GOD LOVES US UNCONDITIONALLY

“If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Fo

JUST A LITTLE FAITH

“He said therefore, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.’” (Lk 13: 18-19) How subtle is the “Man,” the God-Man Jesus Christ, Who has “sown” just a tiny “mustard seed” of faith in our little hearts. It is enough, even to provide “nests” for others, nay, even to move mountains (Lk 17: 6), – if only we don’t obstruct its growth in our “gardens.” So let me not be discouraged today, by the smallness of my faith. Because the Sower Who has gifted it to me continues to take care of its growth, by His light and Hi

FEAR OF "THE UNKNOWN"

“When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot k

HOPING AGAINST HOPE

”In hope he (Abraham) believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations; as he had been told, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead because he was about a hundred years old, or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘reckoned to him as righteousness.’ But the words, ‘it was reckoned to him,’ were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who beli

FISHERS OF MEN

“As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.” (Mt 4: 18-22) The Apostles’ Fast is a good time to contemplate what we mean, when we profess our faith in a Church that is, among other things, “apostolic.” In the broadest

PRAYING THROUGH THE STORMS

“And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Save, Lord; we are perishing.’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O (you) of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. And the people marveled, saying, ‘Who / What kind (of man) is this (Ποταπός ἐστιν οὗτος), that even winds and sea obey him?’” (Mt 8: 23-27) The word of our Lord Jesus Christ can “work” or “do” things for us that we can’t do for ourselves. And it is through this “working” of His word in our lives, when we repl

CHRIST vs. CODEPENDENCY

“So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.” (Mt 10: 32-36) Christ does not force us to be “His”; that is to say, to “acknowledge” Him for Who He is, – our One-and-Only Lord and ultimate authority. We are free, so we can alternatively hand ourselves over to “others,”

BUILDING IN CHRIST

“’Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.’ And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority/power, and not as their scribes.” (Mt 7: 24-29)

DO NOT BE ANXIOUS

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” (Mt 6: 31-34) If you’re feeling extra-anxious about your material “success,” whether it’s with regard to your finances, or your outer appearance, – I once heard a wise person say, – then intensify your spiritual “program,” and re-connect with God, because He gr

RESISTING EVIL-DOERS

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist/retaliate the evil (person) (μὴ ἀντιστῆναι τῷ πονηρῷ). If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” (Mt 5: 38-39) Yikes! What a difficult passage! But let me note what the Lord is forbidding us to do here, and what He is not forbidding us to do. He is forbidding us, in a private confrontation with a human “evil-doer,“ to “resist/retaliate“ (against) this human being, by “evil-doing“ the same thing ourselves, because He wants to protect us, when we are victimized, from turning into our oppressors. But He is not forbidding us from seeking to heal destructive “evil-

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 “

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.” (Mt 5: 21-22) It is understandable that we feel shock and dismay, when we hear about certain violent crimes of others, particularly in the highly-publicized cases. But in the passages quoted above, our Lord offers us a sobering reminder, as to how we ourselves might share, in “small” ways, in the responsibility for certain forms of violence against one anoth

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

"PROCESSING" THE NEWS

“Now the men who were holding Jesus mocked him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and asked him, ‘Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?’ And they spoke many other words against him, reviling him.” (Lk 22: 63-65) Does it do us any good, to know the heartbreaking details of certain egregious crimes, like the ones described above? They blindfolded Him, beat Him, mocked Him, and apparently they enjoyed it. You can’t “un-know” that; it stays with you, like stories (and also videos) that pop up in the news, of various forms of human cruelty, shamelessness, vandalism, etc. How can I “process” this information, so that it does not make me cynical about humanity in general? I can “process” it in

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.

GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (Jn 6: 48-51) Differently from the “manna in the wilderness” (Ex 16), the Bread of Life in the Church’s Eucharist does not only “come down from heaven.” While it is God Who makes our bread into “the living bread which came down from heaven,” by sending down His Holy Spirit in the Church’s Liturgy, it needs to be baked, and then offered, by our hum

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