LIVING A CHRISTIAN LIFE TAKES EFFORT
The scriptures tell us that we must seek first the Kingdom of Heaven. Being successful in business or raising well behaved children are not on the top of the list. Rising to the top of the social ladder or making more money than your brother-in-law does not make the list.
As a priest/confessor I can tell you that I've had more than my share of people put off by me. Some think I don't understand the difficulties they face with their jobs, families, and spouses. "It takes every effort I can drum up, Father, just to get through my work day. I simply don't have the time to think about church stuff during the week!"
I really do try to be gentle with people who come for spiritual advice, or who want to have me hear their confession. I'm certainly not out to beat them up spiritually and emotionally. I just try, with God's help, to challenge them to work harder at being Christians. We can sometimes feel like the priest is expecting too much of us and react with anger. Who does he think he is telling me what I need to do, they ask themselves. In thinking this way they ignore the homilies that challenge them to go deeper into the Heart of God, drop in a few bucks and head out for another round of spiritual nothingness.
The challenges given to us by the Church are meant to aid us in our quest for the Kingdom of God. If we were taking our faith seriously we wouldn't get impatient with our priest for challenging us to work harder on our spiritual life, and we'd be grateful for those hard to hear homilies that hit too close to home.
When you seek out a golf pro in order to improve your swing you don't get mad at him if he points out what is wrong with your swing in the first place. He's the professional whose advice can make you a good golfer.
When in my middle twenties I decided to take up weight lifting and joined a traditional Italian family owned weight lifting gym. On my first trip to the gym I clearly remember standing there, feeling intimidated by all the equipment and not knowing where to begin. After observing my feeble attempt at lifting a weight that was too heavy for a beginner, a professional weight lifter came over and offered to guide me in the use of the weights.
There was another young first timer, but he was too proud to let anyone tell him what to do. I, however, agreed to let the pro teach me. A year later this pro came over, complemented me on my progress, and quietly pointed out the odd shape of the other young man, the one who'd been too proud to allow someone else to tell him anything. This fellow looked oddly like an ape, muscular on the front of his chest, but no where else. He was so concentrated on looking good to himself he had failed to notice that he'd created a body that looked off kilter.
Pride is like that in the quest for deepening our relationship with Christ. If we don't want anyone telling us what do to or pointing out areas of our lives that need change, we can become off kilter, spiritually. The spiritual father gives direction and sets standards that, like the golf pro and weight lifting instructor, are based on experience. If we become defensive we miss the opportunity to grow spiritually.
Letting rationalism rule our spiritual lives leads to us becoming defensive when our priest points out areas that need work. The priest is not asking that you beat yourself up, but that you set standards for yourself and follow a plan that will lead to successful spiritual growth. If we react in anger to correction it is a clear sign that we are living our lives based on the ego, and, like the young weight lifter, we'll end our lives with a soul that is not much different than that of an ape.
Living the Christian life takes effort on our part, with the guidance of someone who really knows us. The Christian life begins when we decide to think like a Christian and spiritual maturation comes with effort, just as does emotional maturation. As mom used to say, you need to grow up!
Nothing like spiritual maturation to fill your life with tranquility, joy and meaningfulness.
With love in Christ,
On July 20th I posted an appeal for funds, explaining that the monastery is in dire straights, and asking for help. I want to thank all of you who've been able to help, and ask those who can not afford to help us financially to please pray for the monastery. By your holy prayers, and with the help of Almighty God, we will get through this present crisis.
With a grateful heart,
|The Jajeh family of San Francisco are spending a week at a B&B near the monastery. (Click on photo to enlarge.)|
Tuesday July 26, 2011 / July 13, 2011
7th Week after Pentecost. Tone five.
Synaxis of the Holy Archangel Gabriel. Venerable Stephen of St. Sabbas' Monastery (794). St. Julian, bishop of Cenomanis (Le Mans) in Gaul (1st c.). Martyr Serapion, under Severus (193). Martyr Marcian of Iconium (258). Translation of the relics (1620) Venarable Anthony Leokhnovsky (1611). Venerable Abbess Sarah of Seeds in Libya (370). Venerable Just, monk in Cornwall (5th c.) (Celtic & British). Venerable Mildred, abbess of Minster in Thanet (England) (700) (Celtic & British). Synaxis of Hilandar Saints, Mt. Athos (Greek).
Virgin-martyr Juthwara of Cornwall.
Virgin-martyr Juthwara of Cornwall.
The Scripture Readings for the Day:
1 Corinthians 6:20-7:12
20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
1 Corinthians 7
Principles of Marriage
1 Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me:
It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. 3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. 7 For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.
8 But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; 9 but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
Keep Your Marriage Vows10 Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11 But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.
12 But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.
John the Baptist Beheaded
1 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the report about Jesus 2 and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.” 3 For Herod had laid hold of John and bound him, and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. 4 Because John had said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” 5 And although he wanted to put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.
6 But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. 7 Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask.
8 So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, “Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter.”
9 And the king was sorry; nevertheless, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her. 10 So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. 11 And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12 Then his disciples came and took away the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus.