Last Sunday, I mentioned St. John Chrysostom’s teaching on the origins of temptation. To recap, he said that, given how broken most of us are, the demons don’t have much work to do at all. We are completely capable of leading ourselves into destructive behaviors and toxic habits. In the epistle of James we read that “each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires….” (James 1:14)
To paraphrase a popular meme on social media: Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason is that we’re being foolish and we’re making bad decisions.
Saint John of Kronstadt described his life like this:
“My life is a lengthy, stubborn, and constant battle with myself, a battle which I am waging at present being constantly fortified by God’s grace”
The impact of parents on the spiritual life of their children cannot be underestimated. And maybe the reason fathers have so much more of an impact than mothers has to do with the fact that we call God “Father.” If our earthly fathers are absent from church, maybe that sends a message to kids that our Heavenly Father isn’t necessarily in the building either? Just ruminating.
Anyone who expects the Christian life to be a cake walk is in for a bitter disappointment. The notion that being a disciple of Jesus shields one from trouble is a myth. The idea that being a Christian guarantees a life of earthly abundance is outright heresy.
In the reading from St. Paul’s second letter to the young bishop Timothy that we heard this morning, Paul says:
What God does for our salvation is infinitely greater than anything we can do, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have anything to do. The story of Zacchaeus in the Gospel of Luke (19:1-10) provides valuable insight into what we need to do to cultivate the relationship with God that gives us salvation. In verses three and four we read:
We look to the Gospels for encouragement, hope, and comfort. But as we read the New testament, we will see that not everything that Jesus has to tell us is all that comforting. Take for example, the Beatitudes. In the Orthodox Church we’re most familiar with the version of the Beatitudes from the Gospel of Matthew, that’s the one that we sing most Sundays of the year. There’s another version of the Beatitudes in the Gospel of Luke that reads a bit differently:
Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets. (Luke 6:20-23)
That doesn’t sound all that different from Matthew’s version, but then in Luke, Jesus goes on with the following: