In today’s reading, given to us on this the eve of the New Year, we hear these words “Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.” If that is not a worthwhile New Year’s resolution, I am not sure what would be. Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. But what does that actually mean for us? What is this path that we need to make straight? What is the way of the Lord, and how do we prepare it?
Thankfully St. Paul gives us a way out of such a mess. He says “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but expose them.” There are many ways that we can expose our sins but I will focus on the most important one, the one that the Church provides for all of it’s people, free of charge. The sacrament of confession.
We are also watchful when we take care that we don’t neglect our own spiritual lives and lose our focus. The Lord Jesus says that if we are not ready for His coming, it will be “like a thief in the night.” We can meet our king at any moment. The apostle asks us to be watchful so that the moment does not catch us off guard.
All statistics point to a significant change happening in the fabric of our society. Today there are more atheists in the United States than at any time in history, that is a statistical fact. Why does this matter?
Often people who come to the Orthodox Church for the first time are quite amazed at the number of times they will hear us pray “Lord have mercy” at every service and especially at the Divine Liturgy. This is no accident but a purposeful habit that the Church, our mother, is trying to form within us.
What is the beginning of sainthood? According to the Lord, it is the acknowledgement of Jesus Christ before others. How do we acknowledge our Lord and master on a daily basis before others? It is a really important question that is worthy of reflection and a thoughtful answer.
I would like to focus on some of the difficult things our Lord Jesus Christ says to the woman at the well. In our society we are being very well trained not to cause any waves with the things that we say. We are taught to be politically correct with all of our speech. We are taught that there are no absolute truths and objective realities only opinions and feelings are relevant.
He was once called “the cause of all disorders and disturbances in the Church.” Now imagine that he was called “the cause of all disorders and disturbances in the Church” by the Patriarch of Constantinople himself.
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” These are the words of our Lord God and savior Jesus Christ given to us today as we are now at the edge and preparing to leap into Great and Holy Lent. Our Lord has this amazing way of reorienting our thinking and even removing our blindness in order to help us to see.
The teachings of Our Lord, God and savior Jesus Christ are often quite difficult for us. In fact, it cannot be any other way since God is speaking to man. God is attempting to raise man from his earthly nature which makes him similar to the beasts, and He is trying to raise him to the level and stature which alone is God’s. We do not take lightly the idea that God desires to call us “sons and daughters.”
What God demands of us seems like too much. But what God asks of us, He has already done for us. The Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated the ability to forgive even in the midst of His ordeals and great suffering upon the cross! He cries out Father forgive them, for they know not what they do! By demonstrating such an ability, the crucified Lord affirms that it is indeed possible for us to do the same. And by opening up this possibility of forgiveness, God will open to us the doors of His heavenly kingdom and He will allow us to dwell with those who have suffered injustices and triumphed through forgiveness.
In today's gospel we are witnesses to another encounter of Jesus with a family that has suffered. A father has just brought his son to the Lord Jesus because he is an epileptic who “suffers terribly”. This father has to bring his son to Jesus Christ because the Lord's disciples had failed to heal the boy. After the Lord has healed the boy, the disciples are curious as to why He was able to heal when they were unable to do so. Jesus' answer to them is also an answer to many of our problems “because you have no faith.”
Last week we spent some time speaking of what it takes the build up the Church and specifically this church in this particular place. We were reminded by the Holy Apostle Paul that each and every individual within the Church receives divine gifts by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
In today’s epistle we hear some of the words of encouragement from the great Apostle St. Paul to the Christians of Rome. These words are a beautiful reminder to all of us who are here together to build this mission and spread the Orthodox faith.
Mammon is wealth or money but in this case it is understood as having the potential to greatly influence our moral compass as well. We live in a world that requires us to make money. We need financial resources to do much of what we do. The Lord understands that completely. The issue here is not whether or not we need money.
Let’s be faithful to acknowledge Jesus Christ in word, in deed and in thought. Let us love nothing more than we love Christ. Let us each carry the cross with faith that God sees our personal sacrifices and numbers each of them and will never forget them, but will truly reward us by pouring out His Holy Spirit upon us and transforming us into people who are filled with the love of Christ, into people who are illumined, into people who are glorified as real saints.
The Holy Spirit is not some magical gift, but a personal encounter with the person of the Holy Spirit through His energies. The energies of God are given to us by His grace and not because we deserve them. Although this is the case, there are certain dispositions and attitudes that will allow God to magnify His grace within us.
There is no doubt that we each need a life changing encounter with the Lord, and there is no doubt that we are each capable of having this because the Lord in His grace is hungry for this relationship with each of us. He is present, but where is our heart? Do we recognize that we are sick and have been enemies of Christ through our own sinfulness and pride?
In today’s gospel passage we recognize and celebrate the virtues of the Myrrh bearing women. They are known for their dedication and service and these are truly important attributes that everyone can learn from and imitate. But what is not thought about often is the exceeding strength and courage required of them.
We have just celebrated Pascha or Easter as it is otherwise known and the celebration that we partake of for 40 days is the celebration of Life over death, of Good over evil, of Light over darkness, of Holiness over sin. In the midst of our celebration it is easy to lose focus and to forget that this is not just a story that has been passed down to us for 2000 years.
We all want to change, we want to become better humans, some of us want to know Jesus Christ more intimately, some of us want to become saints. These are all big results and if you want big results you better have big faith. And if you want to have big faith you better exercise that faith through prayer and fasting.
This Cross is not magic. It is the remembrance of Christ Our Lord’s sufferings and trials at the hands of sinners. It is the remembrance of the manly, heroic courage of Our Lord in the face of unrestrained evil. But the reminder is of a dual nature. We are reminded of Christ’s heroic struggles on our behalf and the demons are reminded of their ultimate defeat at the hands of the Holy Son of God.
This Second Sunday of Great Lent teaches us so much. We learn that the work of the body is important work. We learn that we are saved together as an integral whole, body, mind and soul. We learn that when we harness our hearts, minds and souls to agree on working together towards knowledge of our Creator, we are then able to truly share in the benefits of the title “Child of God.”