S-P-A-N-D-E-X

I have heard over the years that when it is nearing time for a wedding, folks fast and try to lose some weight. This is a routine we all do so we will fit our fatter-selves into our wedding garments, less carbs, more fruit, more exercise! Even scientist have developed a fabric to help us with this problem called Lycra or Spandex. We find this fabric woven in to a lot of our clothing these days to allow for weight fluctuation or fat redistribution!

In the parable this morning, the king was angry first in that the chosen people did not come. This wedding was not a priority for them; they obviously were not truly his friends. The king then invited more people, anybody! Folks did come but one man came wearing his filthy Wal-Mart spandex shopping attire instead of a festive wedding garment, he probably had not even bathed! He did not make an effort to prepare himself for this wedding and banquet. The king cast this man out into the outer darkness. [Mt. 22:13] Saint Gregory the Great comments: “It is correctly said that this man is to be cast forth into the darkness, the outer one. We call blindness of heart inner darkness, and the everlasting night of condemnation outer darkness. The condemned are cast into outer, not inner, darkness, because one who fell willingly into blindness of heart in this life will be cast forth unwillingly into the night of condemnation in the next.” [Ib., 350, 351.]

We heard: “The kingdom of the heavens hath been likened to a man, a king, who made wedding festivities for his son. [Mt. 22:2] A great banquet has been prepared for you today by your great King, have you prepared? We hear from Saint Chrysostom: “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. For the meaning of filthy garments is this: to depart hence having an unclean life.” [Ib., P.G. 58:681, 682 (cols. 650, 651).]

Many folks today tell me they are Orthodox but they do not come to the wedding banquet, they always have more important plans! Maybe these folks are more of a friend of the world than they are a true friend of our beckoning King? And when you are consumed with the world you are deathly bloated and in need of Spandex! Where is there any room left for God?  Shower off your earthly dirt in confession and repentance, prepare your heart by reading the pre-communion prayers, prepare your soul by fasting, and cloth yourself in a garment fitting for a great banquet with our King, and most of all, come! You have been invited and He is expecting you to be here!


Fr. Gabriel Weller 9-22-2019

SECURITY BREACH

I have always been fascinated with technology. I enjoy that ever-changing part of my job in the electronic security business. Electronic security has many levels and normally the more money you spend, the higher amount of security you have. Higher levels of security are necessary if you are protecting something of great value or you are in an area with a lot of crime. I can remember a time when even at our home when we didn’t lock the door but now we even plant thorny bushes around accessible windows and bolt lock the doors, arm our professionally installed electronic security system and wave good-bye to my surveillance cameras as I leave the house!

The man in the parable this morning wanted to protect his vineyard. It is a vineyard of great value and lacking nothing. (Matt 21:33-42) He planted a hedge around it to keep the wild animals from destroying his vines and I can picture the wall of greenery and thorns in my mind. We don’t know what type of a hedge our Lord is referring too but Blessed Theophylact abstractly describes this great wall as the Law given to Moses. Saint Ambrose then writes: “Isaiah clearly stated that the vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel [Is. 5:7]. Who else but God founded this vineyard?” [Ib., Bk. IX, § 23.]

God has also given us a vineyard to labor in, lacking nothing! We gentiles have been grafted onto His life-saving vine. It is truly a treasure beyond measure. St. Paul writes: “For I speak to you Gentiles…if the root is holy, so are the branches.  And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.” (Romans 11:13,16-18)

We wild gentile branches need plenty of water, pruning, protection from the cold and wild animals, fertilizing and many willing workers. The church is His vineyard and we have been given everything necessary for an enormous harvest. As King David says: ‘Perfect for Thyself this vine which Thy right hand did plant’ [Ps. 79(80):15, 16(14, 15)]. We do not want to be wicked vine-keepers neglecting this most precious gift. We want to nurture ourselves and protect that which is holy through transforming our freedom in the world to a freedom from death and decay.  

