Homily: Disciples, Apostles and Fishers of Men

Sunday, September 28, 2014: 16th Sunday after Pentecost & 1st Sunday of Luke

Venerable Chariton the confessor, abbot of Palestine, Prophet Baruch; Venerable Neophytos and Auxentios of Cyprus; Martyr Heliodoros and companions in Pisidia; Martyr Wenceslaus, prince of the Czechs

EPISTLE: 2 Corinthians 6:1-10
GOSPEL: Luke 5:1-11

St Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church
Palos Heights, IL

During His earthly ministry, there were three groups of people who followed Jesus: the crowds, the disciples and the apostles.

Think of them as concentric rings with Jesus as the hub.

The crowds were those who followed Jesus not out of any great love for Him for their own reasons. They might have been curious—Jesus was after all the latest thing, even Herod heard of him and was curious about him (see, Luke 23:8)—or maybe they came to see a miracle (John 6:2), to be feed (Matthew 14:13-21) or even to hear a consoling sermon (Luke 5:1-11). Whatever their motivation those they followed Jesus they did so only from a distance and His teaching had little influence on their lives.

But this wasn’t true for all in the crowd. Continue reading

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Debating the Morality of the Free Market

Really? Is this your idea of the free market?

My commentary on environmentalism and the Eucharist (here) has generated some interesting responses. While most have been favorable some has been decidedly less so.Here is my expanded and edited response to one such critic who contacted me via social media.

In Christ,

+FrG

Dear …,

Let me say up front, I think the free market is only free to the degree that men and women are themselves truly free–that is to say, virtuous. It does seem to me though that want to define the argument in such a way that makes the free market inherently evil. You quote Pope Francis is support of this (“the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root”) but I’m not sure you and he are making the same argument. You only quoted a small part of the passage:

Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root.

If I understand him correctly, the Pope is arguing that social exclusion and economic inequality lead to violence and are the result of inequality of opportunity. He is not condemning the free market as such but, as he say at the end of the section quoted above “unjust social structures, which cannot be the basis of hope for a better future.” He concludes not by asking us all to embrace voluntary poverty but rather the need to create wealth through morally good forms of economic development:

We are far from the so-called “end of history”, since the conditions for a sustainable and peaceful development have not yet been adequately articulated and realized (Evangelii Gaudium, 59).

In fact, I would guess that Pope Francis and I are probably closer on this point then are you and he. Continue reading

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Homily for Sunday August 31 2014: Follow Jesus!

Sunday, August 31, 2014: Placing of the Sash of the Theotokos in Halkoprateia & Twelfth Sunday of Matthew

Gennadius, Patriarch of Constantinople; Hieromartyr Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage; John, Metropolitan of Kiev; Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne

St Elias Orthodox Church
La Crosse, WI

EPISTLE: Hebrews 9:1-7
GOSPEL: Matthew 19:16-26

Sometimes it seems that Orthodox Christians are more interested in, well, being Orthodox than Christian. As a priest friend of mine put it one time, “In my parish we talk a lot about our parish, somewhat less about Orthodoxy. And Jesus? About Him we say hardly nothing at all.”

To be concerned with the health of my parish or to reflect on Holy Tradition are both good things. But they are secondary and if I’m not careful my concern for them can cause me to lose sight of Jesus Christ. As we sing in the Cherubic Hymn, life in Christ requires that I “lay aside all earthly care” so that I can “welcome the King of All.”

For the young man in the Gospel this morning his wealth mattered more to him then following Jesus and so when Jesus tells him “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” we are told that “he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.” We’ll come back to this in a moment but for now I need to ask myself what would make me walk away from Jesus? What matters to me more than Jesus? What is it that shapes my life more than being His disciple? Continue reading

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Homily for Sunday August 24, 2014: Forgiveness

Sunday, August 24, 2014: Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost & Eleventh Sunday of Matthew

Martyr Eutyches, disciple of John the Theologian; New Hieromartyr Cosmas Aitolos, equal-to-the-Apostles and evangelizer of southern Albania; recovery of the relics of Dionysios, bishop of Zakinthos and of Peter, Metropolitan of Moscow

St Ignatius Orthodox Church
Madison, WI

 

THE EPISTLE: 1 Corinthians 9:2-12
THE GOSPEL: Matthew 18:23-35

Frequently we hear people—even Christians—contrasting justice and forgiveness as if the latter had somehow replaced the former. But this isn’t true. The opposite of forgiveness is not justice but vengeance.

