Orthodox Mission – Hyde Park, Chicago

Fr. Elijah

5th Tuesday of Lent, Isaiah 40,18-31, Meditation

TThus says the Lord: “To what have you likened the Lord, and to what likeness have you likened him? Has the craftsman not made an image, or the goldsmith melted gold, gilded it over and made it a likeness? For the craftsman chooses wood that will not rot and wisely seeks how he will set up his image so that it may not be shaken. Will you not know? Will you not hear? Was it not declared to you from the beginning? Have you not known the foundations of the earth? The one who hold fast the circle of the earth and those who dwell on it are like locusts. The one who set up the heaven like a chamber and stretched it out like a tent to dwell in. The one who appoints rulers to rule as nothing, who made the earth as nothing. For they shall not plant, nor shall they sow, nor shall their root take root into the earth. He blew on them and they withered, and a squall will take them like sticks. Now therefore to what have you likened me so that I shall be exalted?” said the Holy One. Lift up your eyes to the height and see, who has displayed all these things? He who brings forth his array by number will call them all by name. From his great glory and by the might of his strength nothing has escaped you. For do not say, Jacob, and why have you spoken, Israel: My way has been concealed from God, and my God has taken away judgement and has departed? And now, have you not known if you have not heard? The eternal God, the God who formed the extremities of the earth, will not hunger nor toil, nor is there any searching of his understanding. He gives strength to the hungry and grief to those who are not suffering. For the young will hunger and youths will toil and the chosen will be without strength. But those who wait on God will renew their strength.

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God cannot be reduced to the things he has made; nor can things he made reduce him to a thing made. He is not exalted by our art. He himself is the artist who has made all things for his dwelling, his tent, his temple. We are small, he is great. He is immortal and we are short-lived and weak. He is not exalted by comparison to anything he has made. He is exalted as the Maker beyond all the things of this world who has made all out of his ineffable care and love. He is not made strong by comparison to the world: he imparts power to those who do not turn impatiently to this world and this life to give them strength, but rather, those who patiently wait on him, who gives and then renews strength. We must wait in patience for God to show himself from beyond the bounds of this world, we look up to him for his glory that surpasses our judgment, our skill, our strength and our knowledge.

5th Monday of Lent Meditation, Isaiah 37: 33-38 & 38: 1-6.

Thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not enter this city, nor shoot an arrow against it, nor come before it with a shield, nor cast up a siege ramp against it. But by the way that he came, by the same he shall return ; and he shall not enter this city. Thus says the Lord: For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David. Then an Angel of the Lord went out and struck down one hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians. When morning dawned, they were all dead. Then King Senachereim of Assyria turned and departed and dwelt in Nineve. As he was worshiping in the house of his tutelary god Nasarach, his sons Adramelech and Sarasar struck him down with swords,  and escaped into the land of Armenia. His son Asordan succeeded him. It came to pass at that time that Ezekias became sick and was at the point of death. And the prophet Isaias, son of Amos, came to him, and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die. You will not live”. Then Ezekias turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you in truth with a true heart, and have done what is pleasing in your sight”. And Ezekias wept bitterly. Then the word of the Lord came to Isaias: Go and say to Ezekias, “Thus says the Lord, the God of your father David: I have heard your prayer, and I have seen your tears. See, I am adding fifteen years to your time. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria and defend this city”.

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God saves his city. The city is an image of the Church, which is preserved by not just “an angel of the Lord,” the Lord himself, the “Angel of Great Counsel.” But the city and the Church is not saved for the sake of some institutional greatness, but God says it is “for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.” David is a human king, and his kingdom a human kingdom, but God is saving David’s kingdom to be the earthly beginning of his rule that overthrows the powers of this world. God is saving the city as the kingdom of God, over which Christ reigns as the divine “Son of Man” that Daniel speaks of: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. “(Dan 7:13-14) Daniel, in his  vision is very “anxious” and “alarmed.” Ezekias (Hezekiah) is also disturbed knowing his life and his kingship will end. He does not fully realize—or perhaps he only begins to realize—that it is the marvel of God’s power, not his power or life that saves the city. He is depressed. Having seen God’s power over life and death, he does not have the faith to face his own death, and he weeps. He repents. So we also are confronted by our weakness, and we learn that it is not our power, our control that gives life. God gives life. He has the power to save the city, the world and fallen citadel of our own life and soul. We must cast ourselves on his mercy in our weakness and failure to believe, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) We must even give over our own “soul,” the things and even the people we love most and ask God for mercy, the mercy that he has shown to the city of the Church, which sees him reigning supreme, the one who suffered with us and, in his resurrection, gave hope to our bitterest tears.

4th Saturday of Lent Mark 7:31-37

Again, departing from the region of Tyre and Sidon, He came through the midst of the region of Decapolis to the Sea of Galilee. Then they brought to Him one who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they begged Him to put His hand on him. And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue. Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly. Then He commanded them that they should tell no one; but the more He commanded them, the more widely they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

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Notice how Christ does not wish his works to be seen publicly. God’s work with us is a mystery, something to be treasured within us. The miracle does not need our words, it IS. It is seen, it is heard in us. God creates us, as he does at the beginning. He has only to say and it is. Even though Christ is not called the Word in the Gospel of Mark, he demonstrates that he is the Word which makes, the Word which is “BE” and it is; “Open!” and it is opened. “O Lord open my lips and my mouth will pour forth your praise.” So, we must speak, but not for the sake of running around telling tales to others, but directly turning to God and giving thanks. People will see, but we should have no eyes or ears or mouth to notice, but only for thanking God, without turning away from him in any point of our being. This is how we are opened. When we turn aside, we are closed in by all kinds of vain talk, instead of glorious worship and thanksgiving. Let us be opened to Christ, God with us, our Creator and Redeemer.

