STRIKE

At the local bowling alley down the street, you are supposed to roll a heavy ball down the lane and knock down all the pins. If you knock all the pins down with one try, they call it a strike and you get a high perfect score which is recorded as an “X” on your scorecard.

 

My wife and I don’t bowl very often at all maybe because my wife is a better bowler than me or maybe it is the funny looking shoes that they rent to everybody that comes in, unless of course you own your own special funny looking shoes. But in the past when we have bowled, occasionally I will roll a strike but usually I am excited to just see the ball connect with a couple of pins and to hear that sound of success and see pins go flying away.

 

In order to help control the ball, they drilled finger holes in the ball. And some of the bowlers put a special spin on the ball and even as the ball approaches the pins it may be way of course and then all of a sudden correct its course and hit the sweet spot on the frame of pins. But as for me, I usually send a couple of these heavy bowling balls into the gutter and once or twice I accidentally hurl the heavy rock onto the lane next to ours which helps me with my humility as I beg their forgiveness for my poor performance and lack of practice.

 

For beginners the bowling alley can install bumper pads on each side of the lane preventing the ball from diving into the gutter and almost assuring that your ball is going to knock down some pins! It is the bowling alleys way of helping young and poor bowlers to have a better chance at a perfect score or at least improving their game. After all, a great bowler practices a lot! What does all that have to do with our walk with Christ?

 

On our lane to salvation, we all struggle staying on course and knocking down all the pins! We sometimes do a half-way job leaving pins standing by allowing self-love to blur our vision on the lane to salvation, controlling the heavy ball ourselves without His help. His mercy is similar to the bumper pads laying in the gutter at the bowling alley. His mercy is both the gift of grace and the forgiveness of sins which help us stay on course. Our repentance lifts us out of the gutter and His grace helps us stay on the correct lane sending us down the alley that leads us to the bosom of Abraham or the sweet spot on this frame we know as life. Just as at the bowling alley a perfect score for us is also illustrated with an “X”, coming from the Greek letter Chi abbreviating the all holy name, Christós (Χριστός) or Christ.

 

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first. But for this cause I was shown mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to those who are about to believe on Him to life everlasting.” [1 Tim. 1:15-16] Practice makes perfect so don’t be ashamed of failing or letting people see your funny looking shoes that are carrying you on the correct path to salvation and to hear that sound of triumphant success, Welcome Home!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 2-3-2019

HAPPY LIGHT

I was told last week that for $39.95 I could purchase a “Happy Light.” I immediately went wireless to Amazon and ordered two! That seems like a reasonable amount of money to find true happiness! This year has been darker than most with more precipitation in our area than usual, breaking many monthly precipitation records. With the lack of ample sunlight, my serotonin level is low and my attitude seems to be wilting a bit. I plugged this source of happiness into the wall outlet and the light flooded my brain with 10,000 Lux UV blocked bright full spectrum white light therapy, which is recommended by professionals, whomever they are? But is it true happiness?

 

Light is such an important necessity in our lives. Can you imagine living a life without it? Light provides for our food source through its energy and helps keep me from injury as I would be constantly bumping into things, stumbling and falling. Perhaps this bright happy light is helping my health and my mood but does it bring about true happiness?

 

From the Gospel this morning we heard: “the people who sit in darkness saw a great light; and to those who sit in the region and shadow of death, light rose up to them.” [Mt. 4:16] Our engagement with sin leads us into darkness and out of the Uncreated Light. “Happiness can only be achieved by looking inward and learning to enjoy whatever life has and this requires transforming greed into gratitude.” (St. John Chrysostom) So we need to become more like Him, more like the pure Light, which is true happiness!

 

There is hope for us in that Christ has come to wash away our darkness and decay in the pure waters of Theophany, “for the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which hath been lost.” [Lk. 19:10] Saint John says: “He who is the true Light has come into the world.” (Jn 3:19) And In our baptism, Christ clothes us in a garment of light to cover our nakedness, which had reduced us to the slavery of sin of our mortal flesh in a world overwhelmed in death and decay. St. Nikolai Velimirorich writes: “Repentance is the abandoning of all false paths that have been trodden by men’s feet, and men’s thoughts and desires, and a return to the new path: Christ’s path.”

