Love without hypocrisy

July 16, 2017


You don’t need to hang around social media to hear the oft repeated criticism that the church is filled with hypocrites. Well, in the Orthodox Church, we know we are sinners and we know that we do not live as we should. Yet, if we take Orthodoxy to heart, we do not claim anything more than that we are sinners and our Church is a hospital. Being in the hospital, it is our hope to get well, but we are not there yet.

So, I wondered what it would be like if we did get well; if we could live a life free from hypocrisy.  Paul admonishes that “love should be without hypocrisy.” So let’s see what that might look like.

In Romans 12, Paul begins by saying that love calls us to be “living sacrifices.”  That sounds about right since He who was love incarnate sacrificed himself for us. Yet, practically speaking, what does this mean?

How do we think about ourselves versus other people? Paul says that we should not be high minded. Everyone is different, especially in terms of what they do in the Church. Grace is given to us all, but how we receive it, and what we do with it varies from person to person. Faith informs how we think so that we do not live with hypocrisy.

How do we serve? Do we serve with faith, or with doubt? St. Paul says that if you minister, do it with diligence. If you teach, teach in proportion to your faith. When you give, give liberally. If you show mercy, do it with cheerfulness. Faith informs our service, if we are to do it without hypocrisy

How do we behave? Paul, admonishes us that we should behave like a Christian. What does that look like?

  • Abhor evil and cling to what is good.
  • Be kindly affectionate to each other.
  • Honor others above your own honor
  • You shouldn’t be lazy
  • Your faith should be fervent (passionate), so that you rejoice in hope and have patience in times of trouble
  • You should be steady in your prayer life.
  • You  should have compassion so that you rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. You strive to meet the needs of others above your own needs so that you feed the hungry and clothe the naked and comfort the broken-hearted. You should be especially mindful of the needs of the members of your own church.

The last part is that we should overcome evil with good.

  • Live in peace with everyone, as much as you are able.
  • Avoid vengeance. Never repay evil for evil.
  • Attain humility.

Well, that is a pretty demanding list. Love is certainly more than a feeling, if it is to be lived without hypocrisy. The heart of the matter is love, a love that must be lived to be real. How we think, how we serve, and how we behave is to be guided by faith and love. Then we will be living sacrifices, and there is nothing hypocritical in that.

I guess that until love is perfected in us, we will just have to live with accusation that we are hypocrites. Well, we will work on it.

A Good Rate of Return

June 11, 2017


The words of Jesus are without compromise: “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”  My Protestant friends have asked me if I have ever confessed Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I replied that I have but when they ask me when that happened, I tell them that it first happened at my baptism when I confessed not once, three times, and then it happens every week when I confess the Creed. I don’t know if this satisfies them, but you get the point.

Let us not be blithe or casual about confessing Christ. It can cost you. Today, for us, it costs most of us little to confess the Lord in the Creed.  However, remember that this is the Sunday of the Saints and if you know anything about the Saints, you understand what it can cost to confess Him. There is an ideology in the world today that will take off your head for confessing Christ. We don’t worry about this too much. Our persecution is more subtle. According to the unfortunate senator Bernie Sanders, it’s fine to be a Christian just as long as you don’t promote it or practice it in public unless you have compromised it into nothingness.

Jesus expressed the cost in this way: “And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and follows after me, is not worthy of me. He that finds his life shall lose it: and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it. That is a high cost indeed.

So given such a cost, why would anyone follow or confess Jesus? The pagans wondered at the Saints. Often kings would offer them riches and honor if they would just worship an idol? How could you pass up such an honor? We might ask the Lord what Peter asked: Lord, we have given up absolutely everything to follow you. What can we expect in return? We might imagine that the Lord would have told them to expect nothing but tribulation or that they should just do it out of love. Yet, he said quite the opposite: “You who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.”

A hundredfold!!! No banker, no stockbroker, no financial investor can come near that rate of return. The Saints knew this and so they smiled, laughed and even mocked the offers of wealth, position and power and life. Such an offer was a “low ball offer” compared to what Christ had for them in the time to come.  So my friends, invest wisely. Don’t settle for low interest returns. No matter what sacrifice you think you must make, it is nothing compared to what the Lord Jesus has prepared for you.

