A Catch That Doesn’t Spoil

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (4:18-23) 

Two weeks ago we celebrated the great feast of Pentecost. The descent of the Holy Spirit into our lives. Last week we celebrated the Feast of All Saints. The Church showed us what the Holy Spirit can do in the lives of people just like you and me, when we are pliable and flexible and cooperate with the Holy Spirit. We see the culmination and the fulfillment of all the savings works of our Lord Jesus Christ. All of His powerful work was done on our behalf, so that we might become holy, become saintly.

This week, it feels as if we are taking a time machine backwards to the beginning of the gospels. We see our Lord Jesus Christ walking along the shore at the sea of Galilee, and then we hear His wonderful words to the disciples, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

When I begin my intro to Orthodoxy classes I always start by saying that there is a battle that is raging for your hearts and minds. It is swirling all around you. Advertisements, movies, news, social media, religions, philosophical systems, political ideologies, they are all trying to do more than inform or entertain, they are trying to capture your hearts and minds. They are trying to convince you to follow their system, to see the world through their lens. To do things “their way.”

To all of these I remind you that when you were baptized and brought into the Church, you or your sponsors in baptism, turned to the West and renounced Satan and all his works and you spit upon him. We turn to the west to reject Satan and we turn again to the east to proclaim the sacred Creed that has been handed down to us. Practically speaking, I think it is time to remind you that we have no creeds, no slogans, no way, no truth and no life that is not centered on Jesus Christ and His Church. Be careful what and who you support because you were bought at a price my dear friends, and no ideology or system bought you, you do not owe anything to anyone, but Christ your master! It was Christ himself who redeemed you!

As the Church takes us backwards to the calling of the first disciples, we are reminded that every day we are met by Christ who walks along the shores of our hearts and calls us “follow Me!” How are we responding to His call? How are we replying to His invitation? I can’t answer that question for you. I can only answer for myself. I can do better.

As Christians, our life is a constant reply to the Lord’s call to follow Him. What does our way of life say about us? How are we replying with the actions of our lives? How are we replying with our thoughts? How are we following Christ with our words? Do we love these words? Do we take them seriously?

When someone chooses to follow the call of Jesus Christ, he is asking Christ to invade his heart and his mind, and in return, Christ overwhelms our hearts with His love. This love overflows and spreads to others as we seek to share our love for Jesus Christ and our love towards our neighbor. Love is more than words. Love is sacrificial action, and we begin to comprehend this through our daily decision to follow the way of the crucified Lord, the suffering servant. The one who overcomes not through violence of force, but through silent suffering. That is our way, the way of witnessing to Christ, the way of martyrdom. It is not the easy way, but this is our way, a way that is blessed by God and given to us as our inheritance in the saints. When we open our arms to Christ and really follow His way, we attract others to our Master and Lord. When our love for Christ is abundant, others see this and they follow us like fish in a great school, one follows after the other.

St. Theophan the Recluse writes,

“The Lord chose the apostles, that they should be with Him, and that he might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils.

Every Christian is chosen—chosen for similar deeds, namely: to be with the Lord, through unceasing remembrance of Him and awareness of His omnipresence, through the preaching and fulfillment of His commandments, and through a readiness to confess one’s faith in Him. In those circles where such a confession is made, it is a loud sermon for all to hear.

Every Christian has the power to heal infirmities—not of others, but his own, and not of the body, but of the soul—that is, sins and sinful habits—and to cast out devils, rejecting evil thoughts sown by them, and extinguishing the excitement of passions enflamed by them.

Do this and you will be an apostle, a fulfiller of what the Lord chose you for, an accomplisher of your calling as messenger. When at first you succeed in all this, then perhaps the Lord will appoint you as a special ambassador—to save others after you have saved yourself; and to help those who are tempted, after you yourself pass through all temptations, and through all experiences in good and evil.

But your job is to work upon yourself: for this you are chosen; the rest is in the hands of God. He who humbles himself shall be exalted.” 

When we follow the Lord Jesus Christ in love, we are kept close to Him. We are fed and nourished as His sheep. No shepherd ever ignores his sheep, even the weakest or the sick ones. In fact, he dedicates more time and attention to these because they need this extra attention and love. We are also protected because He is our shepherd. The shepherd is our frame of reference. With a shepherd, we have a purpose, and we are part of a community. Without a shepherd, we are lost in our lives. We wander from place to place and replace one cause with another, one possession with another, but none of them fulfills us or gives us true purpose. Imagine what would have happened to the first disciples if they had ignored the Lord! They would have spent their lives toiling away for a catch that spoils and starts to stink quickly, but through immediate obedience, they found their purpose in Him and have caught souls for the kingdom of God, as well as saved their own!

May we also be like the disciples and work to catch souls and to grab hold of that which doesn’t spoil or pass away, the kingdom of God. AMEN.

Source: Sermons

The Flames of Injustice and The Fire of Pentecost

June 7, 2020 Feast of Pentecost,

The Reading is from the Holy Gospel according to St. John (7:37-52; 8:12) 

The last week or so has been a difficult one for our nation. We heard of the terrible slaying of a helpless man at the hands of law enforcement authorities, who were actually sworn to do the opposite. We saw a brutal display of the abuse of power as these misguided men were sworn to uphold the law and protect citizens, not prey on them. The world saw this evil action and people have responded in many different ways. Some of those responses have been good and productive. People have protested peacefully for common sense reforms. Others have responded in ways that are truly awful, rioting, looting, hurting others, destroying businesses, attacking good police officers and innocent citizens.

The world looks on in shock as it sees the United States in the midst of civil unrest and turmoil. For many years we have been in the midst of an ideological civil war. This has only been made worse because of our participation in social media. But my brothers and sisters, this should not shock us. Satan is called the father of lies. Everywhere he sows his seed there is confusion, hatred and division. If we are honest, we can say that a growing segment of American society is lost, in the Christian sense. People are confused and thrown into chaos.

