Posts tagged ‘Christ’

7th Sunday of Pascha

PantokratorActs 20:16-18, 28-36; John 17:1-13

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

Our Gospel reading today comes from a larger section of St. John’s Gospel that we can refer to as the High Priestly Prayer of Christ. The Father’s teach us that man was created to be the prophet, priest, and king in the world – so here is the perfect Godman praying as the High Priest of all creation. It’s easy to see how this prayer parallels priestly prayer – the prayer is an offering of the work which Christ has done, and of the men whom he has gathered and taught and offered to the Father. It is a prayer of offering, and of thanksgiving. The theme, so to speak, of the prayer is the preservation of the Apostles. As the prayer says, our Lord manifested the name of God to the Apostles; He witnessed to God and to His own Messiahship and Godhead; He taught them, and they believed His words and followed His ministry. Now the time has come for Jesus to leave the world, so He prays that His followers be preserved in their faith, since by believing in Him they have truly become children of the Father. He prays again that His followers be preserved, and that they might be one, even as Christ and the Father are one. This prayer continues beyond our Gospel reading, with Christ continuing to ask that the Apostles be kept from evil and be kept separated from the world. He also prays several more times that they be one, united with one another in love, just as the Holy Trinity is united as one in love. Our Lord knew that the job the Apostles would be called to do after His death, resurrection, and ascension, would be a very difficult and trying task. They would be taking the Gospel, the Good News, the full Truth about both God and man, and they would be preaching this Gospel to an unbelieving people. They would be persecuted, hated, despised, tortured, and even killed in the proclamation of the Word of the Lord. So Jesus prays fervently for them, that they be one, strong in faith and love, sanctified, and preserved.

As I read the Gospel, and the Epistle, I was reminded of the parable of the Pearl of Great Price. The Apostles had abandoned all for that Pearl which was valuable beyond all reckoning – they abandoned all for the sake of following Christ. So our Lord prays that they be given grace and strength to keep that path of seeking the One Thing Needful. Our Lord prays in the Gospel, and St. Paul offers a warning in the Epistle. There’s the beautiful image St Paul uses of the leaders shepherding the Church of God which He purchased with His own blood. He then warns these leaders of the Church of Ephesus that after he left, savage wolves would come from the outside and attack the flock. He also warns that people will rise up from within the flock, and speak perverse things, false teachings, trying to draw people away from the Church and gather disciples themselves. Our Lord prayed for the preservation of His followers, and St. Paul warns them about some of the dangers which might be coming their way. The flock is attacked both from the outside, and from false teachers that rise up within the Church. Today we remember the Fathers of the 1st Ecumenical Council, a council which was called to deal with people inside the Church who were spreading false teachings about Christ and trying to draw disciples away from the Church and to themselves.

Both of these things St Paul mentions have happened throughout the history of the Christian Church; She has suffered both from persecution and from heresy and schism. We continue to see these things happening today. Just as our Lord prayed for the preservation of the flock, we also should pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering persecution in places like Syria, Egypt, Middle East in general, and also places like China and N. Korea, Iran, and the list goes on. These parts of the world are filled with people who literally risk their lives every single day to be followers of our Lord and Saviour. The Fathers tell us to live in such a way that we’re ready to die at any moment; this is the only way to survive when your physical life is threatened daily just for being a Christian. We also continue to deal with attacks from inside the Church, from schism and heresy. Whether it’s bishops breaking away from one another for various reasons, or leaders and people in the Church teaching false doctrine, or especially tempting today is the struggle between the changing morals of society (from abortion to homosexuality to syncretism and beyond) and the steadfast Truths proclaimed for over 2,000 years by the Church. There will always be those attempting to destroy the Church of Christ – our Lord says it, and history has demonstrated it time and time again.

As I always like to ask – how does this impact me today? Here are 4 simple things for our daily lives to help us do what Christ has prayed we able to do, and avoid what St. Paul has warned us to avoid.

1 – we follow Christ’s example and we pray for those suffering persecutions in the world (that we all may be one);
2 – we continually strive to follow Christ with the fervor of the persecuted, with the ardor and the love of the Apostles and of all the Saints (repentance – turning our back on the world and constantly reorienting ourselves toward Christ);
3 – we reinforce both our spiritual life and our understanding of our Faith by the regular reading of the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers/Mothers/Saints of the Church;
4 – both individually and as a community, we stand strong in the Faith and we don’t let ourselves be swayed in the wind by various fads and the constantly fluctuating morals of our society.