A security breach happens when we fail to protect His vineyard and some of our plants die to the frost of coldness of heart, lacking to love each other as Christ loves us! Some vines are ripped from the fertile soil by wild beasts of worldly seduction and self-satisfaction. Some of His fruit are baked in the heat, thirsting for His nourishing Word but yet our Bibles remained closed, gathering dust and we then make excuses not to come to church. We neglect to stomp out all of our passions that act like wretched insects devouring our greenery. It is a necessary process to perfect His vine so that it will yield a heavy crop, protecting it with a divine rampart of protection. There of course is a great expense for this high level of protection, you have to surrender your life and all that you are. You then have to enlist in His army of prayer warriors and be diligent with the time you have left seeking first the Kingdom of heaven! And remember, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” (Matt 7:19-20)

Fr. Gabriel Weller 9-15-2019

BLUE RIBBON

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 9-7-2019

MUSTARD SEED

Faith, where is it when you need it? Or maybe, we do not use faith enough and have forgotten where we left it lay. It seems when the title waves of life crash ashore, I look for anything to cling onto and I often find faith when I realize just how powerless I am in the midst of a fierce storm. Where do you find your faith?  Saint Bede: “Blessed St. Jude advises us to build ourselves up on the foundation of our holy faith, so to join ourselves as living stones to the house of God which is the Church.” [Jude 20.] [Commentary on Jude, 251.] 

A Belorussian Monk once said: “You Americans, you talk about miracles like you don’t believe in God!” We seem to want an instant way out of the trap we are caught in without daily practicing fasting and prayer without daily seeking God! Saint Bede the Venerable writes: “In the love of God we need to have true faith and the purity of good actions, for without faith it is impossible to please God, and faith without works is dead [Jas. 2:26].”

Faith springs from our soul if we are in a healthy relationship with God. The first commandment is first and foremost “I am the Lord thy God…. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”  Pray, fast, worship, commune and seek God, putting God first in all things. Faith comes from that steady communication with our Creator and God and energizes our faith through prayer and obedience. All of our paths in life, seeing, thinking, believing, choosing and our actions, are distorted when we break that chain of communication. James 2:24:Ye see then that by works a man is justified and not by faith only”. Blessed Theophylact defines that scripture as: “When he says, ‘by works,’ he does not mean by the law, such as circumcision and such things, but works of virtue, righteousness, and the like.” [P.G. 125:335A (col. 1161).]

Our warmth and love toward God become clearer and stronger as we pray and worship together. Our faith becomes a living faith, a spiritual force that breaks through the normal disciplines of religious life when we act as a servant in His name, for His glory. With God providing the guidance and power for us, His creation, the possibilities are immense as long as we continue to be prayerful and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit which feed and nourish our dry thirsting mustard seed. God gives us living faith, miracle faith, “mountain moving” faith! The kind of faith that provides us with clarity to see the mountain in us that needs to be moved. The mountain preventing us from surrendering all that we are for all that He is!

We just need a mustard seed of faith and with our practice and His grace we can overcome death. Listen to the words of our Savior: “Because of your unbelief. For verily I say to you, if ye have faith as a grain of mustard, ye shall say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you.”  [Mt. 17:20] And even human life begins with a tiny seed, even much smaller than the size of a mustard seed and do you see the enormous possibilities that tiny seed creates. Do you see what gigantic possibilities you have with the tiny seed He planted in you? Our Lord and Savior began His life’s ministry as a tiny seed and look and see what He did with His opportunity, and His death gave abundant life and spread more seeds of God’s love and salvation to all the world. (John 12:24)

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia expressed his conviction earlier this week that believers shouldn’t cease to be Orthodox when they go to work and when they return to their families. And especially when they find themselves in conflict situations that test their loyalty to the Lord. He says if believers stay Orthodox in these situations their lives will change for the better.

“And this is possible only if we live a genuine religious life. If we, having got a feel for the ascent to Mount Tabor during the service and step down into this world, continue to bear in our minds and hearts the memory of these wonderful moments of presence in the church, communion of the Holy Mysteries of Christ and contact with the grace of God, then our faith will be actualized, and become living and effective. And we will gain the ability to solve our life problems – both large and small— family, social, state, all that is important for a person. If we solve these problems on the basis of our Christian calling, relying on our faith, strengthened by the power of the grace of God, then our world will change. We ourselves will change, and by our faith, we will undoubtedly have the hope of realizing a genuine and real meeting with the Lord and the Savior in that transfigured world, which everyone will enter at the end of their earthly life.” (Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in the sermon for the holiday of the Transfiguration of the Savior on August 19, 2019)

 

 

 

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 8-25-2019

County Fair

This past Monday afternoon Matushka made plans to gather up the grandchildren and head to the county fair. There was a gentle breeze blowing and it was dollar night for all the amusement rides or so they are called, and we figured after the boys were shaken and jerked this way and that, we would only be in for a limited number of rides. Much to our surprise the grandsons enjoyed having their brains jostled and their stomachs twisted and we finally had to make a decision after two hours to close the dollar-bank.

Maybe it is my age or knowledge I have gained over the years that seems not to excite me when it comes to shaking my organs out of sorts, up and down and all around! In my latter years if I was on a ride, I would long for the amusement ride to be nearing its end, slowing down and the brief time of excitement to be over. I don’t enjoy being at the mercy of a crazy machine or even natures violent winds and waters. These days, I tend to prefer a much calmer flow in life, although they did get Matushka on a ride or two at least until she got a little dizzy!

In the Gospel reading today from St. Matthew I can imagine the disciples being tossed around in the ship in the midst of the mighty and contrary winds. They had no control! And after the forth watch, between 3 and 6 in the early morning, came the Creator to stabilize the ship and the amused disciples!  [Mt. 14:25]

In the storms in life we all go through we often ask why and for how long. We feel a quite bit out of control and at the mercy of the contrary winds. Blessed Theophylact has an answer about this waiting. He says that we should “not ask for a swift resolution to our misfortunes but to endure them bravely.” (The Explanation by Blessed Theophylact of the Holy Gospel According to St. Matthew, Chrysostom Press, 2000) Okay, well that is easier said than done! In Matthew we read: But when he saw the strong wind, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me.” And straightway Jesus stretched forth His hand and laid hold of him, and said to him, “O thou of little faith! Why didst thou doubt?” [Mt. 14:30-31]

Saint Kyril of Alexandria writes: “The Church is frequently assailed by violent storms, and countless trials agitate her, and the cruelty of unclean spirits rages against her, and fill her with the fear of death. But Christ is among them, and while in His wisdom He permits that they suffer persecution, He seems to sleep. But when the storm is at its fiercest, and those in the ark can endure no more, then ought we to cry out, ‘Rise up, why sleepest Thou, O Lord [Ps. 43(44):23]?’ Without delay He will awaken and take away all thy fear.” [Commentary on Matthew, in Toal, I:326, 327.] Just as in the Gospel reading this morning, there it is! When Christ came into the ship, the wind ceased. [Mt. 14:31-32]

Don’t willingly get on those dollar rides of life for amusement whirled about in the abyss of sin, board the mighty ship with Christ and trust your existence to the tamer of the storms. 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)

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 8-18-2019

 

 

TAGGED

Many years ago I attended a weekend men’s retreat back when I was a protestant. I was encouraged to attend by my pastor Don Skinner. He knew I was struggling and life had been beating up on me. I was reluctant but thirsty for our Lord because something in life needed to change, so I went. I was a very inward man, hiding behind my pain. I kept my guard up to protect my heart and had felt a huge distrust for folks. Everyone seemed to have a selfish agenda, is that love?

Father John Moses was serving as a Methodist pastor at a local church in Mt. Crawford and was the spiritual director for that weekend retreat. It was then that I met him. He was an open book and jokester and I soon lowered my guard just enough for him to give me glimpse of what I was thirsting for. Fr. John had a taste of Orthodoxy when he was studying Methodism in England and baptized into ROCOR soon after this weekend men’s retreat.