A Good Death

May 27, 2017

electric chair

I have this enduring memory. When I was young, I was fascinated with a real life news story about a man on death row. I was young enough that the thought of knowing the time of your death was new to me and filled me with dread. The story went to the moment of his electrocution. They often interviewed the condemned man to try and understand his fears and anxieties as the day approached. They often asked if he was really sorry for what he had done.  It was as terrifying as it was fascinating. Since then, I have read many stories or watched movies where death approaches a person, a town, a nation, or even the world. It is always interesting to see if such a threat was faced with courage or fear and anxiety. In literature, there developed the idea of “the good death.”  The person in danger of death would be surrounded by family, friends and colleagues. Though slipping into death, this person would say final words of wisdom and comfort to his grieving family and then peacefully go to sleep.

While we all hope for a good death (painless and blameless), modern medicine has made a good death very difficult to attain. I’ve had the privilege of being with people facing the moment of their death. More times than not, they were in twilight, or a drug induced coma. Often, a decision had to be made to end treatment and shut off the machines that kept them alive. So there were no final hugs or kisses exchanged, no words of comfort or wisdom were spoken.

Starting in St. John 15, Jesus faces the moment of his death and we see what a good death truly is. Christ instructs his disciples and prays for them and for the whole world. He speaks words of comfort when he says that he will always be with us. He “lifts up his eyes to heaven” and prays that all of us might know the joy and ecstasy of union with Christ and union with the Father. We are to know the name of the Father and this is no small thing, for the name is more than a title. It expresses the nature of the eternal God. He shows us that eternal life is not something that just lies in the future. Eternal life is now –“and this is eternal life that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” He speaks of joy, real joy that he wants to be with us always as we live in the unity of the Church. Finally, he asks that where He is, we will always be with him.

Talk about a good death! Even though he faces torture, death and betrayal. He does not face it with fear, anxiety, and dread but with prayer.

Now, I have to ask myself, am I ready for a good death? Well, for the Orthodox,  the scene of a good death is quite different from the world’s. For us a good death is repentance. I have always been amazed at the stories of saints who despite having attained union with God, still repented at the moment of their death. Did they repent because of fear or dread? No, they repented because of the beauty and joy that they had missed, and they had a sense of the beauty and joy that they were about to embrace, a beauty that despite their piety they knew that they were not worthy to behold. Jesus said in his last moments that we would behold the glory that had been with him since the foundation of the world. Such glory, such beauty, will bring the entire world to its knees in repentance someday. Count on it.

I pray for a good death, painless, blameless, peaceful, and a good defense before the dread judgment seat of Christ. May my last words not be of fear, sorrow, or anxiety. May it be one of repentance. That will be a good death, indeed.


March 19, 2017


I have never met anyone who did not struggle with someone or something. They struggle at work, or struggle at school. They struggle with a friend or with an enemy. They struggle with the bills and they struggle with debt. They struggle with their spouse or their boyfriend or girlfriend.   They struggle with Democrats and liberals or they struggle with Republicans and conservatives.  They struggle with loneliness and depression and they struggle even more as they watch those they believe live without depression and seem to have it all. They struggle with mental, physical, and emotional illness and again struggle as they watch the rich and the young and the strong and the beautiful who seem to live above it all. The list could go on and on, but surely the Lord sees our struggle as we bear the cross that life has placed upon us. And now we come to the Orthodox Church that tells us that to be Orthodox is to struggle.  Given all my other struggles, maybe this is why I don’t attend as much as I should.  I carry enough burdens as it is

Jesus said that we must pick up our cross, deny ourselves and follow him. Surely all of my burdens and struggles fulfill this command (at least they do to me).  Well, not so fast. I came across a statement from the Blessed Augustine that flipped things around. In His Letters to Laetus, 243, he said the following: “For, when I noticed that you were being slowed down in your divine purpose by your preoccupation with domestic cares, I felt you were being carried and dragged along by your cross rather than that you were carrying it.” St. Augustine tells me that what is happening is that I am being dragged through life by my struggles. I am not carrying them at all. They are carrying me. I am like a surfer on the waves on my struggles.