God is the same today, yesterday, and forever – and we’re called to follow Him. As our Lord prayed to the Father – may we be kept in His Holy Name, following in His footsteps, both working out our own salvation in fear and trembling before the Lord, and also spreading the Good News of the Gospel of Salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Post by Matthew Jackson

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Self-examination as a Lifestyle, Not Just a Prelude

Homily preached at the New Orleans Mission Station, Zacchaeus Sunday

1 Timothy 4:9-15; Luke 19:1-10

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

Today we have the first of the “named” Sundays before the beginning of Great Lent–Zacchaeus Sunday. We’ll spend the next several weeks contemplating and preparing for the beginning of the Fast. Today we have the story of Zacchaeus, and we’ll move forward to hear about the Publican and the Pharisee, the Prodigal Son, the Sunday of the Last Judgment, and finally, Forgiveness Sunday. Each of these days calls on us to begin examining our lives. It is that “the unexamined life is not worth living”(Socrates) – the Church certainly seems to put this notion in front of our minds with great frequency and consistency. In the daily prayers, we reflect on our day – how have I lived? How have I failed? How have I done good? We’re called to regular confession – bringing before God our sins and our struggles, and also our thoughts and our dreams, everything we are. We are in a constant state of self-examination and reflection, and we amp that up even higher as we approach and especially when we’re in Great Lent.

Zacchaeus was a pretty terrible guy. He was a Jew, but he worked for the Roman government as a tax collector. In the eyes of his fellow Jews, that already made him a traitor. In addition, he cheated people, he overtaxed and kept the profits for himself. So he was a traitor, a liar, and a cheat, and probably more. We don’t know exactly why Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus so badly, but we can surmise that he’d heard that there was a great Prophet traveling around and working miracles. So, Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, but he was too short, and the crowds were too large. He just couldn’t get to a good spot to see from. In order to get what he wants, he stoops to doing something humiliating. He, as a grown man and a government official, climbs a sycamore tree in order to catch a glimpse of Jesus. Then, something entirely unexpected happens – Jesus stops, calls Zacchaeus by name, and says that he will come to stay at his house. Zacchaeus comes down from the tree, and receives Jesus joyfully, the Gospel said. The people around Jesus complain that he’s gone to be a guest with a sinner, but we see that our Lord does this on many occasions during His ministry. As He says elsewhere, He’s come to save the lost sheep of the tribe of Israel – He’s come from the sinner, not for the Saint.

From the moment that Zacchaeus sees Jesus, we notice that he starts to change. He becomes filled with joy, and happy to have this holy man come to his home, even though he lives as a great sinner. Zacchaeus is entirely changed by his meeting with the Lord – the Fathers say this is of utmost importance in the life of any Christian, to have at least one meeting with the Lord. That meeting is what changes everything. For Zacchaeus this means giving half his goods to the poor, restoring what he’d stolen 4 times over, and moving forward with life in an honest and God-fearing way. Jesus then speaks the result of Zacchaeus’ conversion – “today salvation has come to this house.” It wasn’t a long, drawn out process. Zacchaeus met the Lord, was changed in his heart, and salvation came to his house. It reminds me of that great saying of the Desert Fathers – that if we truly desired it with all of our hearts, we could be saved in a single moment.

So today, the Church sets before us several things in the story of Zacchaeus, which I’ll phrase in terms of self-examination (since I began the homily that way). When we look into our hearts, how are we living our lives? Are we obsessed with our own will and desires, living for the flesh and material things, like Zacchaeus was in the beginning of the Gospel? Or are we trying to seek the path of the Gospel of Christ? Have we had that fateful meeting with Christ? If so, are we struggling to maintain that great grace within us, and to share it with others? If not, are we living the Gospel and growing ever closer to Christ, “proving to Him that we are His,” as Elder Sophrony would say?

I love that quote I began with – The unexamined life is not worth living. Let us not waste our lives by refusing to examine them and make the tough decisions that might entail. The examined life might be a struggle to fulfill, but the unexamined one is hollow, fulfilling nothing and no one. Let us begin this pre-Lenten season by examining our own lives in the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Matthew Jackson

The Meeting of the Lord in the Temple (Luke 2:22-40)

presentAUDIO HERE

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

Today we celebrate as a great feast one of the many events from the life of our Lord. We heard in the Gospel reading this morning about the event – when He was 40 days old, the parents of Jesus took Him to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice according to the Law. As He does throughout His life, the Lord is fulfilling and completing the law in Himself, today through the actions of Mary and Joseph. Neither He nor His Holy Mother had any need for purification, yet they obeyed the Law nonetheless. In the course of the Gospel reading we are introduced to two very interesting figures, those of Symeon the God-Receiver and the Prophetess Anna. I’d like us to hear a bit more about these two people, who are very central today, when you look at how much of the Gospel reading is dedicated to them.

