Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Is Jesus asleep on your boat?

"Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, 'Lord, save us! We are perishing!'" Matthew 8:23-25

There are times in our lives where things are going so hectic and not according to our plans and just ruin everything, and all we want to do is say "Jesus, where are you!?" Haven't we all felt at times that Jesus was asleep on a pillow in the midst of our problems? Ever feel like you're boat was 'covered with waves'? If you think the ideal Christian life is one where there are no problems and no feeling of abandonment, I would have to disagree. If you've ever felt struggles, isolation, or deserted - you're in good company. Jesus, St Paul, Mother Teresa, and many others have felt like that - and its absolutely normal!

A great story I heard once illustrates the sense of the peace and calm I'm trying to focus on.  There was once a king who asked his countrymen to draw what 'peace' really meant. Many people brought to him many paintings - doves, rainbows, beaches, flowers.. but it just didn't settle with him.  Then he saw one drawing - it looked like a mess. There wasn't a single blank space on the painting. It was a mixture of colors and storms and wars and earthquakes and everything. Just in the center of all this chaos was a small tree, with a small branch, with a small nest, with a mother bird covering her egg. This was the image he chose to hang in his palace. He knew that the real sense of peace and comfort came along with the storm, not apart from it.

"There was such a terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead" Mother Teresa writes in Come Be My Light. At times, she may not have felt God's presence in her life, but others surely have. This is a great reflection of the true Apostolic Faith - service to others and obedience to God, no matter how we feel. If God only loved us when we were 'good' to Him, boy would that story be short.

I pray I can understand and really live according to this mentality. If we were faithful only during the times we had a reason to be, then it wouldn't be faith at all - it would be logic. Its those dark times which when we would be faithful, is when we can move mountains and stir the hearts of others - they wouldn't understand why we feel this way in the tough situation we may be faced with, which is all the more reason to believe.

"If my separation from You brings others to You, and in their love and company You find joy and pleasure, why , Jesus, I am willing with all my heart to suffer all that I suffer - not only for now but for eternity - if this was possible." Mother Teresa

If God uses the bad in our life for good, then why can't we?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Breaking Bread

"If we are to be what Christ is, and Christ is the bread of life whose body is broken and blood spilled for the food of the faithful, that’s what we must become ourselves." - Mother Teresa

"We need to do more." These words have been ringing in my ear for a few days now. One of the people I look up to recently told me this, after the passing of one of our friends at a young age. This really got me to re-evaluate everything I'm doing - not just in church or at home or at work, but in every aspect of my life. 

I was listening to a lecture series by Fr Thomas Hopko, called the Word of the Cross, and it really opened my eyes to the above quote by Mother Teresa. Fr Thomas had mentioned that in a recording, he heard Mother Teresa say this to her novices, "If you’re here cause you want to help people, you want to be a do-gooder, you want to feel good about your life — don’t come, we’re not here for that. If you’re here for social improvement, or recreating the planet — don’t come here, we’re not for that. We’re here for one thing: to show the love of God in Christ to people, in the way Christ did. Period" Sounds simple, right? How did Christ show love? 

It's an old commandment to love one another or to love your neighbor as yourself, but when Christ came - he suggested something else. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another" - John 13:34. So, did you catch what the 'new' part of the commandment was? Jesus commands us to do it one way, the same way He did. Again, sounds simple, right? God did this one way, by dying for us on the cross. He broke himself like bread and spilled out his blood for all of us to be redeemed, and it's about time we do the same.

In the Orthodox Liturgy, at one particular part where all the congregants are bowing their heads, the priest prays "that Your Holy Spirit may descend upon US and upon these gifts set forth, and purify them, change them, and manifest them as a sanctification of Your saints" Not only is the Holy Spirit called to turn the bread and wine into Body and Blood, but also to transform you and me! For what reason? I assume the same as the the Body and Blood of Christ.. to be a sanctification for others and to be broken for others

Break yourselves for others. What does that mean? We all like to do things for others when it's convenient, change that. We give money when we have extra, we give time when we're bored, we choose to serve when there is a spotlight on us. That expression "give until it hurts" is what we need to do. When is the last time we gave money when we didn't know how the bills were going to be paid? When was the last time we sacrificed our comfortable 9 hour sleep to stay up and help someone. When was the last time we drove an hour out of the way to give someone a ride. No pain, no gain, right? Break yourselves for others..

"I am the wheat of God, and am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of God"- St Ignatius of Antioch 

I'm speaking mainly to myself here, but enough is enough. Enough sermons, blogs, ministries, and any other distraction hindering us to be the changing agent for others, with Christ inside us to do so. The world around us is full of despair and hurt; it is thirsting and hungering for something it can't find. We need to provide the Bread of Life to fulfill its needs.. but to do so we are not only supposed to give bread, but to become ourselves bread, broken for others. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bite your tongue!

"True escape from the world is for a person to know how to control his tongue, wherever he might be" Abba Tithoes

Recently, I came across an article about human sex-trafficking that really disturbed me. The issue itself is a major problem on its own, besides what happens as a result of it - to the family, the girls, their future. As I read the article, I kept getting more and more sick to my stomach. Why would someone make a beautiful young girl do this? You'd think that maybe a regular person would not be able to relate to something like sex-trafficking, until I continued to read on.

 "I've always been viewed as a h*. Once you’re called something enough, it’s like ‘Well, I already am.’

Can you believe that? From the amount of times she was called something, she kind of took on that form because it was all she heard! What I've seen recently starting with middle school kids, possibly even earlier, is that friends call friends with all these types of derogatory terms. It starts off with things that we think are okay, such as 'dummy, idiot, etc' and turns into 'b****, sl** wh***' - all common jargon in a public school hallway nowadays. Even being around that can hurt us. St Antony the Great said, "Whoever receives a man speaking evil or a calumniator, associates with a murderer." Did you catch that? Associates with a MURDERER!

One story my priest told me once, and I'll never forget, has to do with controlling what we say --
There was once a boy who used to curse a lot to others, and his father told him that for every curse he said, he had to put a nail in the fence surrounding their house. Before you know it, the whole fence was full. The young boy noticed his wrongdoing and tried to change. His father told him that for every day he didn't curse, he could take a nail out of the fence. Finally, after a long time, the fence was clear of all the nails. 'Daddy, daddy, look! the nails are gone!' His father was very pleased, but told the son, 'Now, take a look at the fence, all the nails are out, but those holes will remain forever'.

That story will always be in the back of my mind, alongside with what this young girl said. Maybe, if we start calling each other saints, it can work the other way--- ya think?