Contagious as a Cold

This week as I begin fighting the early stages of a cold that someone shared with me, I reflected on thoughts about how contagious a cold actually is. If someone amongst a group of people is sick, usually someone else in the group is diagnosed with similar symptoms. It may take a day or a week or so, but rest assured, they too will be contagious. The sneezing, coughing and runneth of the nose are visible symptoms that are hard to hide. If my conditions worsen, I will ingest a multi-symptom remedy such as NyQuil and Tylenol Cold formulas to try to overcome this sickness. Hopefully, I will not be infecting you with my germs today!

Sneeze (1)

But there is another kind of sickness that I am battling as well. It is a sickness that always leads to death, it is called sin. If you remember the Gospel reading last Sunday from the Gospel of Luke, Christ has invited everyone into His house to share His Fathers’ love, but those invited made excuses for not attending. Saint Kyril writes: “ God the Father has prepared in Christ for the inhabitants of earth those gifts which are bestowed upon the world through Him, even the forgiveness of sins, the cleansing away of all defilement, the communion of the Holy Spirit, the glorious adoption as sons, and the kingdom of the heavens.” [Ib., 418, 419.] This request is an invitation for you to choose to live and overcome death. What in the world is more important??
Well, we all seem to at times be distracted by the needs of our world. My failure to accept the great invitation is usually surrounded by lack of preparation and laziness. After all, how high a priority is it in our stable of free-will, to even attend church on Saturday Evenings? I wish that I would place more of an emphasis on my salvation and be less distracted! And I wish that I would be a better example of a healthy Christian, oozing with LOVE. Maybe the chemists at NyQuil can develop a multi-symptom relief pill I could pop in my mouth in the morning and would reduce my symptoms of sin and I would seem to be well? But more likely, I would on occasion forget to take it or not go to the store and renew my prescription, and the bottle would be empty. Yes, I am afraid that my freewill at times, enslaves me to the chains of death and I take for granted the great invitation that Christ has given me.
Saint Gregory the Great writes: “Bodily pleasures, when we do not possess them, arouse in us a great desire for them; but as soon as we possess and devour them, our satisfaction turns to distaste. Spiritual pleasures seem distasteful when not possessed, but once we possess them, we desire them.” [Hom. 36, Forty Gospel Homilies, 313; P.L. 76 (col. 1266).]
And on top of all my struggles, we are also expected to invite people to the great banquet. If only my Christianity was healthy enough to be as contagious as the common cold, everyone that I encounter could be infected by it. Whether it is by my release of germs hurled by a sneeze and cough, the things I say; or by the evidence of my runny nose, the physical choices I make to be a Christian. Although many expect Christians to be perfect, but just as battling a cold is an ongoing process, so is our stumbling along the walk of faith in our pursuit of abundant life.
It is always easy to identify someone with a common cold, may it also be easy to recognize us as Christians. Fight the good fight! Accept the invitation that Christ has given you! And as we celebrate to the Nativity of Christ, we must remember that Christ was born so that we may live! Spread the virus of LOVE! Be contagious!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 1-4-15

POCO-BANDITO

frito-bandito.1On Saturday Mornings during the commercial break in between the Road-Runner and Bugs Bunny cartoons, there used to be this little guy trying to convince me to eat a certain kind of corn chip. Now he fought for his time amongst the sugar cereal giants of Count Chocula, Lucky Charms and Fruit Loops but as a true Bandito, he secured his share of the market! This guy was going to steal and eat my corn chips if I didn’t keep a careful watch or a “Hawk Eye” on them. His name was the Frito Bandito, “Ah- Yi- Yi- Yi”!

Now in this New-New Year and on this Eve-Eve of Nativity, I want to warn you about another bandito, known as the Poco-Bandito. This “little bandit” steals your precious time day after day. He distracts you from things that are of great importance to waste away on his fattening treats. He is well invested in cable TV, the internet, pages and pages of books, video games, work, and even sleep!

You see, all that is, is God’s! We were formed from the dust of this earth to worship God. There are no healthy substitutes! We must harness our free-will that is easily deceived and rekindle our relationship with our Creator!

In this New-New Year let us increase our earthly existence as Orthodox Christians! We cannot be healthy giving God what is left-over, giving to God the only time we have available because we are allowing earthly distractions to rob us of our treasure.

Make a commitment to push closer to your tithe, which is supposed to be your first fruit, not what is left over after the rent, cable and cell phone bills are paid! He also needs your time and talent! We need 2 Youth Sunday School classes and an Adult Class as well. We need teachers and substitute teachers to fill in so we can ensure that in this opportunity we do not allow the Poco-Bandito to steal away our precious jewels, our children. Galatians 6:10 “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all [men], especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” We need more room so we can increase this ministry!

