YOU SHALL NOT KILL

“You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire… You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt 5: 21-22, 27-28) It is, perhaps, understandable that we feel shock and dismay, when we hear about the crimes of certain murderers or sex-offenders; and we might, understanda

I SHALL TEACH TRANSGRESSORS YOUR WAYS

“Restore unto me the joy of your salvation, and with your governing Spirit establish me. I shall teach transgressors your ways (Διδάξω ἀνόμους τὰς ὁδούς σου, научу беззаконныя путем твоим), and the ungodly shall turn back to you.” (Ps 50: 12-13) One might ask, Can “I” really teach transgressors God’s ways? I mean, isn’t this verse of Psalm 50 a bit presumptuous for me, who is also a transgressor? No, it isn’t presumptuous, when I look at all of Psalm 50, and how it progresses, – or teaches me to progress, – from placing myself and all my “transgression” into the hands of God’s “great mercy,” and from there to open up to the gifts of the Holy Spirit and reliance on Him. It is in Him, not in “

THE DAY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew the right Spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation, and with your governing Spirit establish me.” (Ps 50: 10-12, Septuagint-translation) This Monday, the day right after Pentecost, is called “The Day of the Holy Spirit,” because it is traditional for our church-calendar to celebrate the main “actor/s” of a great feast one day after the feast (e.g., one day after Christmas we celebrate the Theotokos; one day after Theophany/The Baptism of the Lord we celebrate St. John the Baptist; one day after The Meeting of the Lord we celebrate Sts. Symeon and Anna).

PENTECOST SUNDAY

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were amazed and wondered, saying, ‘Are not all these who are speaki

DEATH & GRIEVING

“Then Mary, when she came where Jesus was and saw him, fell at his feet, saying to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; and he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept.” (Jn 11: 32-35) On this Memorial Saturday preceding Pentecost, when we commemorate our departed, I am thinking about how the Lord shares our human grief over the death of a loved one, when we share it with Him. When Lazarus’s sister Mary fell before Him in tears, surrounded by friends who are also in tears, Jesus allowed Himself to be so “

FAITH vs. FEAR

“The Lord is my light and my saviour; whom then shall I fear? The Lord is the defender of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?” (Ps 26/27: 1, Septuagint-translation) The opposite of fear is not courage, or self-confidence, but faith. When some form of fear or anxiety rears its ugly head in my heart, like the fear of financial insecurity, of human opinion, of abandonment and being alone, of “failure” or “success,” – it’s a tap on the shoulder, telling me that I’ve slipped away from God-reliance; I’ve lost sight of His loving presence in my life and my world. So I need to hurry back into His hands, in some heartfelt prayer, letting His grace liberate me from the crippling effects of fear.

THE LORD’S ASCENSION

“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ Then they gathered around him and as

BELIEVE IN THE LIGHT

“’While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.’ When Jesus had said this, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in him.” (Jn 12: 36-37) I do “have the light” today, whenever I choose to turn toward Him. I “have the light” in the many, powerful and life-giving gifts of the Holy Spirit to the Church “in this world”; gifts like Holy Scripture, and other sacraments or mysteries that live and breathe in us and through us, on a daily basis, whenever we choose to embrace them in faith. Let me choose to “believe in the light” offered to me today, by the ever-generous hand of our Lord Jesus C

I AM ASCENDING

“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.” (Jn 20: 16-18) As the feast of the Lord’s Ascension is coming up (for those of us on the Orthodox church-calendar), I am thinking about these words, said by the risen Lord to Mary Magdalene (and through her, to the disciples) about His upcoming ascension. He is announcing to them th

(UN)DISTURBED BY THE NEWS

“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and for three sabbaths he reasoned with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.’ And some of them were persuaded, and joined Paul and Silas; as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked fellows of the rabble, they gathered a crowd, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring th

PRAISING THE LORD ON MOTHER’S DAY

“Praise the name of the Lord; Praise him, you servants of the Lord. You that stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God, praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; chant unto his name, for that is good.” (Ps 134: 1-3, Septuagint-translation) What a relief it is, to take a break from worrying about or bemoaning what is “bad” and “wrong” with the world, and to “praise the Lord.” For that is good. And it is healthy for me, particularly in our oft-exhausting internet-culture, which always seems more eager to find fault with, and to take offense at, things and people, rather than to find the good in them. Today I take pause and thank God wholeheartedly, also for the things

PARENTING & OVER-PARENTING

“The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, and asked them, ’Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself.’ His parents said this because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.” (Jn 9: 18-22) I know, these parents of the blind man healed by Jesus do “throw him unde

MY SHEEP HEAR MY VOICE

“So the Jews gathered round him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.’ The Jews took up stones again to stone him.” (Jn 10: 24-31) “If you are t

COMMITTED TO THE LORD

“…they (Paul and Barnabas) returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed (χειροτονήσαντες) elders (πρεσβυτέρους) for them in every church, with prayer and fasting, they committed (παρέθεντο) them to the Lord in whom they believed.” (Acts 14: 21b – 23) “For” the churches of Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, as we learn in our Church’s reading for today, the Apostles “appointed elders,“ while “committing“ them, or placing them in the hands of /in the charge of, the Lord. Because the entire Church, together with

GOD'S SENSE OF HUMOR

“Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?’ This he said to test/prove/tempt him (πειράζων αὐτόν), for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, ‘Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little…” (Jn 6: 5-7) What does it mean, that Jesus said this to Philip to “test” him? At the risk of sounding irreverent, I’d say that, when Philip was asked this rather-impossible question to “test” (or “prove” or even “tempt,” as the Greek verb here can be translated) him, I think that what the Evangelist John is telling us is that our one-and-only Lord

WISE AS SERPENTS & PURE AS DOVES

“Behold, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise/sensible (φρόνιμοι) as serpents and pure (ἀκέραιοι, lit. unmixed, uncontaminated) as doves. Be on your guard against / Beware of people, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues…” (Mt 10: 16-17) As part of the long list of instructions that the Lord gives His apostles in this tenth chapter of Matthew, as He sends them out on their mission, He likens them (and us, members of the “apostolic” Church) to three kinds of creatures: sheep, serpents, and doves. More precisely, He says that they (already) are “like sheep,” i.e., vulnerable and rather helpless (when without a Shepherd) vis-à-v

THE LORD HONORS THE SINGLE & DIVORCED

“There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?’ J

THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE NOT-BAPTISED

“While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter declared, ‘Can any one forbid water for baptising these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 10: 44-48a) Right after St. Peter preached about Jesus Christ in the house of Cornelius, a Gentile, “the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word,” – “even on the Gentiles” who were not yet baptised. S

GOD IS NOT PREJUDICED

“And Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10: 34-35) This St. Peter says in the house of one Cornelius, a Gentile, and a centurion of the “Italian Cohort” in the Roman army, to whom Peter is sent to preach, and whom Peter ends up baptizing, with all of Cornelius’s household in Caesarea. The mission to Cornelius is a surprise to St. Peter at this point, because Peter had not yet stepped outside his “comfort zone,” based on the Jewish tradition of his upbringing, which perceived Gentiles as a source of ritual impurity. Please see all of this Chapter 10 of Ac

COME TO ME AND DRINK

”On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of him (ἐκ τῆς κοιλίας αὐτοῦ, out of his belly) will flow rivers of living water.’ But this he spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (Jn 7: 37-40) On this feast of Mid-Pentecost, marking the mid-point of our journey from Pascha to Pentecost, we celebrate these words said, nay, cried out, by our Lord to all of us: If “anyone” thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. That also means me, if I recognize th

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