Many years later being dissatisfied with Protestantism I too became Orthodox and I traveled a good bit with him on mission trips and spiritual retreats. Fr. John would be napping, telling jokes or on the phone with someone seeking his help as I navigated him on his missions. As we traveled up and down the bland highways of asphalt, concrete and steel the roads were dull and dreary. Every now and then as we traveled under a bridge we would notice someone had tagged or spray painted something onto all that dullness. It may say “Class of 1980” or “Bigfoot Lives” or maybe even tagged by a gang member”PG-13” or whatever they identify as. Now rest assured I am not encouraging defacing public property in anyway but I am drawing attention to the bright colorful paint that pierced through all that blandness.

Back at that weekend retreat while binding my wounds and trying to blend into the wall, I met Fr. John. He joked with me and showed me warmth. And when I lowered my guard just a wee-little bit, he tagged me like bright spray paint on a dull concrete wall. And the words he wrote were: “I LOVE YOU”. He didn’t say it from his mouth; it came noetically from his soul, I sensed it, it seemed foreign. I immediately challenged it because what I had experienced of love thus far as a man caused concern for the safety of my heart and I also certainly didn’t deserve God’s love either. But you see the LOVE he was sharing with me was a perfect kind of LOVE that can come only from God. We humans are broken and wounded and struggle to love as our Creator Loves. God’s LOVE is perfect and Fr. John has some to share.

Archpriest John wasn’t a perfect man, he struggled just like you and I. And as a child he was severely abused, as a young parent he struggled with his children’s illnesses, as a shepherd he loved deeply and selfishly struggled and wept as folks moved or left the church, and in these later days he struggled with his own infirmities hiding most of his struggles from all of us. But every day he prayed. He prayed for all of us, day after day. And he worked on his salvation day after day, amidst the storms of life!

As I look around this room and across the world of social media I can clearly see many other folks with Fr. John’s brilliant spray paint tagged on their hearts as well. And perhaps there are some folks still safely hiding behind darkness and afraid to trust. That darkness is a cancer that will rob you of your precious time here on this Earth. Fr. John didn’t know the exact time of his repose. He was walking into the kitchen with the TV remote in his hand and probably heading to the fridge to get a Diet Coke. But if you hear or read these words you still have time! Come to the Lord in repentance and allow the Great Physician to cut that deathly painful cancer away that is keeping you from LOVING others as a true servant and that darkness that is separating you from the warm chalice that contains the most precious healing body and blood of our Risen Lord, the Great Physician.   

Our church is a hospital full of broken and wounded people including me; I am still working on my own healing. At Holy Myyrhbearers we lift each other up and practice serving one another. And here at our infirmary we have plenty of beds available. We have available beds in the emergency room, in the psych ward and plenty of vacancy in the maternity ward as well! I don’t know whatever it is that is keeping you away, I don’t know what ugly dreary roads you have been traveling down or whatever it is that you are ashamed of and hiding behind, or what raw cancer is eating away at your salvation. But I do know that if you hear or read these words, you still have some time. Don’t wait, come. Won’t you come! We will be praying and waiting! When you let go completely and surrender your life and all of your will to the one who formed you in His hands and breathed His breath of life into you, it is then that you too will experience true LOVE and be able to share it, just like Fr. John!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 7-28-2019

Plenty of Time

This past week Matushka and I were able to get out of town for a short bit and spend some time away from all of life’s troubles and distractions.  We were blessed to get to spend a day on the beach, my wife’s happy place. Friends had been telling me that we should take a break and get out of town, a time to get away from all the responsibilities we have shouldered, a time to take a breath and an opportunity to take time for our marriage, team Weller!

Time is such a precious thing for us. I think it is the most valuable choice our Creator has given us and we have total free reign how we choose to spend it. As we took some time to walk on the shoreline in the splendor of His creation, we noticed that the tide had washed up a large amount of shell fragments. There were all shapes, sizes and colors but all the shells were small pieces of what they once were. I guess they too had been caught in the essence of time, losing control and being tossed to and fro and spit out of the ocean and onto the shore. Time was up for them as they continue to fragment and now find themselves out of the water and baking in the hot sun.