What was the cause of all this? Was it economic policies or the lack of social justice or political legislation? Perhaps each of these is partly to blame, but there is something more. People operate without a properly rooted moral law and moral compass. Put another way, they operate with a morality that is skewed towards self gratification and the fulfillment of desires, rather than being rooted in something much deeper and more real. All of the statistics and polls taken in the last 20 years point to a general decline in Christian belief and practice as well as in general religious belief. Contrary to popular belief, when one doesn’t believe in God, he is not free. He actually becomes a slave to other lesser gods and their value systems. He is the slave of ideologies, and a slave to his sinful passions and desires, he is anything but free. He becomes a puppet that is used by others to further their agendas and especially the agenda of the evil one. This is true whether he is a corrupt policeman, a crooked politician or a crazed protestor. As Bob Dylan once wrote “You’re gonna have to serve somebody. Now it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” We will know who we serve as the Lord says “by their fruits.”

Today in the Orthodox Church we celebrate the Great Feast of Pentecost. Listen to the words of this hymn (KONTAKION)OF PENTECOST: “When the High One descended, confusing tongues, He divided the nations. And when He distributed the fiery tongues He called all to one unity. Wherefore, in unison we glorify the most Holy Spirit.”

What is the source of our unity as people, as Christians? It is our unity of faith in the Holy Spirit. At one point in history, men and women had to go to a sacred temple to worship God. Now because of the work of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Lord, the Holy Spirit, we have become the temples and the dwelling place of God! Do we understand the treasurethat we have been given? Christians are united by this great and powerful gift. It was not a gift that humanity earned. We did not deserve such an honor. Yet the Lord poured out His grace upon us.

Today, we hear the story from the book of Acts. How the men of various and diverse nations could hear one the words of the disciples in their own languages. St. Luke is telling us something very important. He is saying that this is the key to the unity and the peace of the whole world. It is the preaching of the gospel through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. What is the gospel? It means “the good news.” And what is this good news? It is this, that God loves each of us, and that He has proved this love for us by allowing His Son to become incarnate in the flesh, and suffer and die upon the cross for us, so that He might allow us to have the forgiveness of sins and walk in newness of life and share in the resurrection of His Son! 

I have often been asked if we are evangelical in nature. My answer has always been the same “if what you mean by evangelical is passing out tracts and going door to door to save people, my answer is “no”. But if you are asking if the Orthodox Church believes in sharing the gospel with all people, in loving all peoples regardless of their race, ethnicity, or any other man made category, our answer is a resounding “yes”! St. Paul writes that (God)…desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:4) Do you hear that? All men. So much did God insist on saving all men that He grafted the gentiles into His people, although they were not His initial chosen people. The plan was always a grandplan for thereconciliation of all mankind to God, and to one another. 

People are lost now precisely because they have lost what united our countrymen for so long. Many have lost the Christian faith. Since we are not united in our belief in Christ and His teachings, we are not united in the guiding principles that were a direct result of the Christian faith upon which this country was founded. Among those guiding principles was the idea that one should love his neighbor and respect life. Today our culture is one of extreme disrespect to life. Do I need to remind you that nearly 1000 babies are aborted every day in our country? Do I need to remind you that the abortions disproportionately hurt the black community?  We also have a culture of extreme disrespect for our brothers and sisters when they don’t fit within our class or our tribe, when they think differently or look different. This happens from all sides. People are confused about the meaning of life, about their role towards their neighbor, and about the nature of justice.

Yet, through all this there is good news. When the darkness is thick in the air, it makes the presence of light all the more radiant. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit that we celebrate today, that youhave receiving in your Chrismation,you are given the great giftto become a light. Do you suppose that the Roman Empire became Christian overnight while the Christian peoples hid in their houses and posted memes and binge watched Netflix? NO! The Empire became Christian through the love and the care demonstrated by Christian men, women and children for their neighbors, in serving them and teaching the truth. And as they demonstrated this love, people became curious and began to ask the question, “What is the source of this behavior, this love?” And then the Christians could evangelize and give an answer for the hope and the love that was in them. Today more than yesterday, now more than ever, we are called to deepen our spiritual lives. If you will not help to redeem your country and your community by fanning the flame of the love of Christ,then you are part of the darkness, and no social activism will be enough to help.Cast off the darkness and start by shining the light of Christ on your own life and your own heart and then allow this light to radiate outwards to cover everything and everyonein your life with the love of Jesus Christ.

In today’s gospel reading the Lord Jesus said “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” 

The country is hungry and thirsty. They believe that they are hungry for justice and equality. But our deeper need is not for justice, what people are thirsting for is LOVE, and the only source of an unending and profound love is the life of the Holy Trinity that existed in love before the creation of the universe. Our Lord says “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Let us take these words seriously and direct our lives accordingly. Love Christ by following His words. Love all people. Pray for all people. Pray fervently for healing. Pray that you might have a chance to share the love of God with someone who needs this message. Pray that people will find the Church and true healing within her walls. The Lord tells us that when we believe in Him, rivers of living water shall flow from us. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in us, we can quench the thirst and feed the hunger of our nation. We do this one person at a time, one soul at a time. In this we demonstrate our likeness to Christ, in our love for one another. May the Lord, the Holy Spirit, energize our hearts and minds and sanctify our lives so that we might unite in our worship of the living God and unite ourselves to all men through serving them in the name of Christ. Glory be to God Forever, AMEN. 

Source: Sermons

Unity In The Church

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John. (17:1-13) 

In today’s gospel reading, which is given to us for the commemoration of the First Ecumenical Council, we hear these words of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ “And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to Thee. Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are one.”

It is an amazing thought to contemplate this prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is part of what is often called His “high priestly prayer.” As the Lord is preparing to be betrayed and arrested and preparing to suffer the worst of all shameful treatment and suffering, Our Lord is praying to God our Father. He is coming to His Father as The Son. He teaches each of us that we also have access to God our Father. We can reach out to Him, seek Him, receive strength from Him for whatever we are going to face. 

We also see that Our Lord Jesus cares so much for His people that He prays for them. He is on His way to a terrible and agonizing death, yet His mind is fixed on His people. And this prayer is not something that is said once. It is an eternal prayer. What is it that He prays for? He prays that they will be kept together, that they will be one even as He is one with His Father.

