It happens all the time. I look out from the Holy Altar at the People of God, and wonder if anyone is even glad to be in Church. I first noticed this more than twenty years ago, when I was still a lay person, but it never fails. Based solely on the faces of those in Church, being Orthodox Christian is a burden and way to sad to attract anyone to the faith. It could be one of the reasons the Church hasn’t taken a stronger hold in America.
To wrap up our theme this week about Godly passions, today I bring you attention to the reading from Genesis 22.1-18. It is the story of the Sacrifice of Abraham in which we learn what it means to have a sense of Godly obedience, and it won’t be the last time in the Holy Scriptures, but today’s story does prepare us for Holy Week a little more than one week away.
It might seem unnecessary, especially for our Daily Lenten Journey, but what’s your purpose in life? Without realizing it, maybe, your purpose isn’t what you think it is even if you’re reading this blog. I hear it all the time. Parents think their purpose is to prepare their children to be adults. Teenagers think their purpose is to get into (the right) college. Parish Councils think their purpose is the balance the Church budget. They’re all wrong.
No, I’m not talking about trees and clouds today, although that is an important topic. As part of our theme this week, I wanted to address the environment you establish around yourself for success. We hear it all the time. There are many sayings that begin with the words, “Surround yourself with…” If you want to be a successful business leader, surround yourself with images of business success. If you want to be a successful musician, surround yourself with examples of successful musicians. What if you want to be a good Orthodox Christian? What then?
Our Daily Lenten Journey this year has been focusing on weekly themes. We have talked about serving others, we have talked about ‘going public’ with our faith, we have talked about taking up our cross, and this week we will focus on using our passions for Godly purposes. Yesterday I spoke about Godly Fear. Today we’ll discuss how having a Godly attitude is important in our salvation, and how much it really does make a difference, in our daily life.
In the Gospel lesson for the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent (Mark 9.17-31), we hear about a father who brought his son to Christ to be healed saying, “I believe, help my unbelief.” God fulfilled his belief, given the father the strength he needed to understand that he needed God’s help. God helps us, but we cannot just sit and wait for God ‘do it’ by Himself. There is still something we must do to work with God because we are coworkers.
You’ve heard it said, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4.18) If we believe this to be true, then how can we also read in today’s reading from Proverbs, “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life?” (Proverbs 14.27) How can the Church, on the one hand teach us not to fear, and on the other that fear is a fountain of life?
As we get closer and closer to Pascha, the Church recalls the story of the man who brought his son to Jesus to be healed because nobody else could help him. Even the disciples could not help him. He had nowhere else to go so he came to Jesus, “Teacher, I brought you my son who has a mute spirit.” (Mark 9.17) The father explained everything, how the demon would torture his son, how his son would so often come very close to death, and even how the disciples could not cast out the demon.
Ever since the creation of time, the Lord has given us the Sabbath as a respite in our physical and spiritual journey. In the Old Testament, even lands and animals were given a sabbath rest from their masters, knowing that everything produces better with a little rest. Unfortunately, with our 24-hour/7-day a week life, we rarely rest on the Sabbath. During Great Lent, there is a special sort of rest on the Sabbath, but if you’re not fully fasting, you would never realize it.
Take Up Your Cross in Celebrations
Today is the Feast of Saint Raphael, Nicholas and Irene of Mytilene, but the Church celebrating. Their feast day instead will take place on Holy and Bright Tuesday, this year May 4, 2021. The same is the case for the Feast of St George which is ‘actually’ April 23rd but will instead take place on Holy and Bright Monday, this year May 3, 3021. The celebrations for these great Saints are being delayed.