There are homeless shelters and soup kitchens needing volunteers. There are people that need someone to care about them enough to take time to call and visit or send a card! We are family!! We need volunteers to head up our trapeza and clean our church and empty the trash and shovel the snow! We need someone to arrive at 9:45 and greet people when they arrive and someone to sell candles as well!

We should also try to read the Bible daily. This is so easy now with the internet and apps for our smart-phones. It only takes a few minutes a day to read the Epistle and Gospel selections. Or you can chose to read the Bible from front to back! You see, we must also tithe our time! You are invited to a wonderful party every week! You see, every time the church doors are open, there is a party! Don’t be a party-pooper!

Matthew 9:37 “Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly [is] plenteous, but the labourers [are] few. “ All you have to do is volunteer, and He will help you love your church through service!

I ask you at the dawn of this Nativity to increase your Orthodoxy! To seek more of what is right and true and not let the world’s Poco-Bandito embezzle the very priceless gift that God gave you, your soul.

Fr. Gabriel Weller 1/5/14

BIRTHING CENTER

Germs, germs, germs! In the past as I visited a newborn baby, I have been asked to wash my hands, put on a gown and even wear a mask! Medical personnel are implementing procedures to help prevent the newborn and mother from any attack by unwanted disease and germs. When people’s immune systems are weak, scientists believe the person’s body is more susceptible to illness.

Now in contrast to these clean environments, I have helped deliver calves in barnyards in the midst of a combination of straw and manure. I was not asked to wash my hands, put on a gown or wear a mask! Straw ads comfort and warmth but it also has mites. Animal manure can contain bacteria, parasites and viruses ready to infect living creatures. Researchers say that over half of all disease-causing germs found in people originate from animals, including livestock. Of course with the exception of my little dog Emma who is pure as snow!

cow feedingAnd then there are theses germ-free cribs that are used in birthing centers. How much in contrast are theses contaminate-free cribs than where our God was laid at His birth? It was not germ-free, it was a feed manger! Feed troughs can contain a wide range of microbes that occur naturally on, or as contaminants of forages, cereal grains, oilseed by-products and compound feeds. Cereal grains and oilseed by-products are regularly contaminated with fungi occurring as plant pathogens or developing during storage. Was this manger fit for a King?

Our God took on the form of man at this birth which we call the Incarnation. The Gospel says:  “And she brought forth her Son, the firstborn, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in the manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” [Lk. 2:7] He was not born encompassed by gold, silver and the finest silk, but in the poorest, most humble of conditions amongst dirt, germs and animal waste in the only place available to folks with a lowly status. This was God’s plan. He chose not to be One of privilege but to be One of meekness.

Christ our God also chooses now to dwell in our unclean hearts, is there room at your Inn? Jesus is searching for a home where He is welcome. He knows we all are fighting a great battle and He is not expecting to find our hearts pure and spotless. All that He needs is for us to be willing and to be humble, acknowledging that we are contagious with sin and in need of a Savior!   

“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth” [Col. 3:5] by allowing the One who loves you to dwell in the depths of the manger in your heart!

Fr. Gabriel 12-28-14

Concussion

Antique Football HelmetIn today’s NFL games, despite the use of scientifically advanced helmets, professional players are suffering from the effects of injuries to their head. We are hearing stories about players and former players that have had life-changing injuries from the game of football. Mark Lovell, PhD, founding director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program says that even injuries from “A minor hit on the field can take a long time to recover.”

What is a concussion? It is trauma to the head that shakes the brain forcefully inside the skull. Symptoms can include loss of consciousness, drowsiness, confusion, headaches, nausea, blurred vision and loss of memory. The head is a very vulnerable area of the body and we see how rightfully so it is protected in the military, sports activities and even on construction sites with the use of some form of head-gear or helmet.

As professional Christians, we who profess the teachings of Jesus also need to wear a helmet, the helmet of salvation. We believers in the battles of this Earth must protect our vulnerable heads and minds from all blows delivered by the evil opponent. We must wear our helmet of salvation to shield us throughout our journey every day.    

Most of us experience a spiritual concussion at times in our lives. When the hairs on your scalp are plummeted by the arrows of negative thoughts and dark memories and cause you to retreat into darkness, put your helmet on and hold the line! When the sadness of depression shakes your brain violently and disables your ability to function, put your helmet on and know that you are not alone and that you are cherished.

There is much work to do but you are on a team that has been guaranteed a victory! We are all called to be linemen on the scrimmage line of Christianity ready to move the game ball of love forward. Despite our injuries and the enormous size of the competition, we find our strength in Christ. Hope is the greatest source of energy in creation and our cup runneth over! You belong to this team of Light, the team of Hope, keep your helmet on and hold the line!  “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13

Fr. Gabriel 12-14-14