 

Of course there is a cost for this pure joy found on Christ’s path and it is a lot more than $39.95; it will cost you your life, 100% of it! Dying daily to the Holy Waters of baptism, over and over again, or as Saint Paisius put it: “I wish you many years — but not for them to be too happy, because happiness in the world isn’t really so healthy. When a man is too happy in this world, he forgets God and forgets death.” Turn from choices that take you away from the One who created you through humility and repentance and daily increase your time basking with the SON who baptized you in the waters of Jordan!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 1/20/2019

OUR INNOCENTS

The Gospel writer today takes us back to a time of great sorrow, a time when greed and pride demanded the elimination of all male children under the age of two. It was a time when a king wanting to defend his throne from the plans made by the Almighty at any cost. The Gospel writer records it as this: “A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.” [Mt. 2:18]

 

It was a sad time then but King Herod is still alive today in our communities, in our Congress and even in the hearts of some of our judges. We see this great travesty in the destruction of our Holy Innocents in the name of convenience and science. These folks claiming to be God inform us when life begins. Our True God reminds the great profit Jeremiah: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee”. Don’t let your free-will shackle you with the scoundrel King Herod. We do not make babies, He does! “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1:27)

 

The Psalmist wrote: “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. “(Psalm 139:13-16)

Perhaps the person with the ability to find the cure for cancer has been delimbed by our legal butchers in the abortion clinics. Perhaps the one to find a way to feed the worlds hungry has been sucked out of the womb and discarded in a dumpster. Perhaps the one sent to bring about world peace has been ripped to pieces and sold for science experiments. “Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood. Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions. Therefore was the wrath of the LORD kindled against his people, insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance. (Psalm 105[106]35-40)

 

Trusting in God means to let Him work for good in all things. Maybe we have made bad choices and a pregnancy is impossible now in our eyes, but truly a child is a gift from God. In Him all things are possible and in our submission, He can help us find our salvation. We cannot continue to allow this Christian nation to turn to the evil one. In our humility, we can repent and change this direction. But if not, His wrath will be felt upon this nation for generations to come!

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 01-13-2019

4 am Feeding

I used to rise at 3:30 in the morning and head over to the farm while the sun was still sleeping behind the Blue Ridge Mountains. My first chore of the morning was to turn on the feed conveyors and start the silo unloader. We normally would add a wheel barrow full of a grain topper we had mixed by hand as the feed conveyor sent the corn silage from the silo out to the cattle troughs. Just the sound of the equipment running and the feed-room lights cutting through the darkness would wake the sleeping milk cows and set them on their feet and on the path to the gate below the barnyard. When the trough was full and the equipment turned off it was time to greet the girls and open the barnyard gate and let them into the pen just below the milk parlor.

 

Most of the cows were eager and always waiting and ready. There was always a little pushing and shoving as they hurriedly made their way into the milk line as the fragrance of corn silage stimulated their stomachs. And there were always a few I had to walk out to the pasture and drive to the barn usually with a cane; some of the milk cows had their own agenda and their own schedule. Once milked, it was time for them to eat and out of the parlor they went wasting no time as they found a place at the feed trough. The cows needed feed to sustain them and to be productive!

 

As for we humans, what is our routine? We go through the week and we all know the weekend is approaching. The Great Supper will be prepared and yet we tary to and fro playing around in the open fields of life. Will we chose to prepare ourselves on the path that leads to the Golden Gate and partake of the Great Supper, or continue to romp around with the devil in the open pastures?

 

Here in the church we hear the sounds of bells and the chanting of the Psalms that alert us that something great is coming. We smell the incense and see the preparations being made for our Lord’s Table. Won’t you come? There is nothing you have done that is greater than God’s forgiveness, you are all invited! For we all need the Bread of Life to sustain us and the Great Herdsman is looking for you, hoping you are willing and waiting at the gate.

 

Even the most stubborn of milk cows would eventually come into the barn and receive the necessary nourishment to sustain their existence. And we here our Lord in the Gospel reading this morning say: “Then the master of the house, having been provoked to anger, said to his slave, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and maimed and lame and blind.’ [Lk. 14:21] Saint Ambrose wrote: “He sends to the streets, because He sent them to sinners, that they should come from the broad paths to the narrow way which leads to life [Mt. 7:13, 14].’” [Ib., Bk. VII, § 203.] We all need the Body and Blood of Christ to sustain Us! What are you waiting for, the Lord is calling, come, won’t you come?

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12/30/2019

Count Your Many Blessings!

Here lately I misplace things. And even worse, sometimes I intentionally put something somewhere thinking I will certainly remember where I put it when I need it and then can’t remember where it lays awaiting! This time last year in the spirit of giving, I hid a present I had bought for my loving wife and I forgot where I put it and much worse than that, I forgot what it was that I hid! But I do remember hiding something and apparently really well! It certainly will be a surprise for the both of us one day!

 

Perhaps in these days, I am more distracted with life and its’ buffet of stuff always distracting me. I may go into the garage to get something and then get distracted by a thought or a phone call or the wife’s instructions and return to the house empty handed. It seems so hard to stay on point! It appears that there are so many things that need some of my attention and it is just too hard to juggle them all. I struggle to prioritize all of them wisely.

