WHEN ROUTINE IS DISRUPTED

“Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases…Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul!” (Ps 102/103: 1-3, 22) This morning I woke up a bit jetlagged and groggy, as I’ve been traveling for almost a week now. This kind of disruption of my usual routine can make me… well, unpleasant, for myself and other people. But reading the words of this well-known psalm on this unusual morning under unusual circumstances, - a psalm that I hear often (because it’s sung at the beginning of Divine Liturgy in my chu

HE LET YOU HUNGER

“And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you… And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.” (Deut 8: 2-4) Just as He did back then, with His people for forty years in the wilderness, so does God “humble” those who belong to Him today. How does He do this? He periodically “lets you hunger,” and feeds you in ways “which you did not know” before. Thus God opens me up to the gift called “humility,” this road to true freedom, by walking me through the way of the

WEEDS AMONG THE WHEAT

“He put another parable before them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest

A FOREIGN VOICE

“‘Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.’” (Jn 10: 1-5) What does it mean, to “climb in another way,” like a thief? It means, having an agenda other than our Lord’s. If I capture the attention of the “sheepfold” t

HE CAN DO NOTHING ON HIS OWN

“’I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me. If I testify/bear witness (μαρτυρῶ) about myself, my testimony/witness (μαρτυρία) is not true. There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true.’” (Jn 5: 30-32) Here my Lord clarifies a vital aspect of the puzzling phenomena known as God’s “will” and human “will.” Our Triune God’s “will” does not “do” anything in Self-isolation, but only in harmony with Others. Christ reveals to us this purpose of “will,” with which we are also endowed: We are given this divine energy not, as I often do, to exercise it in self

FREEDOM FROM BONDAGE

“Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ They answered him, ‘We are descendants of Abraham, and have never been in bondage to any one. How is it that you say, ‘You will be made free’?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (Jn 8: 31-36) What kind of “bondage” is Jesus pointing out to me here? It is the bondage of my “sin” (ἁμαρτία, missing the mark); that is, my loss(es)

“I THIRST”

“After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished to fulfil the scripture, said, ‘I thirst’ (Διψῶ). A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished’; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (Jn 19: 28-30) A literally “excruciating,” physical thirst was part of the agony of anyone dying in this horrible manner, by crucifixion. But as one of the few, precious words offered to us by our Redeemer in His final moments, this word, Διψῶ (I thirst), sticks in my mind as more than an expression of only His physical state. His entire journey, His entire coming into o

A DAILY CHOICE

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands on the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” (Ps 1: 1-3) Indeed “blessed is the man” who makes this healthy choice every day. It is a choice, on the one hand, between “the way of sinners,” which makes me “sit” in place, “in the seat of scoffers,” – or, on the other hand, of “the law of the Lord,” which leads me to growth, like a tree “that yields its fruit in its season.” I k

IMPOSING MY OWN TIME

“After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near. So his brothers said to him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing; for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.’ (For not even his brothers believed in him.) Jesus said to them, ‘My time has not yet come, but your time is always here…’” (Jn 7: 1-6) Here is yet another example of Jesus being pressured to do things our way, and at our pace. His brothers are annoyed with His apparent slowness to “show

HELP MY UNBELIEF

“And they brought the boy to him; and when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, ‘How long has he had this?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’” (Mk 9: 20-24) The father of the child does believe. And yet he is not quite sure if the Lord “can do anything.” He says quite desperately, almost h

WHAT MUST WE DO?

“’Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.’ Then they said to him, ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’” (Jn 6: 27-29) There isn’t all that much I “must do,” according to my first-and-foremost Employer. He cautions me today, in the above-quoted passage, about preoccupations with things “I must do,” because He knows that I tend to focus on the “I” in these “musts.” As if “I” alone provide for myself; or even as if “I” can “do the works of God.” No. It is He Who c

TRUE WORSHIPERS

“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But (ἀλλὰ) the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him.” (Jn 4: 21-23) “We” worship what “we know” (οἴδαμεν), says our Lord to the not-Orthodox, Samaritan woman, while you worship what you “do not know” (οὐκ οἴδατε). Because salvation is “from” us, the Orthodox who “know” the truth. However, neither you, nor we, are yet “true worshipers.” Thus Jesus goes on to say, “But,”

LOOKED UPON IN HUMILITY

“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked upon the humility (τὴν ταπείνωσιν) of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;’” (Lk 1: 46-48) It is in deep humility that the Blessed Among Women is filled with joy and gratitude, – also for the praise she is to receive “henceforth” from “all generations.” The grace of humility allows her to have a healthy response also to human praise. She can “look upon” her life as God has “looked upon” (ἐπέβλεψεν) her, in joyous acceptance. So today the Mother of God reminds me of true humility, the gift of the Holy Spirit that opens my eyes to see myself and other

LET NOT YOUR HEARTS BE TROUBLED

“Peter said to him, ‘Lord, why cannot I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied me three times. Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (Jn 13: 37 – 14: 2) How consoling, and unexpected, is the turn in our Lord’s speech here. Regardless of the break in the division of chapters in the Gospel of John (chapters 13 and 14), Jesus begins what He says here with a prediction of Peter’s denial, but then immediately turns t

BEING READY

“Let your loins be girded (dressed for action) and your lamps burning, and be like those who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes; truly, I say to you, he will gird himself and have them sit at table, and he will come and serve them.” (Lk 12: 35-37) I have a “master” who “comes and knocks” not once, not twice, but does so continuously, throughout my life. But I am not always ready to “open to him,” because I’m asleep or not listening. On some days, I am too busy playing “master” myself, as if I owned the place. Today let me take pau

HE FULLY SATISFIES EVERY NEED

“And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4: 19) That’s quite a promise! But note that St. Paul makes this promise to the Philippians, who were just as good at giving as they were at receiving: “You Philippians,” he writes to them, “indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone. For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs more than once.” (Phil 4: 15-16) God does fully satisfy every need of mine, but specifically “according to His riches,” and “in glory in Christ Jesus.” His kind of “riches” come t

A HOLY NATION

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy.” (1 Pet 2: 9-10) Once we were “no people” at all, St. Peter says to us rather outrageously. Why not? Because we were God-less, and left to our own devices, we were fragmented, both within ourselves and amongst ourselves. Of course we can build “nations” and imagine any one of them to be “a chosen race,” but our own “nation-building” efforts, when based on ourselves and our self-proclaimed “ch

A DIFFERENT GOSPEL

“I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by its cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you submit to it readily enough... For you put up with it when someone makes slaves of you, or preys upon you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or gives you a slap in the face. To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!“

NEWNESS OF LIFE

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Rom 6: 3-5) His death and His resurrection. These things, which “happened” to one, specific Man, at a specific moment in history, “under Pontius Pilate,” – they “happened” also to me, when I participated in them, in baptism. So that I, too, “might walk in newness of life.” I have that kind of

LUST!

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman to lust after her (πρὸς τὸ ἐπιθυμῆσαι αὐτὴν) has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt 5: 27-28) ...Now that I've got your attention: :) What is the most powerful antidote to adulterous “lusting” (ἐπιθυμέω, to set one’s heart upon, to long for, desire)? Humility. It’s the liberating grace of humility that opens my eyes to see, and to look at, my world properly, recognizing what is God’s and not “mine.” Humility frees me from the frustrations and chaos of expectations / yearnings for things beyond the boundaries of what God has already given me or plans to gi

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