Is this what Jesus meant? Not really. After all, if just carrying your own life burdens is carrying your cross, then everyone is fulfilling the Lord’s command. No. Carrying our burdens is not in itself carrying a cross with Christ.  What does it mean then to carry a cross and follow Jesus?  It means death and it means life.

As always, St. Paul puts it very distinctly: “I am crucified to the world and the world is crucified to me.”  So often, my burdens come from the fact that I judge myself by the standards of this society. The world defines what is necessary for happiness and I believe it. The world defines what is beautiful and what is not, and I believe it. The world tells me what is moral and what is not, and I believe it. The world tells me what is rich and what is poor, and I believe it. The world tells me what is brave and what is cowardly, and I believe it. The first work of the cross is to crucify me to this worldly propaganda and lunacy.

It is a two way street. I am to be crucified to the world, but then the world must be crucified to me. If in my heart I still envy the rich, the proud, the beautiful, the successful, etc., then even if I dress plainly, and live in a modest house and walk to work, I am still alive to the world. The Church attempts to help us. Today, we lift up and remember the Cross of Christ and the command that we follow Him.  In Holy Tradition, we have all that we need to break this inner worldliness so that we can not only be crucified to the world, we can also follow Him.

So, the Lord seeks to kill us; that is, He calls us to put our worldliness to death, inwardly and outwardly. How this is possible since surviving our personal struggles is tough enough? Remember these words:  “Cast your cares and burdens upon me….my yoke is easy and my burdens are light…I came that you might have life and have it in abundance.” We may find that when we let The Master tell us what is true, what is beautiful, what is strong, what is successful, what is rich and what is poor, etc., we may find that the burdens of the heart will roll away and we will find life everlasting.

Let’s not forget that we have a powerful ally, the Holy Spirit who is greater in us than all the struggles that we face. He is the Lord, the Giver of Life.  This Spirit can turn the water of our struggle into wine.

It is our choice. We can pick up the heavy load of our own struggles and cry as we carry them under the whip of our task masters; or, we can pick up the Cross of Christ, and being crucified to the world, we can follow Him.


February 25, 2017


In almost all cultures, there are stories about treasure. From my youth, I remember King Midas and Long John Silver on Treasure Island.  In my young mind, I could envision having a golden touch or digging up a treasure chest. How amazing it would be to have no financial worries and to live like a king.

However, treasure has its problems. It is difficult to keep. Jesus said that moth and rust will consume it and thieves will break in and steal it.  King Midas learned that having a golden touch was more of a curse than a blessing. Long John comes back to his treasure chest, but it is empty. In the movie “The Hobbit”, the Dwarf Kings are driven mad by the hoard of gold in their keep, and even after a dragon drives them away, they dream and long to return to it. They would have agreed with Jesus when he said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

As I consider my life, I look to see where my heart has been and where it is now. This shows me what I really value and what has priority in my life. Here lies the root of the problem and it shows why I do not repent and do not forgive from the heart. Here are some of the things I treasure.

I treasure my body.

I have spent a lot of time on my body, caring for it and pleasing it. It really is quite shameful how much time and money I have spent on it. An elder was sitting in the marketplace with some of his disciples, when a woman appeared with an entourage. She was a great beauty dressed in the finest apparel. Her hair was perfect and her makeup flawless. The elder began to weep and his disciples asked if her appearance had offended him. “No,” he replied, “she shames me.” The disciples were quite puzzled. How could this woman shame so great an elder? Seeing their confusion, he said, “Consider how much time she must spend on her appearance. By comparison, I spend so little time in prayer. She is more dedicated to her “god” than I am to mine.”  This is one reason why the Lenten fast is so troubling. My body does not like being denied of time and attention. Yes, where my treasure is, there has my heart been also.

I treasure my pride.