What does oneness, or unity look like for Christians? Where do we find it? Well, we hear it in the words of the creed that Christians have been reciting from nearly 1700 years. “I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” That is a good place to start. We don’t believe in 2 churches. We don’t believe in the thousands of denominations or “non-denominations” that have split and resplit from one another over the last 400 years or so. We believe that the Church is one. That it is united in it’s Dogma. Dogma is defined as the unchanging truth, the core beliefs. St. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch once wrote, 

“The Church dispersed throughout the whole world to the ends of the earth has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith……While scattered throughout the whole world, the Church has received this message and this faith and still, as if living in only one house, carefully preserves it. She believes these points of doctrine as if she had only one soul, and one and the same heart. She proclaims them, teaches them and hands them down harmoniously, as if she had only one mouth. Although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the meaning of the tradition has remained one and the same, for the churches in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different thanthose of Spain or in Gaul or in the East or in Egypt or in Libya.”

The Church is also one in it’s leadership. In fact, the outward sign of the unity of the Church is found in the position and role of the bishop, as we see in our historical writings that have passed down to us from antiquity. If a person wants to know what the Church taught and believed, we have the resources to search for the answers. We don’t need to invent the answers or interpret the Bible in new and novel ways. The Church has left us a treasure through the writings of historians and Church fathers and the lives of the saints. 

The unity of the Church is clearly seen in the person of the bishop. The bishops were appointed by the Apostles and tasked with guarding the faith and shepherding the faithful. As the church grew, so did the number of problems and especially false teachings, false dogmas, which we call heresies. The Church would protect itself from false doctrine and from breaking communion with the apostles by making sure that those who served and led (bishops, priests and deacons) were appointed from within the community and did not take the authority from an unknown source. So deacons, priests and bishops were always ordained by bishops who were already within the one Christian Church.

Listen to what St. Ignatius writes about the role of the bishop. He is writing in the early second century. “It is therefore befitting that you should in every way glorify Jesus Christ, who has glorified you, that by a unanimous obedience you may be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment, and may all speak the same thing concerning the same thing [1 Cor. 1:10], and that, being subject to the bishop and the presbytery, you may in all respects be sanctified.” He also writes “forwhere the bishop is, there is the church.”

We believe that the Church is also one in it’s worship and sacraments. St. Ignatiusalso writes “At these meetings you should heed the bishop and the presbytery attentively, and break one loaf, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote which wards offdeath but yields continuous life in union with Jesus Christ.”

So not only do we get a glimpse into the importance of the clergy of the Church, under the guidance of the bishop, but we also get a glimpse into the importance of receiving the Eucharist (holy communion). We are told that unity in Christ comesthrough obedience and living peaceably under the guidance of the clergy and this unity comes to fruition and is made powerfully present in our receiving of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. 

Have you noticed that we are living in a divided time? Whenever there are worries, fears and anxieties there is division. Whenever people lack a unifying goal and purpose, they are divided.Whenever people are afraid of death, there is alsosin and this causes great division. Satan is now working overtime to confuse and divide the people of God. He divides them from one another and then he attacks once they are isolated and alone. As Christians we protect ourselves by running to Christ and to His Church. It is not enough that we run to a church. We must run to The Church which has remained united in her life giving teachings. This is our safe space. We need fellowship with God and with our fellow Christians. Alone, we perish.

Our only hope as Christians is to cleave to the unity of the Church. The Church is the place of unity that Our Lord Jesus Christ prayed for to His heavenly Father. Within the spiritual and physical walls of the Church, there is hope and salvation. Even if you are not yet comfortable coming to the church building, you can live as a united member of the Church in your homes and daily lives by honoring God’s commandments. By studying the Scriptures and the lives of the saints. Through prayer for yourself and others. Through lives of sacrifice and love for others. Through times of contemplation and silence, not filling every minute with noise and chatter.

Our Lord Jesus prayed for our unity. Whether we are here physically or virtually, we are called to be united. Our Christian life is a life of struggling to become united in our bodies, hearts and souls. To harmonize everything within us to the service of Christ. So this is our life in the Church, unity within, unity with our neighbors, unity with the teachings and life of the Church itself, which is the body of Christ. Unity with the Holy Trinity. All of this ensures that we will not be lost, misguided or misdirected. It ensures that we are on the right path, this path of salvation. And He has prayed for us and given us His bride, theone Church as a place for this unity to be made powerfully present in our lives. May Christ our God unite our hearts and minds and bring us to true worship and love. Glory be to God forever AMEN.

Source: Sermons

Who Should We Blame?

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John. (9:1-38)

The disciples came to the Lord Jesus Christ after seeing a blind man and they asked a difficult and poignant question “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  It is really quite the question.  What is beautiful about this question is that they brought it to the Lord Jesus Christ.  They trusted Him.  They knew that He would provide the correct answer.  In our own lives, where do we go when we have questions?  Do we run to study the words of Holy Scripture?  Or do we run to other sources, to google, to facebook forums?  They went straight to the source and we should do the same with the big questions of life.  Our Lord Jesus will give us an answer to those big questions, and His answer will be truthful.

Now back to the question that was presented by the disciples to the Lord.  “Who sinned that this man was born blind?”  We as humans, have this need to find a way to explain the difficulties we encounter in life.  Perhaps this is not more true than when we see someone suffering tremendously.  Sometimes we are even that person who is suffering. And we begin to look for reasons for the terrible thing that has happened.  In January, we began to hear of a virus that was causing some suffering and sickness and death in China.  Within a few weeks it was at our doorstep.  We began to look for people to blame.  We began to look for a cause.  Some said it was China’s fault for allowing their people to travel.  Others said that it was the president’s fault for not shutting the borders sooner.  Yet others blamed the virus on a Chinese lab, and others on the wet markets where the poor people go to eat a meal that they can afford.  

In the aftermath of this virus, we shut down much of the country, jobs were lost, and people have suffered greatly, financially, emotionally, spiritually.  Still we look to place the blame as if doing so will help us come to grips with the situation.  As if knowing who to blame will help us feel better.  Some blame the governors and some the federal response, and some blame the right wing and others blame the left. But none of that will actually help us feel better, because blaming people won’t actually bring us healing.

