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?

Monday, July 1, 2013


"Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor" - Truman Capote

Failure is relative. Of course not when it comes to an exam or anything of the like, but in many cases it is relative. Some people thrive from failures, some stay down, some are motivated, and some just frown. (Didn't mean for that to rhyme, but why not!).

In terms of service to God, several people have different ways of gauging whether they 'succeeded' or 'failed'. If a lot of people showed up, if there were enough chairs, if the prep was done properly, if people were baptized, or anything. God never ceases to amaze me that truly, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiaih 55:8-9

Yesterday in my parish, we held our first big local community event. We planned for a huge outdoor BBQ and a 'Movie under the stars'. We did EVERYTHING to make sure this day was perfect. From Google docs to Google hangouts, from early advertising to last minute Costco runs, we were ready. What we wanted to do was to just show our local community (Stony Point, NY) that WE as the Church were there for them. God cared for us, so we should care for them. We had no hidden agenda, no undercover Bible study, just wanted to share God's love with those around us. So from the preparation to the presentation, (man, i'm on a roll with rhyming today huh!), everything was executed perfectly. We split up into teams for games, decorations, food, welcome table, tour guides, parking, everything. We had pamphlets made, sign in sheets, individually wrapped chocolate. We EVEN had a bouncy house. After prayer and prep, we were ready - at 5:30, we were just waiting for the swarm of people to come in. The plan was to come in, meet some people, enjoy a free BBQ and watch Despicable Me on a huge outdoor movie screen that we rented, next to a bon fire with smores. There was not a detail left undone.

We handed out over 450 flyers, going from house to house and then the local police and fire department, the delis and bagel stores, the ice cream shops and shop rites, we did it all. We even went to the local library to hang up a flyer, and the people who worked there had already heard about the event, it had actually become to talk of the town! Now, what do you think happened? Not a SINGLE person showed up, can you believe that? Let's think about this, if we had spread the word so much and people had agreed to come and even to the point where people knew about it that we didn't advertise to, we would expect AT THE MINIMUM, one or two families. No, not one person from the community showed up. Is that a coincidence? I think the only way possible that nobody came, is that it was an act of God, it must have been. What are the chances that zero people show up, if we had verbal agreements from people, flyers, word of mouth, everything. In my opinion, God didn't want anybody to come that day.

What was my take-away? Unity. Throughout the book of Acts, the phrase 'in one accord' is said many times. That's how our team was. From praying together for no rain, to meetings, to dividing responsibilities, we were on the same page. One thing I'm very proud of, is that the group wasn't discouraged. We ended up eating some food and watching the movie on the lawn anyway, (just to get ready for Despicable Me 2 this week!). God has a plan for this group, a great plan, and I think without this SUCCESS, we wouldn't have seen it. We would've thought we did everything by our own efforts. Yes we would've 'thanked God', but inside we would've been so proud of ourselves.

Food for thought? - "But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good" Gen 50:20. God has different plans than we do most of the time. Whether its to be thrown in a pit to later become a leader - or to have no one show up to your party to later finding space to accommodate 3,000 people - God ALWAYS has a plan. Don't ever give up or be discouraged when you are serving God. So was this a failure? Nah, just one big step in the right direction!