HELL-BENT

The Gospel writer today tells us about the woman that suffered eighteen years and not only suffered but was bent in two from her affliction. The psalmist foretold of this figuratively: “I have been wretched and utterly bowed down until the end [Ps. 37(38):8(6)]” and here in this Gospel we see it literally come to pass.

 

And yet the suffering woman although inflicted or as St. Cyril of Jerusalem remarks: “is said to have suffered this from the cruelty of the devil” continues to come to the Synagogue and worship God! She was said to be a regular churchgoer and on this day the Great Physician sees her and heals her. The One who loves cast out the great hater of mankind and the suffering woman was no longer hell-bent and “immediately she was set straight again, and was glorifying God. [Lk. 13:13]”

 

For those of us that are not folded over and do not have to stare at our feet all the time, whenever we choose to repeat our sins we too are utterly bowed down and hell-bent, choosing to be in fellowship with the evil one instead of the All-Mighty One. Saint Gregory the Great writes: “Our repeated sins bind our hearts, so that we cannot rise to an upright condition.” [Ib., 253, 254.] We then regain our posture when we come with heartfelt repentance to confession and receive absolution. And we are then healed from our infirmities when we touch the Masters Body warmly waiting for us on the communion spoon. The prophet Isaiah writes: “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.” [Isaiah 6:6-7]

 

The hell-bent woman could in no way lift herself up on her own, she needed help. We too need help to straighten our selfish immoral temptations that separate us from God. And here in the Orthodox tradition if we choose to practice the spiritual disciplines made available, we can become a more-perfect upright example of a God-seeker.

 

During this season of the Nativity of Christ I challenge you to leave your comfortable routine and increase your quest for salvation by spending just a little more time with God. After all, it tis the season! And the season is about “the Incarnation of the Word was manifested to destroy corruption and death, and the hatred of the devil against us. (St Cyril of Jerusalem) The season is about a loving Creator wanting you to be with Him. Some people have chosen to give their entire lives to Christ after all, what in the world is more authentic and important!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-9-2018

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

True Joy Is Found At The Cross

As the church calendar nears the celebration remembering the recovery of the most precious cross which once bore our Saviors body, we remind ourselves that the pagans were once again defeated in their effort to hide any memory of Christ. Even after burying the cross deep in the Earth the Roman Emperor Hadrian erected a Roman pagan temple to the goddess Venus and once finished, 300 years of pagan sacrifices were offered there.

 

The Empress St. Helen in 326 had the pagan temple destroyed as she bleached Jerusalem, the city of peace, of its pagan whores and the precious life-giving cross was recovered as well as the other two crosses of the thieves; that which brought life in abundance could no longer be hidden. St. Helen found a rare fragrant flower growing there which has been named “Vasiliko” or Basil which means “of the King”. Underneath this Basil the true Cross was found as well as the sign with inscription which read “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” and also the four nails which had once pierced our Lord’s body. To this day, we adorn the Holy Cross with fragrant Basil, a flower of royalty, reminding us of this event.

 

In her quest to find the site where our Lord was crucified she was unsuccessful but continued to search. St. Helen didn’t give up! And we are reminded in the Gospel reading about the Canaanite woman who would not give up either. Our Lord did not answer after her first plea but she did not give up. She continued to plea with more determination and refused to give up! Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is thy faith! Let it be to thee as thou wilt.” And her daughter was healed from that hour. [Mt. 15:28]

 

Determination and trust, don’t give up! For the Lord has given you a reason for joy. He has sacrificed His body, hung on a cross in great humiliation and incredible pain amongst the common crooks, so that you and I can one day experience great joy. And with great anticipation we long to hear our Good Sheppard say: “Welcome Home!” Don’t give up, hold on to Christ, He won’t let go! “For God did not send forth His Son into the world in order that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. [Jn. 3:17]

 

Whatever sins keep tempting you over and over again can be defeated at the foot of the Precious Cross. The One who sees and knows everything about you is here with you fighting for your salvation! You are not alone, you are loved! Not the kind of human love filled with insecurities and demands but a Divine Love that is perfect, an uninhibited love that defeats death by death, and a love so rich that it took the keys to Hades, shut and locked the door and freed its captives.

 

Joy has come to the world! “The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 

Glory to Thee Oh Lord, Glory to Thee!!!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 9/23/2018

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

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