We know that pride is a terrible sin and that “pride goes before a fall.”  Despite this, we cling to a deep sense of personal pride. In Church, we sing “Lord, have mercy” many times. However, a theologian recently wrote that many in the Orthodox Church do not really believe that they are sinners. This is demonstrated by how little they go to confession. We say the words, but truthfully, we believe we are good people, and think of ourselves as loving and kind and intelligent and right. This prideful reality shows why we cannot forgive “from the heart.” We are offended when anyone by word or behavior challenges this inner prideful sense of goodness. We might even say that we forgive, but we cannot forget. Most times, this means that we have not really forgiven at all.  Yes, where my treasure is, there has my heart been also.

I treasure my mind.

          I’ve spent a fair amount of time in book stores. I am always amazed at the amount of information humans can manufacture. I have spent a lot of money on books, and often I only read part of them. They remain in the bookcase as silent reminders of my mental laziness. I treasure my mind, but I do not fill it with knowledge. I fill it with junk and then I am surprised when all I get out of it is junk. The food of my mind is trivial entertainment. There is no way that I can measure the hours spent on music, TV, magazines, movies, etc.

I can only imagine how I would be if I had spent that time not in trivial pursuit, but in gaining true knowledge. This is one reason why the development of my spiritual life is so slow and incomplete. As. St. Paul notes, I am to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. That renewal is not of the grey matter between my ears, but my inner spiritual mind (nous) by which I would know God. That spiritual mind I did not treasure. I did not believe that a true theologian is one who prays. I thought a true theologian was one who was smart. Yes, where my treasure is, there has my heart been also.

There are other things that I have treasured, but this is enough for now. It is my prayer that someday my heart will show that I came to treasure that which is in heaven. Such a treasure cannot be taken away even by a dragon.


If I have offended anyone, I ask for your forgiveness. As much as my pride will allow, I do forgive you and I know that God forgives.

Fr. John


January 27, 2017


“the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains” Acts 12

I have wondered at this verse all my life. Peter, as far as he knows, is about to die for the Faith, and he is asleep. Asleep? He is chained and guarded. There is no way out and no hope of reprieve because Herod wants him dead. In the face of all of this, Peter is asleep. What kind of man is this who is so at peace before his death that he sleeps? I  used to be able to sleep anywhere and anytime so that  people would say that I could sleep standing up. However, if it was the night before my death, would I be sleeping? Probably not.

The Church was praying for Peter and an angel would deliver him, but Peter didn’t know that at the time. He was so trusting in his Lord that he feared nothing, even death (and this from the man that denied the Lord three times).  I wish that I had such faith and courage, but I am no where near the holiness of St Peter.  I don’t wear his chains. The chains on Peter are those that came from being a martyr  (remember that the word martyr means “witness”). I have been a rather poor witness so I do not wear Peter’s chains.

Oh, I do wear chains but they are the chains of Jacob Marley and Ebeneezer Scrooge. I have forged them all my life and they have been quite heavy and ponderous. My pride, selfishness, passionate nature, sinfulness, anger are a few of the things that make up the links of my chain.  The Lord has removed these from me many times through my baptism, confession, and repentance, but like a dog returning to its vomit, I have picked up the chains and put them on again. Foolish, so very very foolish.

I do not lose hope. Perhaps the first step is realize that I am bound by chains. My habitual sins chain me and guard me for death. If I know this to the deepest level of my soul, then when the Lord removes them again, I will remember the word – “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” ( John 8.36) Knowing this freedom from my own chains, I can pick of up the chains of St. Peter. I can be a free man, a witness who sleeps even in the face of death. I hope that my Church prays for me like they did for St. Peter.

How can I help you? Well, at least, if I rattle my chains, you may come to know your own. If you do,  then may the angel of the Lord deliver you, so that someday you may sleep in peace bound by the chains of St Peter.

I will rattle my chains, but you may think that I am just “an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato.” Even so, it is the best I can do.

Fight, Run, Finish

January 14, 2017

boxerrunRunner Crossing the Red Tape at the Finish Line

It always surprises me when someone comes to the Orthodox faith. Given the present age, there are so many versions of Christianity on offer. Many of them are in step with the values and hopes of the culture. Some offer a path of prosperity and comfort (whether they ever deliver is another issue).  Some offer helpful hints for hurtful habits and demand little more while others teach the path of positive thinking. In some, the music is rousing and contemporary, but often the theology is not intellectually demanding.

