Cracker Jacks

Back in the days before I could grow a beard, I use to enjoy a tasty snack cracker-jack-1oz-box-22known as Cracker Jacks. Now there are two reasons why I yearned for this succulent treat, there was a prize in every box and my taste buds were addicted to the sugary taste, and did I mention there was a prize in every box!

 
In every box I opened, the prize was always in the bottom of the box. The prize was never anything great but it still was a prize! I won!! So I had to ingest the 420 calories of sugary delight quickly or share with my sister or best friend to uncover the treasure buried in the bottom of the box. I always offered my accomplices the following disclaimer, “the prize is mine”!

 
Today as I continue on in life in pursuit of the American Dream, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” I sometimes find myself more attracted to the sugary instant rewards in life rather than the prize in the bottom of the box. After all, it takes so much work and patience to retrieve the great prize of life and I have so little time! Saint John Climacus said: “Let us seek to discover the things of heaven through the sweat of our efforts, rather than by mere talk, for at the hour of death it is deeds, not words that must be displayed.” The prize that I am digging for is a one way ticket to rest in the bosom of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. At the end of our time in this life that prize is salvation.

 
The sugary distractions in life are not healthy for me and separate me from the work I must do to be more virtuous. And we all know that too much sugar leads to decay. “For, as St John Climacus said, God reveals Himself, not in response to our exertions, but in response to the humility and simplicity that come through faith, that is, through the contemplation of the Scriptures and of created beings.” (St. Peter of Damaskos, THE PHILOKALIA, Kindle Loc. 32216-20) And we read this in the letter to the churches in Philippi, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about those things “ (Phil 4.8).

 
My American dream has been fulfilled! The life I seek is not of this world! The liberty I seek I submit to God and the pursuit of happiness I find is in the joy that comes from loving and serving others. To God be the Glory, Amen!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 4-10-16

Paralyzed In Sin

I am paralyzed in sin! Things I should do, I don’t. Things I see no evilshouldn’t do, I do. Holy Father in Heaven, heal this corpse from within the darkened depths of my soul!

Today in the reading from Mark, we here the story of how the man who was paralyzed was seeking to be healed. This took some effort on his part. First, he believed that Christ could heal him. Second, he found four men, whom also believed that Jesus could remove the physical impediment from this man, and those same four men agreed to carry the paralyzed man up to the roof, pealed open the roof and lowered him in.

We all have impediments that need the touch of God. We have to understand that if we are trying to overcome these sins alone by our own efforts and with only our limited strength that we cannot and will not succeed. We have to recognize our inability to be holy and pure by just our own efforts and that we have to seek help. Just as the paralytic men found assistance, we also have helpers! We can seek aid from the four Gospel writers as a means to move closer to Christ and we can practice the church disciplines to lower ourselves in humility helping us remove layers of sin, as we try to become a servant of all, a God-Seeker. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. […] Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does Christ does not belong to Him. But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness.” (Romans 5:5, 8:10)

St. Gregory Palamas affirmed that man carries in himself two tendencies, one for good, the other for evil. However, the tendency for good can only be developed in man through acquiring the grace of God, the divine energy sent to us from God, accessible insofar as our hearts and minds are pure enough to receive that grace. But this grace which enlightens and brightens us can only come to us if we repent, if we accept the process of fasting and prayer, tears and self-sacrifice.

 
And in the book of Jeremiah where hear these instructions: “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”(Jer 29:13) St. Irenaeus of Lyons stated that God: “became what we are in order to make us what He is” or God remains what He is when we are united to Him, but we become what we are not, yet what we were created to be! Let us ask for grace to repent and confess; let us ask Him to forgive and heal us; and let us then take up the labor of living the life of Christ for all to see, to the glory of God, and for the salvation of our souls.

“Light of Orthodoxy, Teacher of the Church; its Confirmation! Ideal of monks and invincible champion of theologians. Wonder-working GREGORY, glory of Thessalonica and preacher of grace. Always intercede before the Lord that our souls may be saved.”

Fr. Gabriel Weller 3/27/16

SPLINTER

[Rom. 13:12] The night is far spent; the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

 
When you work with wood you enviably get splinters in your flesh. I have been working on our log home frequently and have come to know this all too well. I keep plenty of Band-Aids and electrical splintertape in my truck for administering first aid.

 
In order for me to remove the splinter I need plenty of light and a knife or pair of tweezers to aid me in digging the splinter out of my flesh. I also need plenty of light and I now, with my failing eyesight, need my reading glasses to magnify the injury!

 
If I can’t see the splinter, I can feel that there is something foreign under my flesh. Sometimes I realize this immediately depending upon the size and nature of the splinter. However, sometimes I am unaware that I have acquired a splinter until an infection sets in and my skin turns red and it becomes tender to the touch.

 

I also suffer the effects from another type of splinter, but this one lodges in my heart and adheres to my soul. These splinters are foreign objects and should not be found in my temple of God, but I have even grown accustomed to their existence and chose to continue on in life ignoring the soreness and the infections they have caused.

