove thorny, noxious weeds of hatred, selfishness and self-righteousness from choking the fruitful life out of His vineyard. The vineyard requires a lot of loving care from willing workers to produce salvific fruit!

 

We all connected in love by the Cornerstone of the vineyard which is Christ, and every Sunday we here the clear-cut method we have been given to care for His precious harvest: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain 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 those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” (Mt 5.2–12; cf. Lk 6.20–26)

 

And each and every day we repeat that process against all obstacles, weather, varmints or thorny bushes! St. Anatoly of Optina writes: “Wherever God is — there is peace. And the opposite is self-evident: where there is envy, hostility, impatience, self-love — there is the devil. Wherever the devil is — there, everything is ruinous, proud and hostile.” + St. Anatoly of Optina, quoted from Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina. Loving each other through action and remembering: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that everyone who believeth in Him should not perish, but may have everlasting life.” [Jn. 3:16] May our work in His vineyard be fruitful and blessed!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 8-26-2018

IF ONLY

If Only, I had all the health and material things a man could want, would I make time to know a merciful God or would I place all my hope for eternity on things that rot? If only I could win the lottery and assure my family a comfortable mostly effortless life as well as taking care of as many hurting people as my surplus would allow, would I be at peace, would I come to know true joy? If only we could eliminate all physical and mental suffering, would we still have a need to seek the great Physician to heal our soul or would we allow the evil serpent to separate us once again?

 

And if only everyone was cured, would we completely deny sin from bringing back all forms of illness and suffering to mankind, would we? If only I could hear the voice of God or place my fingers in His pierced side, maybe then I would work harder, sin less and trust Him more! If only I was as loveable to everyone as my dog thinks I am could I bring more people

 to Christ? If Only I would stop dreaming my life away and buckle down on the here and now, after all we all are always one second closer to our Earthly death! How can I change the “If Only” into graciously accepting the gifts I have and long for changing the illness I continue to feed my soul? After all, He has given me more than I need!

Today we bless the transfigured fruit that grew from the vine with the nutrients from the Creator. The fruit lay in the sun and ripened to perfection, just as we “If Only’s” are supposed to change by being nurtured in the traditions and scriptures of the Creator and perfectly ripened by bathing in His Son. On the Feast of Transfiguration we do not bless the rotten or diseased fruits culled by the farmer and left to decay back in the orchard. We Christians are to cull our disease of sin and restore our soul back to health before our earthly harvest time nears. St. Anthony the Great wrote: “If we make every effort to avoid death of the body, still more should it be our endeavor to avoid death of the soul. There is no obstacle for a man who wants to be saved other than negligence and laziness of soul.” + St. Anthony the Great, “On the Character of Men and on the Virtuous Life: One Hundred and Seventy Texts,” Text 45, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 1)

 

Back on the farm, Granddad Rufus would always say you had to make hay when the sun was shining, and for us Christians, the Son is always shining!! No excuses, no more “If Only’s” just get busy! St. John of Kronstadt said: “Do not help the Devil to spread his kingdom. Hallow the name of your Heavenly Father by your actions; help Him to spread His Kingdom on earth, for we are laborers together with God.”’ (St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ) Glory to Thee!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 8-19-18

“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