Why then would someone want to join a Faith that asks you to be regular in your attendance instead of coming when it suits you; that you fast as a lifestyle; adopt a prayer rule instead of just praying what you want and when you want; tithe instead of dropping in the box whatever you have in your pocket; study to challenge your thinking instead of believing that all you have to do is “read and heed”; attend classes to learn from others, etc.

The reason is the Holy Spirit, of course, who draws rare souls and shows them that the Church is not a cruise ship, but a battleship. While the Church is called to be in the world and witness to the world, it is not called to be contemporary or relevant to any culture in which it finds itself.  To be Orthodox is to struggle, not only with the problems that come with living, but with the world, the flesh, and the devil.

St. Paul understood this. In 2 Timothy 4, he said that he had fought the good fight and had run the race. Hear the verbs he uses – fight and run. These are not the words that describe an easy life in the Faith.  I’ve only been in a few physical fights and I’ve been in some intellectual battles.  I learned that if you want to be victorious, you should learn to fight well. This requires that you gain some fighting skills and it also requires that you know something about your opponent. A good runner has to train, and eat well, but above all he or she must have a good heart.  To run well and to fight well involves body, mind, and soul.

In Orthodoxy, it is the same. The Faith requires body, mind, and soul.  If you do not train the body, it will shipwreck your faith with its constant demands for pleasure and comfort. If you do not train the mind, the father of lies will deceive you and draw you away from the Faith. If you do not feed the soul, then when adversity comes, you will not have the strength to stand.

What about the finish? In my time as a minster and priest, I have seen many people come and go.  They started with a lot of zeal but ended in failure. Paul said that the end of his fight and struggle was that he had finished the course and had kept the faith. Sadly, the end of the struggle for some is leaving the faith. Some Orthodox object to the idea that struggle is unavoidable or that the Faith should make any demands. They want what is called a “chapel of ease,” where they can come, light a candle, enjoy a nice service, have a nice cup of coffee, and then leave.  Orthodoxy will not be much of a part of their daily life. If there is any sign of struggle in the Church family, they are gone, often for good.

Bishop Fulton Sheen said the following: Christianity is not passing away because it is too hard. It is passing away because it is too soft.  Many will not fight and they cannot run and they find it impossible to keep the Faith.  As St. Paul once said, they have the form of Christianity, but they do not have the power. I think of what the Spirit often said to the Churches in the book of Revelation: “to he who overcomes (who keeps the Faith), I will give him a crown- the 2nd death will not touch him- and so on.  Those who wear the crowns are those who have won the battle.

Let me offer a final word of encouragement. I often feel weak and many times I have failed the Lord. What keeps me fighting and struggling is the limitless mercy and forgiveness of God. It is this mercy that makes the perseverance of the saints possible.  I know that in any war, you may lose a few battles. Yet, if you remain obedient to the Commander, in the end you will win the war.

Fight, run, finish. To be Orthodox is to struggle not just to loose weight, or pay the bills, etc.  It is a struggle to keep the Faith. After all, the Lord promised a cross to those who followed him.  I think that on judgment day, the only thing the Lord will ask us is “did you struggle to keep the Faith?”  If we did, then we have fought the good fight, we have run  the course, and we have finished the race..

Gratitude is more that attitude

November 27, 2016



I had a chance to hear Fr. Valery Lukianov speaking to his family and friends about the Thanksgiving season. Fr. Valery has always been a very engaging speaker and this was another example. Among other things, he spoke of how we should be glad that the entire nation, Christian or not, took a moment to be thankful, to say thanks to God or to a friend or family member.  This caused me to reflect that Thanksgiving is a moment, for those of us who are Orthodox, to understand what it must have been like to live in an Orthodox country where feast days and traditions were largely shared by the entire culture.  I do hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving season with those that you love.

It would be a sad life to live it without gratitude and thankfulness. Yet, it is interesting that while we often feel gratitude for those who love and serve us, we are slow to thank them. Though they may be grateful, I have known men who rarely thank their wives, and I have known wives who rarely thank their husbands. I know of children who rarely thanked their parents, and parents who rarely thanked their children. The list could go on and on. Family and friends serve us because they love us, and they don’t do it to be thanked. Yet, if gratitude is rarely shown, that service becomes ever more difficult to give.   So, please: thank your priest, thank your parishioners, thank your parents, thank your children, thank your wife, thank your husband, thank the police, thank the military, and so on.