Our habit of blaming others is actually a sign of our own lack of humility, our pride.  St. John of Kronstadt said “Every man on earth is sick with the fever of sin, with the blindness of sin and is overcome with its fury. As sins consist mostly of malice and pride, it is necessary to treat everyone who suffers from the malady of sin with kindness and love. This is an important truth, which we often forget. Very often we act in the opposite manner: we add malice to malice by our anger, we oppose pride with pride. Thus, evil grows within us and does not decrease; it is not cured – rather it spreads.”  So we have to find a better way forward.  A way that is gracious and merciful.  

  Our Lord Jesus Christ went above and beyond any answer that the disciples had in mind.  They gave two options, but He raised their minds to a better response, with gracious and beautiful words. “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him.”  Wow.  The Lord never stops surprising us with His teaching.  They wanted to blame sin.  They wanted to blame the blind man or his parents.  But the Lord Jesus Christ refused to put the blame on them.  In replying the way that He did, the Lord also corrected the misguided thinking of the disciples.  God hadn’t done this as a punishment.  Just because someone gets sick or something terrible happens to them, it doesn’t mean that it is karma or divine justice.  The martyrs of Christiant history died horrible deaths.  This was not because of anything they had done to deserve it.  It was to glorify God, whose Only Son was put to death in the same manner.

God wasn’t punishing them.  That is not the God who is love.  God hadn’t punished this man…what kind of a God would we worship if He acted in such a way?  Yet the Lord said to the disciples that this was allowed by God so that His wonderful work could be made manifest in the life of this poor blind man.  I wonder if we ever think this way when we are faced with difficult situations and trials?  How many of us say to ourselves “this is a chance for the work of God to be manifest in my life?”  When we see the world in that way, it means that we have God given eyes to see reality.  Our blindness is taken from us and it is replaced with true and clear sight.  

Don’t spend your life looking for people or things to blame for everything that is wrong and difficult and inconvenient and uncomfortable.  Blame won’t make anything better.  Actually, if anything the desert fathers tell us to blame ONLY ourselves.  Saint “Antony said to Saint Poemen, ‘Our great work is to lay the blame for our sins upon ourselves before God, and to expect to be tempted to our last breath.”

Don’t use every difficulty in life as an excuse to become the judge of others.  Instead, when we see difficult situations, it is a chance to look at our own shortcomings and to give the entire situation to Jesus Christ.  We do this when we come to the Lord with heartfelt prayer, from the depths of our being.  We say to the Lord, “Lord, you see this situation and Lord Jesus, only you can resolve it.  Only you can provide healing.”  That is our reality.  Until we see this, we are truly more blind than this poor man.  But when we finally begin to put trust in the Lord, we begin to see His work through this pandemic, and through every difficulty.  We may even find a way to thank God for all that He has allowed to happen in our lives.  We may see that our difficulties were gifts, that they helped us to grow and to trust in God and that God used the magnitude of our trials and difficulties to show that His greatness knows no measure at all. 

There are no limits to what God can do in our lives.  On this last Sunday of Pascha, never forget that even the worst situation known to man, that is death, looks insignificant in the light of what God has done, and we are His children.  What the Lord conquered in His resurrection, He freely shares with each of us.  This is our reality, this is our belief, this is the faith that upholds the universe.  Christ is risen!   

Source: Sermons

Do Not Be Afraid!

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark. (15:43-16:8) 

Christ is risen! Today in the life of the Holy Church we are reminded of some truly courageous acts of love. Each and every day for the last few weeks, I am reminded that people are afraid, but the Lord keeps reminding us that we have nothing to fear as His children. Some are afraid of getting sick. Others are afraid of being judged because they aren’t wearing masks or taking the same precautions as some deem necessary. Some are afraid that the authorities will use this sickness to clamp down on religious practice in this country. Some are afraid that we won’t get back to normal life anytime soon. We do have some reasons to fear, there can be no doubt about that. But we also have reasons to take courage, to be brave.

Our gospel reading today shows us the example of some very courageous people. People who were pious and loved God so much that they went out of their way and took risks, took chances and ultimately they were rewarded for their actions even in the darkest of times. They were rewarded for their faith. One of these courageous people was Joseph of Arimathaea. He was a prominent religious leader and the truth is that he stood to lose everything for showing sympathy for Jesus. Yet we are told that he “took courage” and went to Pilate. Why it is even possible that Pilate could have seen him as a sympathizer and had him punished or even crucified! Yet Joseph took courage and asked for the body of the Lord Jesus. And what courage and faithfulness he had. He not only went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body, but he went to the foot of the cross, to a scene that would be quite difficult to behold. He, along with Nicodemus, took down the bloodied, lifeless body of our Lord Jesus Christ. They handled His body with reverence and care and love. They showed great respect and honor to Christ. They did much more than the 12 disciples according to the gospel text. The disciples were paralyzed with fear yet these men, acted boldly, with love. It is a testament to their true faith and dedication to Jesus Christ.

The myrrh bearing women also showed similar boldness. They went to the tomb to anoint the body of the Lord. They did not worry about how they might be viewed by others, even the soldiers who were to guard the tomb. They did not give a thought to the fact that the Lord would be decomposing in the tomb. The women, like the men we just mentioned used different ways to show the same love for the Lord Jesus. In the life of the Church (which is the body of Christ) we also find different ways to show our love for Christ. We are called to do this even when the work is not glamorous. Actually the usual work of loving others and serving in the life of the Church is not glamorous work at all. It is dirty, difficult and often thankless. Each one does this work in different ways. One by offering comforting words, another by giving a hug, another by preparing food, another by cleaning, yet another by baking bread or by trimming the candle wicks. One by teaching, another by listening patiently. All of them serving and loving the same Lord, even through different kinds of actions. Each act might even carry a different sort of reward, yet all the rewards come from the Lord.

These women went out early on Sunday morning and the Lord rewarded their faithfulness and love by making them the first witnesses to the miraculous and life changing event of the resurrection. What an honor! Can you imagine? Even they could not comprehend it and we are told that “they went away and fled from the tomb for trembling and astonishment had come upon them.”