As I reflect upon the readings this morning time comes to my mind again. I bet these two Gentiles that were fiercely possessed wish they had some of their lost time back. The demon possessed men in the Gospel of Saint Matthew had lost control and the demons were calling the shots and occupying their life. “What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Son of God? Art Thou come here to torment us before the time?” [Mt. 8:29] St. John Chrysostom enlightens us that the demons were speaking of the final judgment, they thought they had more time to torment these helpless men, it was way too soon for their confrontation with Christ! (The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 28.2) We don’t know how these two men came to be enslaved to the demons but by the teachings of the church that had obviously not taken time to know God and to make His priorities their preferences.

It seems that the further we get away from the church in our inattention and listlessness, the less aware we are of our vulnerabilities. St. Sebastian said it like this: “If you continue to drowse, you will imperceptibly (unnoticeably) fall under the influence of the evil spirits.” (St. Sebastian Dabovich) You see, our precious time has limits! St. Macarius the Great explains it this way: “When the soul of a man departs from the body, a certain great mystery is there enacted. If a person is under the guilt of sin, bands of demons and fallen angels approach along with the powers of darkness which capture the soul and drag it as a captive to their place. No one should be surprised by this fact. For if, while a man lived in this life, he was subject to them and was their obedient slave, how much more, when he leaves this world, is he captured and controlled by them?” (St. Macarius the Great, The Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily 22)

I know that some of us have been crushed and fragmented by the currents and crashing waves in life but I pray that before we too are out of time, we can come back to the Omnipotent Potter and surrender to Him all of our broken pieces that have washed up on the shoreline. “Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand,” Thus saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 18:6) For only He can restore life and free us from all of this bondage if we only surrender to Him our most precious time!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 7-21-2019

Are You A Believer?

Are you a believer?? I ask this question today as we remember the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. As we read about the lives of the Apostles we can easily see that these men were dedicated men. They were changed by the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus.

So I ask: Have we changed? How many of us have given up everything and fully embraced the mandate: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost?” (Matthew 28:19) Or how about: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him?”(Matthew 4:19-20)

When we chose to fail in our attendance, our fasting, our prayer life, and our love of His creation I have to wonder, are we really believers? If what our Savior has to offer is so much greater than the worldly money, priorities and distractions, where are we now and what pagan has a hold of us? We all make excuses for our lacking.

The Holy Apostles were committed fully! Some of the records account that Apostle Paul was beheaded, Peter was crucified upside down, Andrew was crucified, Thomas was spearedto death, Philip was cruelly put to death, Matthew was burned alive, Bartholomew was crucified and beheaded, James (son of Zebedee) was beheaded, Simon the Zealot was crucified, James (son of Alphaeus) was crucified, Matthias was stoned and beheaded, Jude was crucified, John was cast into boiling oil but managed to escape.  

And yet I here I am, a man full of excuses who says I am a believer but has not fully let go of the world. Maybe with prayer and the grace of God, I will one day fully embrace the offer that Christ has made each and every one of us and be a true follower of our Lord and not just a man full of excuses! Pray to God for us Holy Apostles!!!

 

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 7-12-2019

Independence Day

Independence Day for us American’s is a time of reflection, a time of celebration of our freedom and time to remember the cost of that freedom, some gave all! Today, most of us are given a day off from labor and we can easily find celebrations to attend usually ending with a grand display of fireworks. This tradition seems to have begun on July 4, 1777 where the festivities of the day were concluded with cannon fire and rockets launched into the darkness of the sky exploding into brilliant light.

