20th Sunday After Pentecost

October 25, 2009

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit;

nainMy dear brothers and sisters in Christ we heard of one of the miracles’ of Christ in today’s Gospel reading. That miracle was the raising of the widow’s son at Nain.

In this Gospel we see our Lord revealing Himself as the Son of God, the promised Messiah of Israel, by raising the dead. When Saint John the Baptist wanted to know if Jesus was the Christ, the promised one of Israel, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus. Jesus responded to them “tell John what things you have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.” (Luke 7:22)

It is interesting that this revelation of Jesus as the Son of God occurred in the shadow of Mount Tabor; the village of Nain is located in a valley below Mount Tabor. It was on Mount Tabor that our Lord was transfigured revealing the fullness of His divinity to His disciples Peter, James and John.

Is our Lord just performing this miracle to reveal Himself as God or out of compassion for the widow as the Gospel states? The answer to both of these questions is yes but there is a deeper meaning to this miracle. From the beginning of time man has feared death. This fear of death comes from not knowing what will happen to the soul once death occurs. Thus, there is a fear of all that can take away biological life. Our Lord reminds us “fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul.” (Matthew 10:28)

This should remind us that our bodies are just garments for the soul. We are further reminded of this on Great and Holy Friday in the Holy Prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones. In this vision God asks “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel answers “O Lord GOD, you know.” (Ezekiel 37:3) In this vision the dead are brought back to life and the souls of the departed are reunited with their bodies. Through this prophecy we see that the body may become worn out but, God will renew it by reuniting soul and body once more in the resurrection.

If we should not fear our physical death, what then should we fear? We should fear is that which can kill our soul. Who or what can kill our soul? The answer to this question is that we kill our own soul through our sin and failing to care for the soul. The Gospel reminds us that we must not just care for the body in the parable of the rich man with many store houses. The man in this parable thinks that he can rest and take it easy because of his many possessions however; our Lord says to him “Fool, this night your soul shall be required of you.” (Luke 12:20)

How then can we care for the soul? The answer is given in the Gospel of the Last Judgment by feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, taking in the stranger, clothing the naked, and visiting those that are sick or in prison. (Matthew 25:31-46)

While caring for the soul in this manner is most helpful, the most important thing that we can do is to avoid sin. We must realize that to live a Christian life we must live our lives according to a set of rules. That not everything is permissible as Saint Paul reminds us “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient.” (1 Corinthians 6:12)

Thus we must always keep in our minds that we can do anything through our free will but is it in keeping with the ways of God so that we avoid sin. One of the ways to avoid sin is to question our motives and thoughts against the following four questions.

Is what I am about to do or say honest?

Is what I am about to do or say unselfish?

Is what I am about to do or say loving?

Is what I am about to do or say pure?

If whatever we do or say cannot pass through these four questions it is probably not in line with God’s will for us. We should avoid actions that cannot pass through these questions because they will lead us into sin which will kill our soul.

In our human fragility, we are not perfect. Thus, no matter how hard we try not to sin we will fail due to our own imperfections. God provides a way for us to heal our souls once we have inflicted damage on our soul through sin. That healing grace comes through our repentance. That is the full repentance of acknowledging our sin before God and His appointed witness; the priest. This type of healing through repentance is only given through the Holy Mystery of Confession. Our Lord tells us this in the Gospel when He said to His disciples “Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18)

So my dear brother and sisters in Christ tend to your souls through acts of mercy, avoid sin and confess your sin for our Lord said “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” (John 5:25)

Amen

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Youngstown Ohio on the 20th Sunday After Pentecost 2009

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19th Sunday After Pentecost

October 19, 2009

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

AllmercifulsaviorMy dear brothers and sisters in Christ in today’s Gospel we hear our Lord teaching. His teaching is summed up in the last line of the Gospel “Be therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:36) What does this mean to be merciful as our heavenly Father is Merciful?

Each day the Lord our God allows the sun to rise on this earth that is full of both the righteous and sinners. As our Lord said in the Gospel of Saint Matthew “He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”(Matthew6:45)

Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic asks the following questions “Does God wait for men to deserve the sun’s warmth and only then command the sun to shine? Or does He first act out of His charity and love?” The answer is simple God acts out of His charity and love for man and bestows blessings upon him whether man deserves them or not.

What we should glean from this is that to be merciful like our heavenly Father is to be charitable to others out of love. The question then arises how do I extend charity and love to my fellow man. In today’s Gospel Jesus gives us a simple answer to this question “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend hoping for nothing again.” (Luke 6:34-35)

This simple answer is difficult for us because our self will gets in the way. We want things our way and on our own terms.