Right now we are in a situation that is difficult, there has been a sense that we’ve been waiting for the Sun to rise after a long cold night. Take courage! The Sun will rise again. Look to the bright spots in your life. You have your life, you have another day to learn to pray, to learn to love, to learn to repent. We have much to be thankful for. But I want to say to you, take courage! Joseph and Nicodemus and the Myrrh bearing women all had courage….and we can be like them. Actually I want to tell you that your courage must exceed their courage by far. How can I possibly say such a thing? Because they had this otherworldly courage after the crucifixion but before they knew a thing about the resurrection. My brothers and sisters, we have the good news of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ! So we must have courage that is above and beyond anything that even these saintly people possessed. We are called to reorient our lives and our way of thinking. This reminds me of that very nice quote “Don’t tell God how big your storm is, tell thestorm how big your God is.” 

Isn’t this how we should approach every difficulty and challenge in this life? Reminding ourselves that God is much bigger than the trials and tribulations of life. Some of the parents who are listening today have been privileged enough to hear the famous VeggieTales song “God is bigger than the boogie man.” In fact God is bigger and greater than everything including evil and sin and death! So we are not going to walk around in fear of the future because the future belongs to the Lord as did the past and the present. We also belong to the Lord. We are His children through our baptism. What He has, He is sharing with us. His defeat of sin and evil, it our defeat of sin and evil. His defeat of death, is our defeat of death. His glorious resurrection, is indeed our glorious resurrection. There is literally NOTHING to fear when you are a child of God. Only one thing do we really fear…to fall away from God, to be outside God, because that is true sickness that leads to true death. I want to leave you with a beautiful quote by St. John Maximovitch of Shanghai and SanFrancisco. He said 

“Now the Church consists of both her earthly and heavenly parts, for the Son of God came to earth and became man that He might lead man into heaven and make him once again a citizen of Paradise, returning to him his original state of sinlessness and wholeness and uniting him unto Himself.

This is accomplished by the action of Divine grace grated through the Church, but man’s effort is also required. God saves His fallen creature by His own love for him, but man’s love for his Creator is also necessary; without it he cannot by saved. Striving towards God and cleaving unto the Lord by its humble love, the human soul obtains power to cleanse itself from sin and to strengthen itself for the struggle to complete victory over sin.”

His complete victory will be our complete victory, so stop worrying and take courage! Christ is risen!

Source: Sermons

The Unbroken Thread In Our Story

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. John. (20:19-31) 

One of the aspects of the Christian faith that convinces me most is the story of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We know that amazing stories exist everywhere in the world, in history and in religious traditions. What I find to be unique about the story of the resurrection is that it continued and expanded in its reach and power across the whole Roman empire and the whole world despite the fact that it seemed completely unbelievable. But as you look at the story more closely, you see that it may in fact be the most plausible and reasonable way to explain what happened after the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.

The crucifixion is itself, one of the most historically verifiable events in ancient times. It was recorded by not only the Christians but by Jewish historians as well as pagan writers. So we know that the crucifixion happened just as well as we know of any event in ancient history. Now we come to the resurrection. What we find truly amazing is that the disciples are willing to die, to be killed for their belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Why is this amazing? 

It is amazing because it points us to the truth. The Jews and pagans (even to this day) claim that the disciples of Jesus invented the whole story. They claim that the resurrection did not happen, that it was all a fraud. Of course there is a huge problem, in fact, 11 huge problems. The examplesof the disciples themselves. It is a well known fact that people will often die for things they believe in. People die for country and family and any number of others things they believe in, yet here in the early days of the Church, we have men being put to death for claiming that Jesus was risen from the dead. 

The problem that the Jews and the pagans and unbelievers have not properly wrestled with is this: Why would these 11 disciples choose to die for the belief in the resurrection if it was false? If they had made up the story themselves? So we are left with only one of two options: Either they lied about the resurrection and decided to suffer and die for their lie. Or they really truly saw Jesus raised from the dead and this completely changed the course of their lives. One of these two options is reasonable, the other is unreasonable. One of these two options is sane, the other would be truly insane. People often die for things they believe in. People generally do not die for things that they know to be a lie. So the first time that one of the disciples would have been tortured or killed or seen one of their brothers or close friends, tortured or killed, they would have said “You are right, we lied about the whole thing, it never happened.” You now understand the power of the word Martyr, which means witness. They witnessed Christ’s resurrection and this powerful witness was never shaken. You can’t scare or intimidate the power of the truth. It is like a flower that finds a way to come through the cracks in the pavement. Nothing stops it. 

This is the Christian faith and it has a reasonable basis. Can we test these things under a microscope? Can we answer every question or doubt about the faith definitively, not at all. But we can take the words and the works of Jesus as a character witness and we can take the courageous examples of the lives of the disciples as a sort of proof that what we are celebrating this day, and every single Sunday, is true and good.

St. Justin Popovich once said “The entire history of Christianity is nothing other than the history of a unique miracle, namely, the Resurrection of Christ, which is unbrokenly threaded through the hearts of Christians form one day to the next, from year to year, across the centuries, until the Dread Judgment.”

The whole history of Christianity is actually the process of individuals believing in the story of the resurrection because without the resurrection, there is no faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. 

Christianity would be nothing if it ended with a man crucified and buried. But it does not end there. It could have ended there, had the Jews produced a body, but they could not, although they had asked for guards from Pontius Pilate. There was a grave but no body. There was emptiness, but this empty tomb fills each of us with greathope.This is the upside down way of the Christian. When the world sees death, that is all there is, the end of the story. But we are anupside down people. When we hear about death or see it, we have a certain hiddenjoy. We certainly miss those who have passed but we are filled with joy because death has lost it’s power and it’s sting. 

Nothing can dampen our lives or cause us anxietybecause the most important victory has already been accomplished for us, by the Son of God.As children of God it is time to wake up to this reality. There is nothing else to struggle or fight for, because the fight was already won for us. Jesus Christ has defeated sin and death. But what does that mean for us? It means we are invited to run to grab hold of this victory, to make it your own byyourobedience to Christ. Yourstruggleto grow in purity and to fight the sinful habitswill then allow yourlife towitness to others that“He is risen, as He said!” 