 
These splinters are sin and they hide in the darkness of my self-justifying intellect. I like to feel good about myself and my actions and therefore ignore their existence! I allow the sinful splinters to separate me from the loving embrace of my creator which is the beginning of a life-threatening infection. Their existence distracts me from the light of Christ and I cling to the darkness seeking a place to hide them.

 
Saint John Chrysostom says: “As a wound, so long as it is embedded and concealed, running beneath the surface, it enjoys not a bit of attention, so also sin, as long as it is hidden, being as it were in darkness, is daringly committed with full license. But as soon as it is made manifest, it becomes light; not indeed the sin itself—for how could that be?—but the sinner. For when he has been brought out to light, when he has been admonished, when he has repented, when he has obtained pardon, hast thou not cleared away all his healed darkness? Hast thou not then his wound? Hast thou not called forth his unfruitfulness into fruit? For no one hides a blameless (irreproachable) life; whereas things which are hidden are hidden by darkness covering them.” [Hom. 18, P.G. 62:127 (col. 122); cf. Bl. Theophylact, P.G. 124:408 CD (col. 1108).]

 
When I realize I have caused someone pain, I need to examine my flesh for the splinter. Seeking Christ’s-aid by self-examination and exposing the splinters to the Light by study, confession, prayer and fasting, and then applying a heaping amount of the antibiotic of heartfelt forgiveness frequently.

 

Fr. Gabriel Weller 3/13/16

“X” MARKS THE SPOT

old treasure map

As a young lad, I had quite the imagination. Being influenced by stories about “Huckleberry Fin”, “Peter Pan” and “Treasure Island”, you might find me looking for treasure maps and digging holes in the back yard. Although, I think our dog was usually blamed for the holes in my empty searches. But I could easily imagine how my life could be so much greater if I could only uncover the hidden treasure buried somewhere beneath the earth in my numerous searches. And I still today occasionally ponder about all the gold and jewels that were hidden by the pirates and has that plunder been accounted for? I have a shovel; does anybody have a treasure map?

Today I want to speak about a different kind of fortune. It is a treasure from God. It is the story about how our Creator loves us so much, that he sent his Son to show us how we should love by his actions, and then showed us how much our Father loves us by his Son’s death! It is so hard to comprehend that kind of love when our love for each other is so corrupted by vainglory, anger and pride.

Since the fall of Adam, mankind has perfected deception, self-love, sexual perversion in many shades of grey, and hate for all God’s creation. How can a vessel that was created by the very hand of God become so worthless? It is simply by our choice, for it is much easier to be carried down-stream by the flooding rivers of this fallen world than to cling to the olive branch of hope and fight the mighty currents of our perverted humanity.    

We must cling to the mighty words of wisdom found in the arsenal of Orthodoxy. When anger and resentment take root in us, we can look to our great Desert Father, Abba Dorotheus, who says that we can be healed of the sickness of resentment “by prayer right from the heart for the one who has annoyed us. We can pray such words as, ‘O God, help my brother, and me through his prayers.’ In this,” says Abba Dorotheus, “we are interceding for our brother, which is a sure sign of sympathy and love, and we are humiliating ourselves by asking help through our brother’s prayers. [7]”

We alone can only make these changes by seeking assistance from above. And we can find help in these times of fasting as we voluntarily make small sacrifices and spend more time seeking God. By removing ourselves a little bit more from the world, we can spend more time in reflection and prayer, asking forgiveness for the many short-comings we have and “bearing with one another, and graciously forgiving one another,” (Eph 4:32) just as Jesus bore our sins on the wood of the Holy Cross.

St. John of Kronstadt wrote:“Glory, O Lord, to the power of Thy Cross, which never fails! When the enemy oppresses me with a sinful thought or feeling, and I, lacking freedom in my heart, make the sign of the Cross several times with faith, suddenly my sin falls away from me, the compulsion vanishes, and I find myself free… For the faithful, the Cross is a mighty power which delivers from all evils.

Here, on the Cross of Christ lays your life preserver. When the muddy waters of life are consuming you, reach for the Cross. The Cross bears our life-blood. All our passions can be cleansed away at the Precious and Life-Giving Cross. Saint Irenæos wrote: “He destroyed the handwriting of our debt and fastened it to the Cross, so that as by means of a tree we were made debtors to God, so also by means of a tree we may obtain the remission of our debt.”

Fellow treasure hunters, my youthful exploration for hidden treasure has finally come to fruition.  I have followed all the clues and finally found my riches! The precious fortune that I have discovered will not perish and will not waiver in the plunging markets of life. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that everyone who believeth in Him should not perish, but may have everlasting life. [Jn. 3:16]  I have found my treasure, and the “X” of the Cross marks the spot! Glory to Thee; Oh Lord, Glory to Thee!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 3-15-15