Welcome to Saint Herman's, Hudson, Ohio
Thursday, March 23, 2023
Monday, March 20, 2023
People often confuse this Sunday with the Feast of 14Sep. After all, both have as a kind of ‘focal point’ a beautifully decorated Cross placed on the tetrapod before the ambo. Both consist of our singing, Before Your Cross we bow down in worship, O Master… as we make prostrations before the Cross.
But the Feast in September (one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Church) is exactly that—it is the day on which we commemorate St. Helena discovering the true Cross of Christ in the year 326.
Today is NOT “one of the Twelve” major Feasts. Today, the Cross is given this place in the Church as a ‘medicine’, a salve to soothe us who have labored with the Fast. It is present to provide strength. It shows us by its presence, “Only a little while longer. You’ve made it this far. There’s only this much more to go before our Lord will begin His walk to ascend the Cross. Take courage and endure just a little longer."
Today’s Gospel speaks to us, beginning with three instructions from our Lord on living our lives in this world. He prefaces this instructions with a kind of “test phrase” - Whoever desires to come after Me. The Greek word used is opiso. It does not mean one who comes later, but rather one who desires to be a follower. But now after this test phrase, Jesus continues with the instructions.
First—Let him deny himself. The Greek is aparneomai, and it means to utterly disown. Paraphrasing, to consider nothing of self.
Second — Take up your cross. The Greek is airo, that is to lift. One of the examples explaining the word puts it akin to saying, ‘weigh anchor’ so that you are ready to sail away. In this sense, lifting one’s cross carries the meaning that, wherever the Lord is instructing me to go, my cross goes with me. So in a certain sense, taking up our cross is NOT so much our lifting a heavy load, but rather assuring that the security that is ours through the Cross remains with us—at all times, and in all places.
Third—Follow Me. The Greek here is akoloutheo, which means to accompany, like a disciple, to ‘be in the same way with’ the Lord. The root of this Greek word is keleuthos, and it means to ‘be on the road.’
Today, we approach the Cross with the same love and reverence we give it on that Feast day in September. But it returns to us much more that we give to it!
The Lord continues to teach us that those who seek to save their lives (translated as ‘to make safe’) will lose them (translated as ‘destroy’). The only way to make your life ‘safe’ for eternity is to renounce the life you’ve been given in this world, and begin to live as one now living in and for the Kingdom of God.
Does standing before today’s Cross and staring into its beauty speak these words to you? If yes, then the Fast has brought you great benefit. If no, there’s still time before our Lord comes to ascend the Cross on Holy Thursday.
But the time indeed grows short. If you’ve benefitted, don’t stop. If you’ve not benefited yet from the Fast, begin now to seek the benefits that the Church has laid before us all in this season of the Fast.
Monday, March 13, 2023
In today’s Gospel (Mark 2:1-12) we find our Lord again in Capernaum. By this time there were throngs who were seeking to hear His preaching and teaching. St. Mark records “Many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door.”
And so we can sympathize with the four men who bring today’s paralytic to receive healing at the hand (or word) of our Lord. They arrive carrying the unfortunate man, and the crowds are such that even one cannot enter, let alone five with one carried on a pallet. What could they do?
There was an image we saw this past week that said, “The Lord told us that faith can move mountains. But do not be surprised when your faith is answered by Him giving you a shovel.”
Perhaps it’s a trite saying, but it DOES accurately reflect the hearts and thoughts of the “four friends” of today’s paralytic. A mountain of people needed to be overcome—and the faith of the four was not to be denied!
One should conclude that their faith led them “by the Spirit” to open that roof! Their paralyzed friend needed to find his way before the Lord. Their view of this ‘need’ was no different from the view of the woman with the issue of blood. Her faith affirmed for her that if she simply touched the hem of the Lord’s robe, she knew that she would be healed. These four knew that if they managed to bring their friend before the Lord, he too would be healed.
Within Holy Scripture we have such examples of faith. The woman from Canaan begged for her daughter to be healed, and she was. The Centurion asked that his servant might be healed, and he was. The ruler of the synagogue asked that his daughter be healed, and she was raised from the dead. All of these came in faith, and their faith was answered. In many instances, our Lord responded to such faith with His words, “Go in peace. Your faith has made you well.” (such as Lk 17:19)
But there are other times when the Lord acts without such expressions of faith. This does not mean that faith is missing. But it does mean that God is sovereign, and He can choose to do as He wills. It calls to mind the man whose son was plagued by seizures, who came to Jesus for healing (indicating faith at some level), but the Lord was on Tabor with Peter, James and John, and so the man found only the nine remaining Apostles, who could not heal the boy. In that account (Mk 9:24) the man cries to the Lord, “I believe. Help my unbelief,” recognizing that his faith was too feeble. And there is the account of Lazarus, where Mary and Martha do not seem to have sufficient faith, and yet Jesus raises their brother being four days dead.