If He has risen from the dead, then all that is necessary for us, is to be with Him, to honor Him, to struggle to know Him and live with Him.And through our honest struggle, He will take what is old and make it new. He will take what is broken within us and heal it. He will take those who were dead in sin, and bring them back to radiant life. Don’t think that this is impossible, because with God, all things are possible. Christ is Risen! Indeed He is risen! AMEN. 

Source: Sermons

The Entrance Of Christ and The Fulfillment Of Our Joy

The Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians. (4:4-9) and the Holy Gospel according to St. John. (12:1-18) 

I want to be really straightforward with you and share my unfiltered feelings. I am not happy that we are not together. I am quite sad because you are not here to celebrate this holy feast together. I miss your faces, your smiles, your presence. The church is full of angels and saints every time we pray together, but it is lacking the fullness that is usually part of our celebration of Palm Sunday and leading into Holy Week. It is ok to be sad. It is ok to come to terms with this new situation that we have not faced before. But, we have to allow this sadness that we have to push us closer to our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. We have to allow this time to fuel us and help us so that God willing, one day, when the doors of the church are open to all, we will fill this church to capacity. 

The truth is that many of us were taking our church lives very casually. Now we feel the pain of being separated from one another, from this place that is full of the grace of God, from the sacraments, from the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus. I hope that we will never forget this time, because these experiences can be a powerful teacher and motivator for each of us. There are important things, people, and places that we take for granted until we don’t have them anymore. Perhaps one benefit of all of this is that God has opened our eyes to what is really important. 

In the midst of all of this, in our sadness, we hear these words in today’s epistle as St. Paul writes “Brethren, rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance (patience). The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The God we believe in is a personal God, who wants to know us personally.If He did not want to be known personally, He would have stayed in the heavens, far away from us. But He wanted to know us and be known by us. Take this time to really give your life to God. Dedicate time to getting to know Him every day. Did you hear about how Mary came and wipedthe feet of the Lord with her own hair? That was a symbol of her love and dedication to God. Each one of us is called to find ourown ways to show our love for God, through acts of service for others and especially in our private times of prayer. We have to be like Mary and get on the knees of our heart and come to the feet of Christ from the depth of our hearts. Not just repeating vain words, but speaking from our hearts, with some pain of heart. This makes for good prayers…and good prayer, genuine prayer, brings us past anxiety to a place of peace.

St. Paulreminds usthat there is nothing to be anxious about. If you watch too much news, you would think otherwise. But thank God that we don’t see the world like everyone else. Where others see tragedy, we have hope. Where others see suffering and begin to doubt, we trust God even more. Where others see only death, we see the potential fornew life with Christ and His saints. Why is this true? Because when we are closely connected to God, we have peace and according to St.Paul, this peace surpasses all understanding. Meaning, it defies explanation completely. It is like God, because the source of the peace is in God!

Why do we have peace? What gives a Christian such a tremendously different approach to life and to every aspect, and struggle of life? It is this: That God became a man and dwelt among us. Today we celebrate His entrance into the holy city of Jerusalem. Why? Was He coming to the city to be celebrated and honored and to have a great party with the people? No. Far from it. He was preparing to fulfill His mission. He was following the will of His Father and like a good shepherd, he was preparing to lay down His life for us, the sheep. So we celebrate this festive entrance of the Lord entering into the city on a donkey, being cheered and adored because of the great miracle that He had performed just a day earlier, when He raised Lazarus from the dead. But the festive mood would change quickly as the week progressed, and the Lord knew this quite well. 

Let us not be like the people who celebrated the coming of Christ one day and then turned on Him and betrayed Him soon after. How do we betray Christ? We betray Him when we ignore Him, when we do not pray. We betray Him when we do not give thanks for all of the good things in our life. We betray Him especially when we choose to sin and not to obey His teachings and commandments.Yet on Palm Sunday Our Lord still allowed them to celebrate because although they did not know it, they were celebrating their savior and their freedom through this savior. 

Little did they know that their celebration would indeed be fulfilled in His betrayal and suffering and crucifixion and death. These were the instruments of their salvation. They celebrated the raising of Lazarus from the dead, but in fact, the Lord was about to do something much greater by offering all of humanity a chance to partake in His resurrection.

The Son of God, the God-man, Jesus Christ, suffered and died a human death that we might be raised in glory and live a divine life, free from slavery to death and sin. A life that is lived without fear and without anxiety, but in complete and profound peace. This is the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, of which St. Paul spoke. When we start torealize how much God loves us, when we realize what He has accomplished for us and what He would like to share with us, we cannot really be sad or worried about anything. A life that is lived in obedience to the teachings of Christ. A life where we die to our sinful passions and desires. This is a life full of joy and true celebration. A life that contains no anxiety, only tremendous gratitude and peace. This is His gift to us, out of His love for each of us.

May we keep all of this in mind as we walk through Holy Week with Christ, having gratitude and joy for what He is doing and has already done in our lives. To Him alone be glory forever AMEN.

Source: Sermons

How To Grow Fruit In The Desert

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark. (9:17-31) 

Today, on the Fourth Sunday of Great and Holy Lent, we remember our father among the saints, John Climacus, also known as St. John of the Ladder. According to the synaxarion (life of the saint),

“The celebration of his feast on this day arose from the custom prevalent in the honorable monasteries of starting Great Lent with the reading of his lessons. John describes the method of elevating the soul to God as ascending a ladder. He teaches those who seek salvation how to lay a firm foundation for struggles, how to detect and fight every passion, how to avoid demonic snares, and how to rise from the rudimental virtues to the heights of Godlike love and humility. John of the Ladder came to Mount Sinai at age 16 and remained there, first as a novice under obedience, then as a recluse, and finally as abbot until his eightieth year. One time, his disciple, Moses, fell asleep under the shade of a large stone. John, in prayer in his cell, saw that his disciple was in danger and prayed to God for him. Later, when Moses returned, he fell on his knees and gave thanks to his spiritual father for saving him from certain death. He related how, in a dream, he heard John calling him and he jumped up and, at that moment, the stone tumbled. Had he not jumped, the stone would have crushed him. John Climacus died on March 30, 606.” 