 

Perhaps my brain is not getting enough oxygen from my blood or my serotonin level is low due to the amount of toxins my body has absorbed over the years as a working man, or there is a lack of sunlight my desperate body needs causing my neurotransmitters to misfire. These things of course could be to blame for my lack of memory.

 

Perhaps I am just taking for granted all the things I am doing because they have become routine and somewhat boring and I have become careless? Groundhog Day, over and over again, but at least as we age our routines change as our body’s age and even the misplacing of things or the absence of memory is a new adventure daily, free of charge!

 

Is there is a difference between forgetting and forgetting to be thankful? Maybe if we suffer most of lives with such a nasty disease as leprosy we may be a bit confused as to why now and on this day we were finally healed? (Luke 17:12-18) What about last week or last year and what about all those lepers that were not cleansed of their disease?

 

As I read the testimony offered by Hieromonk Synesios this week I was reminded of a benefit of suffering, yes, a benefit. The testimony speaks about an eighty year old man in his last days experiencing excruciating pain as cancer is devouring his body. And as each pain crescendoed like a summer storm violently shaking the earth, he praised God. Time after time, day after day! A patient nearby witnessing his last days clearly stated: God ‘does exist, my child, and He is also a most loving Father, because with all this illness and pain, He cleanses me from my many sins. If you had worked on some rough task, and your clothes and your body stank, would you not need a rough brush to clean all this dirt? Likewise, God is using this disease as a balm, as a beneficial cleansing for my soul, in order to prepare it for the Kingdom of Heaven’. ( Life Events/Life and Death and tagged dying and after life story, terminal cancer story.)

 

The Son of God when in the flesh suffered as well but His suffering was for our salvific benefit. Do we remember to give God thanks for the many cleansings we receive? St Mark the Ascetic writes: “Consider the outcome of every involuntary affliction, and you will find it has been the destruction of sin.”(SL 67) So I ask: Have we forgotten that we are not of this Earth and belong with Him in an unspoiled state? With each trial that comes our way, remember to give thanks in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18) for God is working for our good and our eternity. (Romans 8:28)

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-23-18

You Scrooge!

What does it mean to love God? The rich man in the Gospel reading today thought he had it figured out. (Luke 18:8-27) He followed the law letter by letter but was a scrooge with his wealth. Well, many of us set boundaries with our Christianity that are a bit too safe and end up building an idol separating us from God. But there is nothing wrong with wealth, however there is something wrong about being stingy and there is something wrong with loving something or someone more than God.

 

Some years ago when I joined the work force in a full-time position, my older colleagues started to impress on me the need to start saving for my future. In our country we have a government program called social security which is supposed to be a federal insurance program to help care for the retirees. But even in my generation there has been doubt that it would not still exist when I reach my golden years. And even if when the time comes and if it has not been robbed of all the monies that have been deducted out of our paychecks, will it then be enough to meet all our financial needs as the cost of living continues to soar. When is enough, enough?

 

So where is this line between overfilling my storehouse (Luke 12:18) and investing my five talents (Matt 25:20-21) wisely? We are to be people of moderation with the exception of our love for God. St Issac the Syrian says: “He who is master of possessions, is the slave of passions. Do not estimate gold and silver only as possessions, but all things thou possess for the sake of the desire of thy will.” (“Six Treatise on the Behavior of Excellence,” IV, Mystic Treatises By Isaac Of Nineveh )

 

Be about your Father’s business all the time and as St. John Chrysostom writes: “Feeding the hungry is a greater work than raising the dead.” In addition, St. Luke instructs us to: “Be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:36) And for those of us who say they have barely enough as it is Saint Dorotheos writes no one can say: “I am poor and hence I have no means of giving alms.” For even if you cannot give as the rich gave their gifts into the temple treasury, give two farthings as the poor widow did, and from you God will consider it greater gift than the gifts of the rich. And if you do not have as much as two farthings, you can take pity on the sick and give alms by ministering to them. And if you cannot do even this, you can comfort your brother by your words. “A good word is better than the best of gifts.”

 

In this season of the St. Philip’s fast as we make our way to Bethlehem to prepare for the birth of our Savior, let us remember that we were all born without possessions. And although we had nothing, we had everything! We were born with the greatest possibility, the greatest treasure known to mankind. We were born with the wealth of love from our Father and the path to that wealth is the return to our unstained birth, free from the wounds life has brought us. And this return is by faith, trusting in the One who loves us and has been working for the good in our lives. Don’t be a sour-faced scrooge! Surrender, and let Him touch your brokenness. Surrender, and love your neighbor. “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts.” Surrender, “and with faith, draw nigh!(James 4”8)

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 12-16-2018

 

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