Above all, thank God from whom all blessings flow.

We need to go a little deeper. For those who follow Christ, gratitude is more than an attitude. As important as it is to express our thanks to those who have served us, giving thanks is more than words, more than an internal attitude. Allow me a personal memory. My brother and sisters and I thought to make Mother’s Day a bit more special than usual. So we planned breakfast in bed for mom and made some things to show how we were thankful for all that she did. Mom was happy and thanked us for the effort. Later, as we were talking, she reminded us that while she appreciated the effort, the best way to show our gratitude was to clean our rooms, pick up our socks, bring our dishes to the sink, etc., and on a daily basis. That lesson stuck with me, but I can’t say that I always followed it.

It is vital to a good life to feel gratitude and speak words of thankfulness, especially to God. Yet, I think God wants me to pick up my socks and bring my dirty dishes to the sink. I show my gratitude when I say my prayers as the Church teaches me. I show my gratitude when I pick up my dirty socks in confession. I show gratitude when I challenge my lazy and ungrateful flesh with fasting.  Above all that I could do, I show my thankfulness most when I stoop down and bind the wounds of those who have fallen by the wayside; when I anoint them with wine and oil; when I carry them to the Inn, provide for their care, and promise to return. Such an act shows that I am thankful, not just in word, or in attitude, but from the depths of my soul.

The Greek word for Holy Communion is ευχαριστία (eucharistia). It means “thanksgiving.”  So, every Sunday, we come to celebrate the feast of Thanksgiving (so does this mean turkey and dressing every Sunday?)  We come to express from the depths of our souls the gratitude and joy that we feel for all that the Lord Jesus has done for us. May we also give thanks for all that He has done through us to others and know the joy that in our gratitude to Him, we have picked up our socks and washed the dishes.

Happy Eucharist to you all.


The Preacher and Jerry Springer

October 29, 2016


I don’t know if you ever watched the Jerry Springer Show on television.  It’s been on for many years and is still quite popular.  Basically, people come on the show to tell the world about their problems and sins. Most often, people tell about some affair with the love interest of a friend or relative.  It’s something of a public confession. Most of the time, the offended spouse or partner comes out, and it ends in physical violence. The audience roars in laughter and approval. Americans seem to love this kind of thing.

Here is one story that Jerry Springer would love. A preacher, a supposed man of God, had the audacity to sleep with a prostitute. He wanted her to stay with him, so he gave her a lot of money. They had two children out of wedlock. The prostitute was torn emotionally. She wanted to continue to sleep with her clients, but the preacher was a jealous man who did not want any rivals.  Knowing the kindness and generosity of the preacher, she wanted to remain faithful to him but she thought often about her lovers. The preacher promised that if she would just stay with him and be faithful, he would marry her, make her respectable, and give her many gifts.  What would she do? Who would she choose- her clients or the preacher? Yes, Jerry Springer would love to have these folks on his show.

It might surprise you to discover that the preacher is the prophet Hosea.

Although this story can be found in the book of Hosea, it isn’t clear if it literally happened as some kind of prophetic sign, or is just an allegory told to make a theological point. Either way, what is the message of this story?  Hosea represents God and Israel is the prostitute; that is Israel constantly goes after the gods of other nations. Despite this sad situation, God tells Israel that if she will repent and return to Him, he will marry her, bless her and will proudly proclaim to the world that He is the God of Israel.  Would Israel remain with God, or go elsewhere? The history of Israel shows that this was not an easy choice for them. Sometimes they were faithful, many times they were not.

What does this story have to do with us?  Forgive me for saying this, but spiritually speaking, we are all prostitutes. We seek out other lovers for what we believe they can give us. We are torn in our hearts because we know how loving and kind and generous God is and can be.  We also know that He is a jealous God.  So sometimes we draw close to God, but most of the time, we pursue other gods. What are the gods that we chase after?  They are our ideals, passions, fantasies and desires.  Some of our gods are mental and some are physical.