St. Symeon is called the God-Receiver because he received the Christ in his arms as the Lord came to the Temple. The Tradition tells us that Symeon was one of the translators of the Septuagint, which was the translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek. He translated the book of Isaiah, and when he read that a Virgin would conceive and have a son, he wanted to change it to read “a woman…” At that moment, an angel appeared, telling him that the word should remain “Virgin,” and prophesying that he would live to see the time when a virgin would bear the Christ. And so God made this promise to Symeon that he would not die until he saw the coming of the Messiah. This promise was fulfilled today, and at the end of his earthly life, St. Symeon gives us the beautiful hymn that we end each day with at Vespers: “Lord, now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:34-35). St. Symeon also made one of the most well known prophesies about Jesus: “this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will piece through your own soul also [he says to the Theotokos]), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).

The Holy Prophetess Anna was an 84 year old widow, of whom very little is actually known. She had been married, but her husband had died only 7 years into their marriage. The description of her in the Gospel today was quite beautiful – she “did not leave the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers day and night” (Luke 2: 37). She saw the Messiah as He entered the Temple, and giving thanks, she then went to speak “of Him to all those who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). She was the first evangelist, the first bearer of the Good News that the Messiah had been born.

Symeon and Anna, together with John the Baptist, represent the last vestiges of the Old Covenant, the last of the Righteous ones before the coming of the Promised One. And today, the elderly Symeon and Anna have their lives fulfilled in seeing the coming of the Promised Messiah, the Holy One of Israel. So today, let’s celebrate this Feast of the Meeting of the Lord in the Temple, and also the lives of these two holy people of God, the Saints Symeon and Anna.

Happy Feast! Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson

That They May Boast in Your Flesh

Galatians 6:11-18; Luke 8:41-56

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

Well, since I just preached about the raising of the widow’s only son a few weeks ago, and today we have the Gospel of the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead, I thought that we could tackle the Epistle reading from St. Paul to the Galatians. It’s not part of the point of this homily, but it is very interesting that St. Paul makes a point of mentioning at the beginning of this reading that he is writing with his own hand. Most of his letters were dictated to a scribe, but this particular section of this Epistle he thought important enough to take the pen and paper and write in his own hand. Why?

It was a particular concern of St. Paul’s how the early Church accepted Gentile converts. If you remember, he had that disagreement with St. Peter at the Apostolic Council, recorded in Acts, and the Council essentially ended up agreeing with St. Paul that the Gentile Christians did not first have to fulfill the commandments of the Jewish law before becoming Christians. But there continued in the Church to be a group who still wanted the Gentile converts to be circumcised and to keep the Jewish law. So this is what St. Paul addresses in the beginning of our Epistle reading.

He writes: “As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.” In other words, some of the Jewish Christians continue to be very concerned with fitting in. They want to continue to be accepted by their Jewish friends and relatives. By associating themselves with Gentiles, who were really hated by many of the Jews, these people were becoming even more outcasts to their community. First Christians, followers of this crucified prophet, and now associating and worshipping with Gentiles. St. Paul accuses them, saying that they are not willing to bear any persecution for Christ, and for this reason they want the Gentile converts to be circumcised.

St. Paul continues, “For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.” Circumcision was a matter of the law – so St. Paul very pointedly says that even those calling for the circumcision of the Gentiles, for the sake of the law, were not following the law themselves. They were using the law as an excuse to have the Gentiles circumcised, and to lessen the persecution that they were feeling from their fellow Jews. Really, they were using the law very much in the same way that the Pharisees used the law – to segment people out into certain acceptable groups, and to make actions the main judgment of what was going on in a person’s spiritual life. Again, they want the Gentile Christian converts to do something that makes them look better – so that they can boast in their flesh. “See, they are circumcised, they are like us…”