We are amazed to hear that he entered into the monastic life, that he fled the world and went into the wilderness of the desert at the age of 16. Most teens at that age are thinking about driving and they are looking towards their future. They want to be happy, to have fun, to daydream, to fall in love, to go to college, to get jobs. They want to build their lives, and yet this young man was looking more intently at his future. He was not looking at the short term goals but at the whole goal of this life…and he figured it out. He found the short-cut to a rich and rewarding life, but it came through great struggle. It came through many trials and tribulations. It came through suffering and even tears. In fact, he figured out one of the immutable laws of the Christian life. In order to save your life, you have to be willing to sacrifice it all, to lose it all, to show your love for God. We can see this for instance in the example of Abraham, who was asked to sacrifice the thing that he loved most. He was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac, to God. Of course we know that God did not make him go through with this, but God tested Abraham’s faith. He wanted to see what was really in his heart.

John Climacus went through great sacrifices and struggles. He sacrificed a “normal” life in order to lose it all for Christ. He went into the wilderness to become a nobody in the eyes of the world, and he came to have a firm grasp on the realities of life because he gained life through his efforts to know God intimately. He gained himself. Instead of being a nobody, he became someone that the Church remembers often. His work is still read all over the world during each and every lent, for roughly the last 13 centuries!

We see a man who was obedient to the life taught by Christ, and reflected in the life of the Church. A man who is obedient through struggles in fasting and prayer. And isn’t this the message of the gospel reading today? The disciples wonder when they are powerless to heal the young man who is possessed by a demon. Yet, the Lord tells them, “this kind, cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.” It means that prayer and fasting are the keys to a thriving and serious spiritual life. The disciples could not heal in this difficult situation because they lacked the faith and power that become energized through fasting and intensity of prayer. Another way to understand this is that increasing our efforts to fast and pray is a sign of our great faith in God, and this faith is rewarded greatly.

Whatever our situation may be, whether it is demon possession, or sickness or great temptations, or bad habits, or addictions or this worldwide quarantine that we are under. All of these trials can be overcome if we redouble, or “re-triple” our efforts to dedicate them to God through prayer and fasting. Prayer is the door and fasting is the pick that unlocks the door of the heart, our passage to God. 

One of the Hymns that we sing today, in honor of this great saint John of the ladder, says “The barren wilderness thou didst make fertile with the streams of thy tears; and by thy deep sighing thou hast given fruit through thy struggles a hundredfold. Accordingly, thou hast become a star for the universe, sparkling with miracles. Therefore, O righteous Father John Climacus, intercede with Christ God to save our souls.”

May we be like St. John Climacus and allow the wilderness of our hearts to become fertile soil for the grace of God to work, through our struggle and even through tears. Have faith that through the efforts of fasting and prayer we can know Christ more intimately and that He will multiply the fruit of our struggles, a hundredfold. He will make us the light of the world and allow us to shine brightly, even during times of darkness. This is possible if you believe because “All things are possible to him who believes.” And glory be to God forever AMEN.

Source: Sermons

Drawing Near to The Throne of Grace

The Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews. (4:14-5:6) andThe Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark. (8:34-9:1) 

On this the third Sunday of Great and Holy Lent we mark a wonderful event. We have now reached the halfway point of this great and holy struggle. The Church is a wise mother and she knows her children well. She has seen their struggles over two millennia and in the midst of their struggles and trials and tribulations, she has raised up countless numbers of saints from among her children. 

So today as we celebrate the third Sunday of Lent, Our mother, the Church, brings forth the remembrance and the image of the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ to strengthen us and to encourage us during this difficult time of fasting and prayer. In the life of a Christian, nothing is more frightening or painful than to look at oneself and ones failings before God and to examine his or her life and repent honestly and truly. If it was easy, everyone would become saints. If it was easy Our Lord Jesus Christ would have said “The way is large and wide and many enter it!” But our blessed Master does not say that at all. He says “The way is narrow and there are few who find it.” 

Yet the Church reminds us that even in the midst of these difficult days of repentance, we should keep going, keep pressing on towards God. And as we begin to grow tired of fasting and repentance and struggle, the Church brings out her most powerful treasure. She shares with us the trophy of the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ, which has become our victory as well. How can we not be comforted whenever we see the image of the cross of Christ? How can we not have our wounds soothed by that beautiful image of God’s love for us?

These days, we might feel that we are suffering more than we did in previous lents. The whole world seems to be in fear regarding the virus that is spreading around the world like a wildfire. Some of you are really missing the Divine Liturgy. This might be your first or second week away from the liturgy. For some of you, maybe it was even longer than that. But I want you to know that it is natural to miss the Liturgy and to hunger and long for the life of the Church. What is unnatural is for people to skip the Divine liturgy for worldly reasons and pathetic excuses. It means that there is a lack of love for God. But here in our situation it is admirable and good that we obey the authorities and do our part to help in this battle against the virus.

Our time away from the church, reminds me of the Israelites in the wilderness after they had received their freedom from Egypt. They had to wander for a long time with only a promise in their hearts. They were promised that they would one day see the promised land and dwell in it together. Until then they were nearly empty handed. They did not have much in the wilderness! We might feel like we are stuck in the wilderness of our own homes. In fact we cannot even find toilet paper! But what did the people have in the wilderness? They had the presence of God. God went before them as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. We cannot even imagine such a spectacle! 

Yet, what we as Christians have is much much more than anything that they could have imagined in the wilderness. We have the presence of God within us because we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit through our Baptism and Chrismation. You have become temples of the Holy Spirit! God is with you always. God has also given us promises. He has promised to never leave us. So we are called to be faithful to His teachings and to never leave Him! 

