Thursday, December 24, 2015


St. Paul counsels the Colossians, "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful."  In today's Gospel, ten lepers stand afar off (as lepers, they are outcasts of society and dare not approach too closely) beseeching Christ's mercy. "Go show yourselves to the priests," our Lord instructs them (that is, they need to be examined by the religious authorities and declared clean).  And so it came to pass that "as they went, they were cleansed."

Now while all ten lepers were healed, only one (a Samaritan--an outcast among the outcasts) turned back to give thanks.  The other nine were no doubt thankful to be healed--but it never did seem to occur to them to thank the One Who had healed them. 

It is easy for the likes of us  to accuse the nine of being ungrateful, but think: how often do you and I take for granted the multitude of blessings God has so graciously bestowed upon us?  We are quick to grumble and complain when things aren't going our way--but seldom do we fall down upon our knees before Him to praise Him, thanking Him from the bottom of our hearts for the innumerable good gifts he grants to us--unworthy sinners though we are.

Do we think to thank God when we awaken in the morning for the mere fact that we are still alive and have been given another day to love and to serve Him, and to sincerely repent for transgressing again and again His holy commandments?  Do we thank Him for the sun, moon and stars--for the very air we breathe?  The angels in heaven sing ceaseless praises to God, while we cast the blame on other people or circumstances for our own misfortunes and fail to see how every moment of every day we are sustained by God's providential care.

All ten lepers were cleansed, but only to the one who returned to give thanks did our Lord say, "Arise, go on your way: your faith has made you whole."  Surely God makes his sun to shine on both the righteous and the unrighteous, the just and the unjust: but only to those who are truly thankful does He bestow His greatest blessing--true and eternal life as sons and daughters of God in His heavenly Kingdom.

Monday, December 14, 2015


St. Paul writes to the Colossians, "For by Him [Christ] all things were created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible....  All things were created by Him and for Him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist [have their being]."  That is: Jesus Christ is not a mere creature--no matter how exalted.  He is "supernatural" according to the proper meaning of this word: uncreated.  As the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, He is God, and therefore--contrary to what the arch heretic Arius taught--there was not [a time] when He was not.  (Notice the brackets: what Arius actually taught was that Christ was created before the creation of time).

This claim cannot be made concerning the founder of any other world religion.  Even the Koran, it seems, considers Jesus to be the Word of God, Who will come again to judge the word--whereas Mohammed is a mere mortal who has long since returned to the dust of the earth.  But the hearts of the Jewish leaders were darkened, their spiritual eyes blinded: and so they dared in their presumption to pass judgment upon the Godman--He who had taken flesh from the pure blood of a Virgin, willingly suffering a brutal death upon the Cross that those who believe in Him might be granted the gift of eternal life in His heavenly Kingdom.

The Jewish leaders knew not (or perhaps refused to acknowledge) that Jesus was in truth the pre-existent Christ, the very One Who had revealed the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai.  Nor did they understand that the real purpose of this Law was to guide the Jews into a higher understanding of the truth, drawing them into a closer relationship with the living God: not to bind them to the earth through a slavish obedience to a legalistic set of rules and regulations.

Christ came to earth not to enslave us, but rather to save and enlighten the fallen human race.  "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," as He assures us.  And so it was that He--as the Lord of the Sabbath--deigned on the Sabbath to set free the woman who had been bound for eighteen years by a spirit of infirmity.  And while the leaders--consumed by jealousy--gnashed their teeth and sought to destroy Him, "all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him."

Indeed, it is by the grace of God that we are saved, and not by the works of the Law.  While we must ever strive to fulfill the pious precepts as set forth in the Canons of the Church (not as an end in itself, but rather for the sake of our salvation), we must never forget that it is only through communion with the living  and compassionate God of love that we can hope to be delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the Kingdom of light.

Saturday, December 5, 2015


There's a widespread belief nowadays that "things" are getting worse.  Fading away is the optimism of the past--based in a blind faith in "progress"--that every day in every way things are getting better and better.  But exactly what are these things that have seemingly taken a nosedive into an apparently irreversible downward spiral? 

Many of us (myself included) bemoan the spiritual decline and moral bankruptcy of this nation (and the world in general), which have especially accelerated during the past few decades--and this is certainly a valid concern that should prompt every committed Christian to "put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked." 

On the more mundane level, however, there is an inevitable likelihood that sooner or later (and probably sooner) our entire economy will collapse into the dust.  Yes indeed--it does seem like difficult economic times are on the way, and I would say that it is this scenario that concerns most people more so than our continuing moral decline (though the rampant greed and selfishness of contemporary society that have contributed to our financial woes is in itself a moral issue).

But not to worry!  I am frequently receiving in the mail offers for financial newsletters and "free" reports that will explain to me not only how I might survive the coming hard times--but even to profit from them!  If only I follow this advice, I can--at the very least--live my retirement in comfort, but at best--I might even become filthy rich!

The problem is--I'm already 65.  My body aches, my energy level is depleted  and I no longer find a great deal of pleasure in the ordinary things of this life.  It may be I'll live another 20 years... but so what?  Like my elderly female parishioners back in Pennsylvania used to tell me, "Oh father... don't ever get old!"  Stupid me: I never listened to their advice.  Threescore and seven, as the Good Book says.  Anything more is likely to be toil and tribulation.

Now don't get me wrong: building up a nest egg for retirement is both sensible and responsible.  But has it ever occurred to you how much time and energy we expend in this life in order to assure for ourselves a comfortable and pleasant life in this world?  But yet this life we live is merely a pilgrimage, a preparation for our ultimate destination in eternity.  Would you, for example, order cheerful drapes and a plush carpet for a one week stay in a motel? 

The man in today's Gospel has been blessed with an abundance of provisions, and he has no room to store it all.  Whatever shall he do?  Well... he could open up his barns to the poor and destitute, or perhaps sell a portion of his goods and contribute to worthy charities.    By this means he would show himself to be merciful, even as his heavenly Father is merciful.  After all, it was surely God Who blessed him with such an abundance.  But no--his solution is to tear down his barns and to build bigger and better ones in order to provide for his own future--that he might eat, drink and be merry.  But the joke's on him... this very night God will demand his soul!

And even if he were to live for many years more, what profit does he gain ultimately from all of this eating, drinking and merriment?  For truly whatever temporal enjoyment we may achieve in this world, it will soon enough wither and pass away--like grass in the midday sun.  And so it is when we lay up for ourselves treasures on earth--and are not rich toward God.