For example, we read in Old Testament, “ eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,  burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Exodus 21:24-25).  When we read this we need to remember that in the ancient world vengeance, the vendetta, was the norm). We have to understand that in context the Old Testament contains, “not … any smack of permission to mutual injury.” Rather, as Tertullian tells us, what we see is, “on the whole, a provision for restraining violence. … So the permission of this retribution was to be the prohibition … to all hot-blooded injury.”[1] Here God commands “[m]oderation …, so that the penalty may not be greater than the injury.,,, this is the beginning of peace.”[2]

While Jesus calls us to a higher standard (Matthew 5:38-48) and “wants our patience to be proven” by our readiness “to endure double hurt” this begins with my willingness to forgo not justice but vengeance and to “even pray to God continually on … behalf” of those who have done me wrong.[3] Turning to the Gospel, this is exactly what we see in the parable. Continue reading

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Homily for Sunday August 17, 2014

Healing of the Epileptic Boy

Sunday, August 17, 2014: Tenth Sunday after Pentecost & Tenth Sunday of Matthew

After-feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos; Hieromartyr Myron of Kyzikos; the righteous siblings Eutychios, Eutychian, and Kassiane of Crete; Venerable Alypios the iconographer of the Kiev Caves; Martyrs Paul and Juliana of Ptolemaïs in Palestine; Theodoretos of Solovky, enlightener of the Lapps

St Ignatius Orthodox Church
Madison, WI

 

THE EPISTLE: 1 Corinthians 4:9-16
THE GOSPEL: Matthew 17:14-23

St Paul’s rather pointed comments are meant to correct the spiritual elitism that seems to have infected “not a few in number”[1] in the Church in Corinth. At least some among the Christians in that place had begun to imagine that what they first received as a gift they now held as the result of “their own efforts” leading them to “glory in themselves and not in the Lord.”[2] And as if this were not bad enough, this has all happened in such a way that some in Corinth were “puffed up in favor of one against another” (v. 7).

To cure the spiritual disease that has infected his spiritual children, St John Chrysostom says that the Apostle “vilifies himself” and thus not only “shows how great he is” but show how petty are the Corinthians.[3] Paul’s words though are, as they often are, “hard to understand” and “which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures (2 Peter 3:16, NKJV). Specifically I’m thinking here about St Paul’s comments about suffering. Continue reading

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Homily for Sunday, August 10, 2014: Salvation & the Church

Martyr and Archdeacon Laurence of Rome

Sunday, August 10, 2014: Ninth Sunday after Pentecost & Ninth Sunday of Matthew; After-feast of the Transfiguration of Christ;Martyr and Archdeacon Laurence of Rome, Hieromartyr Sixtus, bishop of Rome & those with them; Venerable Laurence of Kaluga, the Fool for Christ’s sake.

St. Ignatius Orthodox Church, Madison WI

THE EPISTLE: 1 Corinthians 3:9-17
THE GOSPEL: Matthew 14:22-34

St Paul calls us “God’s fellow workers.” Other translations will call us “co-workers” or “co-laborers” with God. Whatever the phrasing the Apostle is making two points.

The first is that salvation is dependent not simply on divine grace but on human freedom. We are called to work together with God. In the theology of the Church this is captured by the word that has become popular in business and other areas of human action: “synergy.”  We are not saved either by our own efforts alone apart from God. But neither are we saved against our will.  Human salvation is a cooperative project and while God remains the senior partner in our salvation we each of us have a role to play.

The second point is this: Not only does salvation require my cooperation with God it is also the fruit of your labor. “According to the grace of God-given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it.” If God saves no one against his or her own will, neither does He save anyone alone. We are saved as part of the community of the Church. Continue reading

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

EKK! NYC Council to Walmart: Stop Giving Money to Our Local Charities!

Quote

Have we as Americans really become THIS estranged from each other?

Source: Joe Carter (Acton PowerBlog).

Last week, Walmart announced that it distributed $3 million last year to charities in New York City. The giving included $1 million to the New York Women’s Foundation, which offers job training, and $30,000 to Bailey House, which distributes groceries to low-income residents.

Naturally, there was one group that was appalled by the charitable giving: local politicians.

More than half the members of the New York City Council sent a letter to Walmart demanding that it stop giving millions in charitable contributions to local groups in the city.

Twenty-six of the 51 members of the Council charged in the letter that the world’s biggest retailer’s support of local causes is a cynical ploy to enter the market here.

“We know how desperate you are to find a foothold in New York City to buy influence and support here,” says the letter, obtained by The Post and addressed to Walmart and the Walton Family Foundation.

“Stop spending your dangerous dollars in our city,” the testy letter demands. “That’s right: this is a cease-and-desist letter.”

For the sake of argument, let’s concede Walmart is trying to “buy influence and support” in New York City. Such activity is called “lobbying.” Are these NYC council members against lobbying? Will they soon be sending a cease-and-desist letter to their political contributors who are trying to “buy influence and support”?

There’s an old bumper sticker that reads, “Don’t Steal! The Government Hates Competition.” Maybe we need a new one that says, “Don’t Give to Charity! The Government Hates Competition.”

(Via: Hot Air)

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)