Hosea shows us that despite this condition of being divided in our loyalty, God continues to loves us completely. He does not disdain us and would marry us if we would just repent and be faithful. To be married to God means that we will come to know real intimacy with Him. He will know us and we will know him in deep and abiding love. He will be our God and we will be his people.  How did Jesus put it? Eternal life is know the Father and the Son whom He has sent. We will know him, not just know about Him.

What will we do – continue to play the harlot and pursue our lovers or repent and be married? If we pursue other lovers, God will continue to love us, but eventually we will grow old. Our lovers will abandon us and we will be left alone. If we choose God, we will be blessed with a life of real intimacy and we will know that love forever.

It seems like a no-brainer, but we humans seem to love playing the harlot. Sadly, because of our divided loyalty, we may only know about the greatest love of all when we could live in that love and have it live in us.  You may feel ashamed because of your past unfaithfulness. Your past doesn’t matter.  God loves you and would marry you today. So, repent and come home. A marriage feast has been set for you and God will clothe you in a wedding gown of righteousness. He will make you beautiful beyond anything that you can imagine and he will be proud to claim you as His own.

So, what are you waiting for?


October 16, 2016


When you consider the things that Orthodoxy asks of you –fasting, prayer, church attendance, tithing, study, etc. – it’s a pretty demanding business. What else could anyone ask of you? Well, if you think these things are hard, listen to Jesus:

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners    love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He is kind to the ungrateful and selfish.”

Love your enemies? Jesus must be kidding. In fact, He is not, and he put his words into practice, even to the Cross. Often,  I don’t love the people I call my friends. I don’t know how in the world I’m supposed to love my enemies. The word “enemy” means someone that I don’t like or actually despise. How am I supposed to love them?  What living person has no enemies?

A mafia boss on the island of Sicily was on his death bed. He called for the local priest to come see him and hear his confession. He had decided he wanted to get right with God before he died. The priest came and, before he began to administer the sacraments, said, “Part of getting ready to die is that you need to forgive all your enemies.” The mafia boss said, “Father, I don’t have any enemies.” The priest was surprised and said, “That’s amazing! After all the years of your violent and criminal life, you must have enemies!” The mafia replied, “No, Father, I really don’t have any enemies. I killed them all.” (Fr. Andrew Harman)

This isn’t what Jesus meant, but is there a way that we can come to love our enemies? Father Andrew Harmon, Pastor of St. Matthew Antiochian Orthodox Church, North Royalton, Ohio suggests the following:

  1. Pray –I wonder how often we think to pray for our enemies. Why pray for them? Mainly because only God can heal the wounds of the heart. In praying for our enemies, it may be our hearts that are healed.
  2. Thank God for something good about your enemy– We tend to think of our enemies as being devoid of anything good. The fact is that they are no more evil than we are, and we believe that there is some good in ourselves. Dwelling on what is good rather than what is evil may result in realizing that like our enemy, we are a mix of good and evil. Maybe it was my evil that contributed to the conflict. Maybe, in the remembrance of wrongs, I have forgotten the part that I played and have made my enemy to be more of a villain than they deserve.
  3. Shift your anger – One of the great roadblocks to creating peace is anger. Because of anger, we will not listen to any suggestion that reconciliation is possible. What does it mean to shift anger? It means to turn the power of anger against the root of habitual sin in our own hearts instead of outward against people who offend us. If we did this, we would soon be saints. Ask St. Moses the Black.

4, Treat them kindly – Finally, Jesus tells us that it is not enough to good to people we                   like. We must do something good to our enemies like turn the other cheek or walk                the extra mile.  We are to be like our Father who is good to the evil and well as to the              just; who causes the rain to fall on the fields of the righteous and the unrighteous.                 So, Jesus said that we should be like Dad. In doing good things, we may find that we               will change a heart and gain a friend. We might discover the treasure of true                              humility.

In conclusion, listen again to St. Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic:

“Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Enemies have driven me into Your embrace more than friends have. Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself. One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends. It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.”  (an excerpt)

Do good to your enemies. Be like your Father in heaven. Loving your enemy will change your life, and save your soul.