St. Paul then offers the corrective – “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” What the world thinks of me is irrelevant, I am crucified to the world, the only measure is Christ. This one verse of St. Paul says it all – for us as Christians, everything is about Christ. Our only boast, our only glory, our only strength and support, our salvation, all we have is the Incarnate God, our Lord Jesus Christ. In the ancient Byzantine Empire, the bishops of the Church had to carry the Gospel with them anywhere they went – this was because they had no other job but to proclaim Christ; He was all they had to cling to in life. [we see this in icons of hierarchs] Sometimes, in the Church, we get easily distracted, just like the Jewish Christians that St. Paul is addressing in this portion of his Epistle. We start thinking about all sorts of things – finances, programs, what other people are doing, canons and laws, even icons and services – and it’s very easy for us to lose sight of the fact that there is only one thing needful, and that is Jesus Christ. Everything we do in this Church, and in our lives as Christians, is for Christ. If we lose sight of this, if we forget that our only boast is the Cross of our Christ, then everything is lost for us.

In the last two verses I’ll touch on this morning, St. Paul continues by saying “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.” Nothing has any meaning in Christ other than being made a new creation in Him. This is what St Paul means when he says that “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything.” We can follow the right canons, we can say the right words, we can own our icons and say our prayers and read our spiritual books – but unless we give ourselves over to Christ to be remade in His hands, like clay in the hands of a potter, then all of it is meaningless. We’re to be made a new creation in our Lord Jesus Christ – to have our hearts renewed by His life and His love. And as long as we walk according to this rule – to the rule of acquiring the life of Christ for our own – then St. Paul bestows his blessing, and numbers us with the Israel of God.

We have no boast but Christ our Lord, the Cross of Christ, and no other purpose in life than to draw near to Him, and to let Him reshape us in His image.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson

What Type of Soil are You? – Luke 8:5-15

Audio for Homily HERE

Luke 8:5-15

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

The readings are so rich this morning, both St. Paul’s words to the Church in Corinth and our Lord’s parable, so I was a little torn – but I think we’ll look at this parable of our Lord, and how He explains its meaning, and also how it applies in our lives as Christians today.

So we have the parable, which in brief is the story of a man who goes out to sow seed. This is a different manner of planting than sometimes we think about, and different than the way it was done when I was growing up. We were very meticulous, when planting a garden, to make sure that all of the seeds landed on the good prepared soil, and then that those seeds were covered with soil and immediately watered. Every seed had the best possible chance for growing. But in days gone by, even the days of my grandparents, sowing seed in the garden was much more like what our Lord describes in the parable. The soil is prepped, and then someone walks around and spreads the seed. And as our Lord tells us, the seed falls in all sorts of different places, and depending on where it falls, it may have a good chance to grow, or it may have very little chance at all.

The disciples, as they often had to do, asked our Lord for an explanation of this parable. The seed is the word of God. This is an important phrase, and we would give it two meanings. Christ was going around preaching the word of God to the people. In other words, the word of God is literally words – the preaching of the Gospel. The word of God is also Christ Himself – He is the Logos or the Word of God. In our Orthodox Tradition, this is the more important level of this phrase – the Word of God is Christ, is the Truth. Christ incorporates within His person the Gospel message, and He is the one who is our salvation. The message is not a philosophy or a teaching or even a belief – the Gospel that we preach is a person, Jesus Christ.

So in the language of the parable, Christ, the fulness of Truth, is spread out among all the peoples of the world. Then those people have various reactions. Some are by the wayside, they pay little attention to Christ, and the devil comes and distracts their minds so they cannot be saved. Some are like seeds on the rock, who rejoice and the Word begins to grow in their hearts, but they develop little maturity and they fall away from the Word once they come upon hard times and times of temptation. Some are like seeds among the thorns, they begin to grow, but they are choked by the cares and concerns and pleasures of this world, and they also fail to grow into maturity in Christ. And then some are the good soil, where the Word of God falls and takes root, and grows to maturity, producing much fruit.

I would say that we can apply the meaning of this parable in two ways. [We could actually think about it in many ways, but today I will briefly consider two.]

1.
Firstly, to those who are outside of the Church, this tells us the various ways that people will react to the preaching of the Gospel. And this is how, in my former life, we always talked about the parable – people will respond to the message of Christ in different ways, our duty is to share the Gospel and God will do the rest. This certainly is a legitimate way to think about the parable, but for those of us in the Church, this way of thinking doesn’t help us much in our daily life in Christ. One of the many things we gather for this morning is, as St. Paul says, to be fed with meat – to be taught about Christ and the spiritual life in a deeper way that challenges us and helps us grow.