Massachusetts delegate John Adams penned a letter to his wife, envisioning the festivities: “I am apt to believe that [Independence Day] will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival,” he wrote. “It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews (shows), Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

I hope everyone had a great and festive 4th of July! Our country has indeed fought great battles for our freedom and continues daily to keep a careful watch of our liberty. There is great another battle going on daily in our lives and it is a strategic conquest for our soul. Within our personal internal darkness there is also hope of independence. If we commit ourselves to “solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty” an explosion of light will illumine our path on the narrow, hard-fought road of salvation. We fight for freedom from the slavery of sin (John 8:31-36) and dependence on God alone. And there is quite a joyous celebration in heaven happening every time a sinner finds repentance and loosens his independent will and becomes more dependent and ever-trusting in God. (Luke 15:10)

St. Philaret of Moscow said: “True freedom is the active ability of a man who is not enslaved to sin, who is not pricked by a condemning conscience, to choose the better in the light of God’s truth, and to bring it into actuality with the help of the gracious power of God. This is the freedom of which neither heaven nor earth are restrict.” ( St. Philaret of Moscow, Sermon on the Birthday of Emperor Nicholas I, 1851)

We can win the liberating battles in life if we commit our lives to being an arsenal of prayer. Prayer displaces evil in our hearts. Abba Pimen was one who struggled for piety and purity of heart. He taught us: “As long as the pot is on the fire, no fly nor any other animal can get near it, but as soon as it is cold, these creatures get inside. So it is for the monk; as long as he lives in spiritual activities, the enemy cannot find a means of overthrowing him.” (Sayings of the Desert Fathers, p. 154)

Holy Apostle Mark recorded our Lord saying this: “In my name shall they cast out demons” (Mark 16:17) Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner! Recitation of this powerful prayer will stoke the fire that illumines the depth of darkness in our soul with a brilliant uncreated light. Fight the battles day by day and make every day a day of dependence on God and a day independent from the tyranny of sin and death.  

 

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 7-7-2019

FISHING, not CATCHING

It has regrettably been awhile since I have taken time to go fishing. It is not the cheapest hobby to have with the cost of licenses, tackle and bait, and then not to mention my precious time! But it is something I enjoy and find relaxing. And now that I am Orthodox, I have plenty of reasons to eat fish!

In the past I have fished the ponds, lakes and rivers around where we live and taken a trip or two out on the big pond out of Oregon Inlet where the fish and waves are bigger as well as the cost. I have had the opportunity to fish with a lot of different folks over the years and you gotta know, being outdoors is much better than staring at a flat screen or being at work!

Some of the expeditions I have been on we have been “skunked” or fishless! We had the tackle, bait and the time but we didn’t catch a thing. After all, that is why they call it fishing and not catching! Now we may have had a bite or two and maybe even cranked one into the shore but the slippery thing got off the hook and swam away or the fish was too small to keep. And so it is with fishing, but each cast brings a new adventure and new possibilities!

Jesus is calling all of us to be good WILLING fishers!  Not the fish in the waters but His fish in the streams of life where you frequent. Look down and where your feet are planted is in His stream; and that is where you should be fishing! Some folks struggle to remember scripture and therefore believe they can’t fish, they pull their feet up out of His stream and try to blend in with the dumb rocks or the dry shore, sort of a camouflage in life, wasting precious harvest time. But how wrong they are!

Some folks continue to reflect upon their own failures and think they shouldn’t be fishing at all. But humility is a great asset to a fisher of men. And the greatest bait we have been given to attract all of these schools of fish, is love. Help people, invite folks to church, and pray for everyone you meet! Most folks are slippery and clever and only one thing will keep them coming back into the net of salvation, and that one thing is love. We’ll do the fishing; He’ll do the catching! The sacraments will help do the cleaning with through the work of the Holy Spirit!

We heard in the Gospel this morning at the doorway of the Apostles fast: “And He saith to them, “Come after Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” [Mt. 4:19] We should not be disappointed when folks jump out of our boat or discouraged when we think the hook is set firmly and yet they somehow swim away wagging their tail as they spit out the hook. That’s why they call it fishing and not catching! After all, they are His fish and He alone can grant them salvation. If they chose to swallow the bait and swim safely into His net, the church, they are on their way to salvation and will through growth, become a keeper.

Looking around I notice that we have plenty of room here in His net for more fish! Take some time this week to help with the harvest and cast some bait into His stream wherever you are, and know that you are never fishing alone. Hs is with you and will help you attract fish, even the slippery ones!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 6-30-2019