Tuesday, February 16, 2010


"Insomuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me." So speaks our Lord in the Parable of the Last Judgment to the sheep on His right hand, those who have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and visited the sick and those in prison. Do you see how our Lord shares the joys and sufferings of the very least of His creatures? Unlike the Muslim God Allah, He is not a God Who stands afar off, not a mere judge, but a caring Father Who dwells in the hearts of those who love Him and strive to do His will. Truly He is closer to us than the very air we breathe.

Nor is this so hard to understand, even from our limited human point of view. As parents, do we not suffer and rejoice along with our children? Is it not our greatest happiness that they be happy? And if, as a father, I must discipline my child, I may say (and truly mean it) that it hurts me more than them. This is, of course, but a dim reflection of the unconditional love God has for each and every one of us, a love so vast we cannot begin to comprehend it in its fullness.

Yet having said all this, is this not the Sunday of the Last Judgment? And the Gospel minces no words concerning the severity of this judgment. But we must understand that God's "judgment" is neither arbitrary nor vindictive, nor does He take pleasure in swooping down upon the sinner and casting him into hell. That which we call God's judgment is rather the natural consequence of our actions (or our failure to act). "God does not desire the death of a sinner, but rather that the sinner turn from his way and live."

God has, however, given us the gift of free will, and He totally respects our right to choose--either eternal life in His heavenly Kingdom or eternal darkness apart from Him. If we choose to love God and to set aside our own selfish interests and desires, it will follow as night follows day that we will love our neighbor and show compassion on those in need.

Today we also celebrate the holy New Martyrs of Russia, those faithful Christians who fell victim to the godless Soviet regime. Now the judgment of God upon Holy Russia was also the natural consequence of a falling away from God, but thanks to the steadfast love and witness of the martyrs and the repentance of the faithful, the power of evil and darkness has finally been vanquished and a new day of renewal has dawned for the Church of Russia. Let us not forget, however, the prophetic words of blessed Seraphim of Platina: "What began in Russia will end in America." We have also, as a nation, largely fallen away from God and it is likely that this same judgment will fall upon us. May we, like the New Martyrs of Russia, remain steadfast in the Faith and courageously bear witness to the truth and power of God's love.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, a young man asks his father to be given ahead of time his share of the inheritance. The father agrees, though no doubt he knew the character of his son and realized that the course chosen would probably lead to disastrous consequences. The father in this parable, of course, represents our Heavenly Father, Who always respects the free will of his creatures and often grants that which we desire and pray for--knowing full well that we will live to regret it. (Thus the saying: "Be careful what you pray for: you may get it!")

Having received his inheritance, the son leaves his father's house and sets off for a far country (which represents life in this fallen world lived apart from God). Once he arrives, the son gives himself over to a life of riotous living--wine, women and songs. But because he doesn't get a job and has no source of income, he very soon finds himself completely broke. In spiritual terms, he does not strive to acquire those virtues necessary for salvation, that is, "treasure in heaven." To make matters worse, there arises a famine in that country so that there is nothing to eat, even if one had the money to buy it. So it is with the frivolous pleasures of this world: they soon leave us spiritually starving, since we are no longer receiving the sustenance of God's grace.

He's so destitute that he's finally forced to take a job, feeding corn husks to a local farmer's swine. Apparently this isn't much of a job, though, since he is not even allowed to eat a portion of the husks. In this dire state, he finally "comes to himself." (That is, he repents). He realizes how foolish he was to leave the security of this father's house. After all, even his father's servants have more than enough to eat and a roof over their heads. So he decides then and there that he will return to his father and ask to become one of his hired servants. He carefully rehearses what he will say to his father and sets off.

But when he is still a good distance from the house, the father sees him approaching and runs to greet him with a warm and loving embrace. Finally the son addresses his father with the words he had rehearsed, but the father reacts as though he hasn't even heard him. He orders his servants to honor his son and to organize a party to celebrate the son's return.

Now such unconditional acceptance was totally unexpected, and is in fact unlikely to occur in this fallen world. The mind of God, however, does not operate on the same level as ours. God's ways are not our ways. In Him there is no calculation, no remembrance of wrongs, no desire for revenge or reservations concerning the "worthiness" of a person. In Him there is no past to "remember," only the eternal present in which he encounters each unique person face to face. For in God the are no emotions, only a consuming love and a desire for the salvation of all His children.

The point is, we are all called to put on the mind of Christ, to strive to relate to others as God relates to us. Every one of us is a prodigal, but if we sincerely repent and resolve in our hearts to return to our heavenly homeland, God will meet us more than half way and treat us as though we had never left his presence. Indeed, there is more joy in heaven over a single sinner who repents than over ninety nine righteous ones. True, we may well have to suffer certain natural consequences for our time of riotous living, but God Himself doesn't punish us, nor is His love for us in any way diminished.

So then, if God receives prodigals such as us with such unconditional love, how can we not forgive and forget the sins and offenses of an erring brother? And if he repents, shall we not joyfully embrace him and celebrate his return?