2.
So the question then becomes, how do I relate to this parable? This provides us with a chance to evaluate our lives in Christ, to repent of our failings and to redirect ourselves properly toward God. Obviously, we have heard the Word of God – we’ve heard the Gospel, and we’ve known the working of Christ in our lives. So what surface are we?

Are we like the wayside, barely listening, barely paying attention, and allowing the devil to come and snatch the word from our ears so that we never grow in Christ? This is a tragic position to be in – and in our Lord’s explanation of the parable, He says these people will not believe and will not be saved. We have to take the Word within us, nurture it, and allow it to grow.

Or, perhaps we’re like the rock, going through periods of excitement and growth, only to lose it when temptation comes our way. This is a place where many Christians find themselves. We grow, we pray, we read, we nurture our relationship with Christ, but in times of temptation or hardship, instead of running to Christ, we take care of things in our own way, and we almost always end up falling away from Christ. Eventually, most of us return to Christ again – so we get stuck in this pendulum swinging of growing and falling. We’re certainly trying – but God has called us to so much more. In maturity and steadfastness, God can give us so much more.

Maybe we’re more like the seed among thorns, who do some growing for a time, but eventually are caught up in the cares and concerns of the world. Again, like with the rock, many of us find ourselves here. We began our Christian life with ardor and excitement, but eventually we’ve found ourselves overwhelmed with worldly things. Whether it’s jobs, money, possessions, children, alcohol, sex – we can have an unhealthy relationship with any physical thing. The remedy is to see things as they really are. All of the things of this world will pass away – all pleasure will end, the satisfaction of possessions and such will eventually wear out. Only the things of God last forever. If we’ve allowed ourselves to become distracted from Christ and caught up in the cares of the world, this parable is very much a reminder of where we need to be.

Finally, we’re presented with a vision of what we’re called to be. Good ground, receiving the Word with a noble and good heart, keeping it, and bearing fruit for God in patience. This ground nurtures the seed at all times; nothing is more important to these people than Christ. And this is what we’re called to – to give Christ the first place in all things, to grow in Him, so that He can share with us His life. The more we grow in Christ, the more fully He can share His life with us, and the more completely we become what we were created to be from the beginning. This is our goal; a goal we need to know, and to strive for – and as we fall short, as we all do, to repent and to return to God and to once again offer ourselves as living soil for the Word of God.

May God grant us all the grace to be the good soil, rich with grace and the desire to nurture the Word of God within us, for life of the world and for its salvation.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson

The Raising of the Widow’s Only Son

Luke 7:11-16

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

In our reading this morning from the Gospel according to St. Luke, we have an event which is typical for our Lord’s ministry, and an event which is atypical at the same time. It is not unusual for us to see our Lord working miracles in the Scriptures. We see Him doing all sorts of miracles, many healings, and even several recorded times when He raised someone from the dead. So our Lord working this great miracle of raising the widow’s only son from the dead fits easily within the profile of our Lord’s earthly ministry.

It’s not the miracle which is atypical in this morning’s reading, but the circumstances. St. Luke tells us that our Lord had gone to the city of Nain, with His disciples and a large crowd. Our Lord was often followed by a large crowd, coming to hear Him preach and to be near Him. As they came to the city, they met a funeral procession – a widow burying her only son. Our Lord went to the open coffin, told the young man to arise, and the dead boy came back to life – he sat up and began speaking. What is truly strange about this miracle is that our Lord does it in front of the multitudes. The large crowd following Him, along with all of the townspeople there for the funeral, all of these witnessed Jesus raising this widow’s only son from the dead. If you’ll think back on the ministry of Christ, He usually performs miracles when only a few are around. He’ll go into a house, or in front of a very small group – and nearly always He tells those who were healed not to tell anyone else about it. So our Lord performing such an awe-inspiring miracle in front of such a large crowd is very unusual.

This brings us to an obvious question – why? Why did He do this particular miracle in these circumstances? We can pull two reasons from the text of our Gospel reading.

The first reason we see in our Lord’s reaction when He saw the grieving widow who was preparing to bury her son. St. Luke writes, “when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her.” Our Lord had compassion on the woman who had lost her only son, He suffered along with her at this tragic loss of human life, and He intervened. Of course, we could ask the calloused question, “what about all the other dead – why did He not raise them from the dead?” But that becomes a discussion which is beyond us. Who are we to argue with God, to judge the decisions of His infinite mercy? Our God is a God of mercy and of compassion. He lived on earth with a body like ours, with the circumstances of death and illness and suffering and sorrow all around Him. He came into this world to show us how, in Him, we can overcome all of this evil. Our Lord raises this boy from the dead (even when He would be seen by such a large multitude) because He was moved by compassion for the grieving mother.

The second reason for our Lord’s activity we see in the final verse of our reading, which I’d like us to hear again: “then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” One of the reasons that our Lord didn’t do many miracles around large crowds was because He didn’t want to be known as simply a miracle worker. There were many men around who made messianic claims and “worked miracles.” Our Lord was not one of these men, and He didn’t want to be confused with these men. He was the Messiah – He didn’t just claim to be; He truly worked miracles – the type of miracles that the Scriptures said the Messiah would work; His goal was not physical freedom or pleasure or anything of this world – He came to make God known to man, to show us the way of salvation. But on this particular occasion, in front of a large crowd that followed Him, Jesus did work a miracle, a Messianic miracle. And the effect on the crowd was immediate – they gave glory to God, they recognized that a great event had happened, that God had visited His people. In this miracle, our Lord glorified the Father and bore witness to His own Messiahship. He revealed to them Who He truly was.

I love that phrase of St. Luke – “God has visited His people.” Christ is the greatest event that the world will ever know. He came into the world to reveal God to man, to share with us the love that God has for us, and ultimately He was here to die for our salvation. He revealed in His very person everything that we need for our salvation. You know, the people Jesus healed, the people He raised from the dead, all of these people eventually died a bodily death. Ultimately, what Christ brought for us is salvation – not magic tricks or earthly happiness. He brought us healing of soul and body, as we’ll hear when we approach the Chalice for Holy Communion. He taught us to be human. As I was talking about with the youth yesterday evening, wherever there are Saints, wherever there are people living in Christ, healing is brought into the world. But our physical bodies will eventually fail us, and all of us eventually will die. As the Fathers of the Church remind us, our soul can be fully healed and united to Christ even during this life, but our bodies will find constancy only in the Resurrection at the last day.

May our God grant us to greet Him on that last day in the same way the crowds did today – glorifying Him as our Lord and our God.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson

People Today Believe in God

“I have the suspicion that men today believe in God more than at any other time in human history. Men know the Gospel, the teaching of the Church, and God’s creation better than at any other time. They have a profound consciousness of His existence. Their atheism is not a real disbelief. It is rather an aversion toward somebody we know very well but whom we hate with all our heart, exactly as the demons do.” — A. Kalomiros, THE RIVER OF FIRE [taken from Slava Bogu (Слава Богу за всё) on Facebook]

The suspicion of Dr. Kalomiros expresses exactly what I have thought as well (caveat – I have not read the book from which the quote was taken, so I am merely making a few comments on the content of the quote). We live in an age when more people than ever have been exposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. More people have exposure to the teachings of the Church; more people know more about Christian Faith and doctrine and life than ever before. Because of our various advances in science, we know more about the physical creation than ever before in human history. Not only do we know more now, but our knowledge increases exponentially year by year. As Kalomiros writes, people today have a “profound consciousness” of the existence of God. Our science has done nothing but prove, continually, that this magnificent creation could not be without a Creator. God is real, and more people know this today than ever before.

The problem is not knowledge – people do not fail to believe, but rather they hate what they know. The rampant “atheism” of today is not true disbelief, but is the same affliction that the demons deal with. The demons know God is real, but they choose to reject Him. Great numbers of our contemporaries reject God as well. He is rejected because of the life He calls us to live. If He were to be acknowledged, then a radical transformation would take place in peoples’ lives and in our society. In short, God is so rejected and reviled today because people want to do whatever brings them pleasure. People want to determine their own course in life, and to make all of their own decisions. The heartbreaking reality, however, is that in following this course people become slaves to their passions, instead of finding true freedom and personhood in Christ.

Even those of us who acknowledge our Lord and profess ourselves as Christians have to keep this in mind – the will of God is what we are called to seek and to submit to at all times. We are not to rely on our own will and our own wisdom, but to submit ourselves to God. Those who reject God do so for exactly this reason – it is a refusal to submit to anyone other than themselves. May He protect us all from this demonic pride. May God give us all the grace to truly seek Him in everything in our lives.

Author Matthew Jackson