We begin with an admonition from the Apostle Paul, in the selection read on the 17th Sunday after Pentecost: “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” This is the what, but most of a pastor’s life is spent explaining the how, which the readings for the Sunday after the Exaltation of the Precious cross do very well. The Epistle ends with the stirring words ” I am crucified with Christ: neverthless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me…”, and the Gospel tells us that “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it “. These describe an attitude, a way of living. Without this attitude, we will not be able to make our way and be “perfecting holiness”. One way to explain this attitude is to elucidate the uniquely ascetic and Orthodox understanding of the “remembrance of death”; this is CRITICAL stuff! We must understand this way of life, the ONLY way of life, which starts with baptism and the cross, and must continue in the way of the cross.
The Caananite woman teaches us *exactly* how we should pray: with knowledge, simplicity, persistence and humility. A close examination of her encounter with Christ shows these virtues plainly, and should also show us which ones we are lacking in (definitely at least 3 of the 4!).
This Sunday the Apostle Paul beseeches us that we receive not the grace of God in vain. His admonition is not something that is a rhetorical question. It is meant to be answered. All Christians must answer it.
He goes on to describe the ministry of being an apostle but really, by extension, the life of any Christian. Not all of the things he says would apply to us directly but most of them do. And then he goes on after giving this list of things that is very important to look at closely. At the end he says that he lives as sorrowful yet always rejoicing.
This is a key to the victorious Christian life, to always have sorrow and rejoicing. The world doesn’t understand this. The world really doesn’t like sorrow, so they try to always replace it with something that makes them happy, whether it is for a little time or a long time, whether it’s artificial or natural, they want to feel happy, not to be sorrowful.
The Christian, on the other hand, courts the feeling of sorrow and desires it. We’re not talking about sorrow that is depression and despondency and feeling like there is no meaning in life, or that there is nothing good that is happening in our lives or that all is difficult and all is terrible. That is the sorrow of the unbeliever.
Our kind of sorrow is that perhaps we have not received all of the grace of God properly and some of it was in vain. Our sorrow is that we wish to do good and sometimes we do not. Our sorrow is that God loves us and we do not love Him enough back. This is Christian sorrow….
Synopsis: It is crucial that we apply the Scripture we read *personally*. St Paul’s writings especially have important doctrinal teachings, but they always have personal application that we must not miss. We hone in on a critical “pointer” the Apostle gives regarding our nature and sin. We must takes his words to heart, and “own” them, so that we do not waste time with sadness, grief, guilt, surprise and shame, and always have productive repentance for our sins.
The homily begins with a request to pray for an Orthodox woman who is planning to have an abortion. The most important place in the liturgy to offer our heartfelt prayers to God for others is given, and it is explained that among other things, the earnest of the spirit, which St Paul mentions in his epistle should motivate us for our brethren who are suffering or in danger. After a little bit about how Orthodox should view abortion, this " earnest" and the "tie in" to the parable of the wedding feast are explained, and we see how praying for others and struggling for good MUST be the result of our entry into the wedding feast, which has already occurred, and is occurring.
Another TWO_FER on the 13th Sunday after Pentecost, 2012!
The Parable of the Vineyard, like most parable, has an immediate, outer meaning, and many layers of inner meaning. We compare all the symbolism in the parable, giving the immediate (Jewish) meaning, and The Christian meaning, and then talk about the main inner point of the parable: we must bear fruit – we are commanded to!
We celebrated The Prophet Samuel today, and talked about him at Vigil. The Holy Prophet Samuel teaches us how to approach EVERYTHING in life. The manner of the birth and calling of Samuel is also mentioned.
A Homily/talk with the children about the Dormition. They are pretty smart!
Exegesis of the Vespers readings (parables, paremia) for the Feast of the Transfiguration, with emphasis on typology, especially comparing the Theophanies Moses and Elijah experienced to the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, and the significant moral instruction these events give us, when viewed in a Christian light.
This is one of my most important homilies ever, and involves a very personal story. The Scripture today mentions the Second Coming of the Lord, and Jesus gives instructions that are easy to understand. Basically, He teaches that if there is time to talk about the supposed arrival of Him in the second coming, it is NOT happening. His coming will be so fast that “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” This scripture has always meant a great deal to me, because of hearing it long ago spoken to a person who was absolutely convinced that she could never be deceived. even though at the time she was in a sinful relationship with a man. She figured that God would forgive he when they married, and she was right; God forgives all who repent, but the question that has always been on my mind since that day is, would there come a timer, after many days, months, years of sin that a person would not longer desire to repent, and be capable of being deluded regarding things they formally understood? This is a critical question!
A TWO-FER today. A Homily on the Gospel of the Exorcism of the Lunatic Son, and some exegesis of a passage from 1 Corinthians.
Synopsis: The exorcism of the lunatic son teaches us how to gain faith. There is no faith, no salvation without labor. We must understand prayer and fasting in this context. We also see that our sins CAN and DO harm others.
Synopsis: The words of St Paul regarding Apostles MUST also apply to us! If we want honor, apparent strength or wisdom, etc, we will not be followers of Christ. If we obey the apostle and are followers of him (we must understand this – we must also live in such a way that people follow us!), we will understand true prayer and virtue in all circumstances.