In today’s Epistle reading we hear these words,

“For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One Who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Our Lord Jesus Christ understands our condition, because He has lived this condition. He held within Himself, our human condition and His divine, heavenly condition. And because of this, we are told that He sympathizes with usand loves us. The apostle goes further to say that we should “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” 

Today we might feel that we are in a time of need. In truth, all of our life is a time of need. We are completely helpless and dependent upon the Lord and only the arrogant or the insane believe otherwise. So don’t squander this time of isolation, this time in the wilderness. Transform your homes not only into little churches but into little monasteries, away from the world. Take the initial steps to draw near to the throne of grace and you will find God’s grace poured out on you and your family through faith. 

In today’s gospel the Lord says “For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?” Now we feel that we have lost some of the world, we are a bit cut off from the world around us. But we should not despair, because during this time we can dedicate and focus our lives on Christ. Instead of a time of torment and torture, this can be a time of comfort and peace through our union with Christ in prayer and in service of one another (as much as that is possible). So, far from being a time of torment, it can be a new paradise. Isn’t that why the holy men and women went into the deserts and wildernesses of the world, to find Christ in prayer?

Brothers and sisters, let us run the rest of this lenten race, carrying our various crosseswith haste and understand that we have not lost anything, but we have gained a chance to regain our lives and our souls by returning to Christ. To Him be the glory with His Father and the Holy Spirit, AMEN.

Source: Sermons

Christ, the Coronavirus and Our Fragile Health

On this, the second Sunday of Great and Holy Lent we commemorate the life and teachings of St. Gregory Palamas. The life of St. Gregory is quite fascinating and inspiring and I want each of you to read it later tonight. Parents, you will have a responsibility to really strengthen and encourage your children over the next few weeks. It is no use to moan and complain because the kids are home. Instead we can start the day by giving thanks to God for all things. We can use this time to teach our children how to turn fear into fuel for prayer and a vibrant faith. We can use this time to follow the life and example of St. Gregory Palamas and make God our obsession. 

This has been a week full of news and worries and concerns. People are worried about the economy. Many are worried about the novel coronavirus that is spreading like wildfire throughout the world. It is ok to have some fear. Fear can be a healthy response to real threats or dangers. It allows us to prepare as best we can. It is not ok to have anxiety. Anxiety is irrational fear that is driven by our overactive imaginations and passions and under active faith in God. Anxiety is often the result of obsession about ourselves, our physical health and obsession over all of the bad things in the world. As we focus on what is going wrong in the world, we magnify those things and make them bigger. We make them the focus of our lives by giving them too much attention in our lives. 

Let me remind you that it is great and holy Lent. Now is not the time to obsess over the news. We already know what is happening in the news. The virus will infect twice the number of people every 3-4 days. Hundreds of thousands, if not millons of people will be infected all over this country. It is not a matter of if, but when. Lent is not given to us to focus on this sickness. It is now our time to focus, to make God our obsession. That is what is meant by the Lord when He says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Orthodox Christians have lived through times of great tribulation. Through plagues, floods, persecutions, beheadings, wars, famines and earthquakes to name a few. We will continue to have these difficulties in this life. Don’t think you can run away from this by watching the news and being anxious. You can’t run away from the troubles of life. But you can run to Christ who is our shelter in this and every storm. Let your anxieties be turned into fuel for your prayers. If you do not feel anxiety for yourself, good. Start praying for others. Start with those that you know and then pray for those that are suffering all over the world. Pray that God would have mercy on them. 

I am not saying that we should be careless. We are being reasonably careful. We want people to be healthy. We want to slow the rate of infection within the community, out of love for the church community and the larger community. But for all the talk of fear for peoples lives and their health, I have not heard anyone speak with such concern ever, for the health of their souls.

About 647,000 Americans die of heart disease every year. About 600,000 die every year from cancer. More than 600,000 Americans die from abortions in the United States each year. About 80,000 Americans die every year from Diabetes. Each and every year, at least 12,000 die of the flu. In some years that number is even greater, up to roughly 60,000. About 6 million Americans die every year in car accidents. 6 Million. That is 6 times the number of residents in Wake County, NC. By the grace of God, until now we have only had 50 deaths in the United States from the novel coronavirus. 

I care about your physical health. I want you to be physically healthy, but all of this is nothing compared to my desire for your spiritual well being. I will be sad if one of you is sick or if God forbid, one of you passes away. But I cannot live with myself if one of you is spiritually unprepared to die. Let me remind you that everyone is going to die physically, but whether we live or die spiritually, is another matter, an eternal matter. Here we live a short physical life, at best usually 70 or 80 years, but the soul will live eternally and it will be reunited with the body. So whatever efforts we make to strengthen the soul, whatever efforts we make to boost our spiritual immune system, whatever efforts we make to know God and to love our neighbors, these things will be with us long after we leave this life. They will be a part of us forever. My brothers and sisters, this is not the time to be afraid, but the time to have courage and deep faith because God will never leave us or forsake us! We are His children and He is our Father! All of our worries will not add a single day to our lives, because our days are all numbered by the God who has also numbered the all of the stars and each grain of sand.

All of the fathers of the Church tell us to be afraid, but what do they tell us to fear? Listen to this quote by St. John of Kronstadt, he says “Fear evil like fire. Don’t let it touch your heart..” Imagine what a beautiful life we would have if we feared evil the same way that we fear sicknesses? Imagine what peace of soul we would have! Imagine how strong our families and churches and country would be!

Many of the fathers also tell us to fear God. Indeed Holy Scripture teaches this. The proverb says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Pro1:7). Ecclesiates 12:13 says “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” And again in the Proverbs we hear “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death” (Pro14:27).

This is a time that might feel strange. We are a bit disoriented, we are off balance. But it is time to quickly find your footing and strengthen your resolve and your determination not to allow anything to distract you from the real struggle, this struggle to know and to love God with every fiber of our being. That is the example of St. Gregory Palamas and because of his great struggle, he was given a great vision and experience of God’s grace. 

We do not fear death, because we have already died and been buried with Christ. That is why the martyrs had courage. They were weak, but God was their strength. We also have courage through our faith in Jesus Christ, who is our way, and our life and offers us a share in His gloriousresurrection. May you all have courage and hope through Our Lord Jesus Christ who is our refuge and our salvation. Amen.

Source: Sermons