St. Theophan says, We must do our part to cultivate a spirit of acceptance, a faith which confesses, ‘I am lost and can be saved only by the Lord Jesus Christ”; love which fervently strives to devote all to the Lord and Savior, sparing nothing; hope that does not hope in itself, but only in its assurance that the Lord will not abandon us and will help us in every way, both internally and externally throughout all of our life, until our hope takes us to the place where He Himself abides.
May our Lord give to us the desire to cultivate such a faith. May He see in us a fervent hope in His unwaning love for us. May our faith and hope and love engender within us an even more fervent longing for a truly and sincerely repentant heart.
And when He sees our faith, may He forgive us, each and every one of us, all of our sins.
Monday, March 6, 2023
Pretty much everyone knows “the shortest verse in the Bible” - Jesus wept. The verse is from John 11:35, and describes how our Lord reacted in seeing the reality of death overcome His friend.
And while today’s words from the Gospel don’t technically meet the requirement of “shortest verse,” they nonetheless are equal in meaning, given their brevity. Follow Me.
The first expression shows God’s love for His creation, and His sorrow over how its fallenness has changed (ruined?) what He created to be perfection.
The second is an invitation.
If someone says to you, “Come with me,” your first likely response would be, “Where are we going?”
But this is Christ making the invitation. So, “Where are we going, Lord?”
He replies, Let’s start by going to a wedding in Cana. You’ll enjoy the wine. Then we’ll go to the Temple and cast out those who abuse it (Jn 2:16-170. After this, I need to speak with Nicodemus to help him understand. We’ll go from there to Judea and heal many. We’ll travel through Samaria—there’s a woman there who also needs to hear our Good News. We’ll come back to Galilee. A little twelve your old girl there needs our help. We’ll go back to Cana—there’s a nobleman whose son will die unless we go. (Jn 4:49-51) Then we’ll speak to the people in Nazareth, who will reject me (Lk 4:16-30) We’ll move to Capernaum, where we’ll heal the lame on the Sabbath, we’ll call the rest of your brother Apostles, we’ll heal the demoniac, along with throngs in the crowds who will also choose to follow, as you are doing. We’ll heal lepers and paralytics. We’ll attempt to teach the rulers of the people the true meaning of the Sabbath as we continue to heal many even on that day. We’ll seal My ministry by selecting twelve who will be faithful. We’ll heal the servant of a Centurion, and raise from the dead the only son of a widow. We’ll teach the Pharisees again who will accuse Me of blasphemy. We’ll teach in parables so that only those who truly seek to understand will have My mysteries revealed. You will become fearful unto death because of a storm at sea, which I will calm by My word. We’ll witness the execution of the Forerunner. We’ll gather with many on a mountaintop and teach the multitudes of God’s love for them. We’ll together feed thousands with next to nothing. In another storm at sea I’ll come to you to calm you and the storm by walking to you on the sea. We’ll bring sight to a man born blind. You’ll be with Me as I give this same invitation to follow to another, who will ask me to give him time first to bury his father. (Lk 9:59-60) You’ll be one of 70 whom I will send to go as well, to preach and to heal (Lk 10:1-24) I’ll give you the blessing of understanding the Good Samaritan. I’ll teach you to pray. You’ll be beside Me as our friend Lazarus returns from the dead. You’ll witness the rulers of the people conspire to kill Me. You’ll see a brother betray Me. You’ll witness Me being beaten, spat upon, nailed to a cross, and buried. You’ll cower in fear that those who did this to Me are coming as well for you, but I will protect you. And you will see Me after three days, and you will rejoice with a joy that will be eternal, and with life near to me in the Kingdom of Heaven.
How would YOU respond to the invitation? Thing is, this invitation is now, in the present! Are you following TODAY? Like the man in Luke 9:60, the invitation is made “for a limited time, and a limited time ONLY.” Tomorrow may be too late. The call, the invitation has been extended to all of us.
Let none of us delay in responding. The implications are eternal.