When we look at the phrase “love your enemies” we think it is unnatural. We think it is perfectly natural for us to be conflict with our fellow man. Furthermore we think it is natural for us to be in conflict with the world around us. This is because this is our experience of the world around us.

Did God intend for His creation to be in conflict? The answer to this is a resounding NO! God intended for His creation to be like Him; like the three persons of the Holy Trinity that are in harmony with each other. It was through our ancestor Adam and the exertion of his will over God’s that created this conflict.

We need to realize that God loves our enemies just as much as He loves us because we are all His children.

Christ provides for us the example of love for our enemies when He says from the cross “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) We might think that this is just possible for Jesus because He is God but, it is possible for us. The first martyr Stephen provides the same example when he says “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” (Acts 7:60) Numerous other martyrs provided the same example.

Thus, to say that it is unnatural or impossible to love our enemies is far from the truth. Our Lord told us that “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

The other portion of this verse that is just as difficult for us is to “do good, and lend hoping for nothing again.” If we only do good to those that love us or lend only to those that will repay us; are we really extending charity to our fellow man? The simple answer is no; as our Lord said in today’s Gospel “for sinners also do even the same” (Luke 6:33)

If we do good and lend without looking for looking for repayment from someone but, go about looking for recognition and awards for our philanthropy; are we really hoping for nothing in return? The simple answer is again no. This is the greatest trap that many of us fall into when extending charity. We want people to know about that dollar we gave for this or that cause. If we do not receive a thank you for the charity we all too often become indigent.

In both of these cases we are simply engaging in barter; I do this for you and you do this for me. This type of bartering all too often even extends to our relationship with God. It has nothing to do with love for our fellow man or our love for God. It has everything to do with our love for ourselves. When we engage in this type of activity we lower ourselves from sons of God to debtors paying off debts.

“Our charity is not a virtue that simply pays off debts. But one that constantly lends” as our holy father Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic says. It is about true love; the love that gives and looks for nothing in return.

This is a spiritual lesson for us in becoming God like. We must love or give of ourselves no matter if it is repayed with good or evil. The example given to us by God is to continually give to us and provide for us whether we repay Him with good or evil; righteousness or sin.

So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ it may seem like a monumental task to be “Be therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:36) by extending charity through loving your enemies, and doing good, and lending hoping for nothing again but as our Lord said in the Gospel of Saint Matthew “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Amen

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Youngstown Ohio on the 19th Sunday After Pentecost 2009


18th Sunday After Pentecost

October 11, 2009

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

haul of fishMy dear brothers and sisters in Christ in today’s Gospel we are told of one of the miracles of Christ. That miracle is a great haul of fish. The Gospel starts with a scene of fishermen washing their nets. We learn that one of the fishermen is Peter. Our Lord tells Peter to take Him out in one of the boats for a catch of fish. Peter explains his doubt because they were fishing all night and caught nothing. However, Peter follows the Lord’s command. When Peter drops his net at the Lord’s command it is filled to the breaking point. Peter’s response to this miracle is to ask the Lord to depart from him because he is a sinful man. Our Lord’s response is that from now on Peter and his partners James and John will catch men instead of fish.

God is the giver of gifts to men. All of His gifts are good and perfect which make men marvel. A miracle is nothing more than this, a gift from God that makes men marvel.

God performs miracles to remind men that He is watchful over the world. That God governs the world and orders it. Thus, what may seem to be the natural order of things in the minds of men is disturbed by the action of God. God is the creator and order of the world. As our Lord says “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Miracles also remind men that without God they can do nothing. Saint Paul reminds us of this when he says “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that plants anything, neither he that waters; but God that gives the increase.” (1Corinthians 3:6-7)

There is a proverb that is similar to this that says “Men propose, but God disposes.” We often have many desires in our hearts and minds. We plan many things. Many of these plans remain as unrealized ideas. Other plans get put into action ending in failure. While, still other plans are put into action ending in success. These plans are those that were adopted by God.

The plans that are adopted by God are His, are like Him and come from Him. All that is not from God, like God and are not God’s are rejected by God. We are reminded of this in the Psalms where it says “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” (Psalms 127:1) If we plan or build something in our own name it will fail but, if plan and build to honor God it will be successful.

The Gospel reminds us that God gives each of us gifts or miracles that are to be used for His glory when He says to Saints Peter, James and John from now on you will be fishers of men.

The Gospel of the talents reminds us that we are accountable for these gifts and they are not our own. Think of the individual that had just one talent. He took the one talent and treated it as if it was his own. He concealed it from others by burying it in the ground rather than brining it out to be used and to grow. As a result of this he brought judgment upon himself and he was put out into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ God gives us miracles in various forms some that we experience and others that are the talents that we have for one purpose and one purpose only. That purpose is that “all men be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)

Amen

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church on the 18th Sunday After Pentecost 2009