4th Friday, Commentary on Isaiah 29: 13-23


Thus says the Lord: This people draws near me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me, and in vain they honour me, teaching the commands and teachings of men. Therefore, behold, I will proceed to remove this people, and I will remove them and I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and conceal the understanding of those who understand. Woe to those who make their counsel deep and not by the Lord. Woe to those who make their counsel in secret, whose deeds are in the dark, and who will say, “Who has seen us? Who will know us, or what we do?” Will you not be reckoned as potter’s clay? Will what is fashioned say to the one who fashions it, “You did not fashion me?” Or the thing made should say to its maker, “You did not make me wisely?” Is it not yet a little while and Lebanon shall be changed like the mountain of Chermel, and Chermel be reckoned as a forest? In that day the deaf will hear the words of a book, and those in darkness and the eyes of the blind in the mist will see. The poor will rejoice with gladness because of the Lord, and those without hope among men will be filled with gladness. The lawless has failed and the proud has perished and those who transgress wickedly have been destroyed and those who make people sin by word, and they will make those who reprove in the gates a stumbling block, because they have unjustly perverted the just. Therefore, thus says the Lord concerning the house of Jacob, whom he set apart out of Abraham, “Jacob will not now be ashamed, nor will Israel change his countenance. But when their children see my works, for my sake they will hallow my name and hallow the Holy One of Jacob and fear the God of Israel”.

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The Lord is against empty words and the self-flattering that can be a downfall of faith—if we get into that, we end up “teaching the commands and teachings of men” and not of God. Our heart has to be close to God.  St. Paul remembers this phrase when speaking of the cross “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and conceal the understanding of those who understand.” We have to perceive God with a wonder that humbly acknowledges our human weakness. “Woe to those who make their counsel deep and not by the Lord.” This means that we have basically piled ourselves under our human bullshit. We should not act as if we can judge ourselves, positively, and do our deeds with only own knowledge of them—God knows, there is no secret: “Woe to those who make their counsel in secret, whose deeds are in the dark, and who will say, “Who has seen us? Who will know us, or what we do?”” We are God’s making, and thus his work and known better by him than we know ourselves “Will you not be reckoned as potter’s clay? Will what is fashioned say to the one who fashions it, “You did not fashion me?” Or the thing made should say to its maker, “You did not make me wisely?”” God is working a change that is beyond our expectation as humans—he is going to transform our perception beyond anything human. He will give perception to those who are cut off from it—miraculous realizations beyond the emptiness, the pride, and the unperceiving and clouded spirit: “In that day the deaf will hear the words of a book, and those in darkness and the eyes of the blind in the mist will see.” A richness of life and a hope beyond human power comes to us: “The poor will rejoice with gladness because of the Lord, and those without hope among men will be filled with gladness.” God is going to take away the “stumbling block” of death and sin. He will take away the perversion of justice that this world thrives on. But God is preparing, in Our Lord Jesus Christ, for Israel’s “children see my works” Christ coming to be the Word that is the creating name of the Lord, will cause the name of “our Father” to be hallowed.” In our calling to draw near to God in holiness, we “hallow the Holy One” and “fear the God of Israel,” the God revealed in our wrestling with the mystery of his work with us. He calls us through the depths of human darkness and ignorance into his mystical darkness, going beyond what we know to enter his enlightening presence, where we gain new eyes and new ears resounding with his holiness.

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4th Thursday of Lent, Isaiah 28,14-22

Thus says the Lord: Hear the word of the Lord, you afflicted24 men and you rulers ofthis people which is in Jerusalem. Because you said, “We have made a covenant with Hell and agreements with Death. If a raging storm passes by, it will not come upon us. We have made falsehood our hope, and we will be sheltered by falsehood”, therefore Thus says the Lord: the Lord. See, I am laying for the foundations of Sion a costly Stone, chosen, a corner-stone, precious for its foundations. And one who believes in it will not be put to shame. And I will set judgement for hope, but my compassion for balances. 25 And those that trust vainly in falsehood, because the storm will not pass you by. And will it not remove your covenant of death? And hope you have in Hell will in no way remain. If a raging storm comes against you, you will be like a pavement for it. When it passes by, it will take you, because morning by morning it will pass by day, and in the night there will be an evil hope. Learn to hear, you the distressed; we cannot fight, while we are too weak for us to be gathered. The will raise you up like a mountain of the ungodly, and he will be in the valley of Gabaon. With fury he will do his works, a work of bitterness. While his wrath will do what is unheard of, and its bitterness will be unheard of. And do rejoice nor let your bonds be strong, because I have heard from the Lord Sabaoth things accomplished and cut short, which he will do over the whole earth.

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What is the covenant with Death? Isaiah says it is “afflicted men and you rulers of this people which is in Jerusalem” that make this covenant. In other words, it is in reaction to affliction and in the vanity of rule and power.  This “covenant with Hell and agreements with Death” is a modus vivendi, a compromise with the evil of this world to exist easily, a deluding fantasy of the optimist: “if a raging storm passes by, it will not come upon us. We have made falsehood our hope, and we will be sheltered by falsehood.” But God prefers a firm foundation not false hopes: “See, I am laying for the foundations of Sion.” In Christ, through his cross.  Also he does not want cheap hopes, but a precious and “costly Stone, chosen, a corner-stone, precious for its foundations.” Of course this is what we see in Christ and his cross: a costly and precious sacrifice and foundation for hope, real hope, “and one who believes in it will not be put to shame.”  He judges as one who really understands our case as humans, suffering under the weight of death; and so gives his “judgement for hope, but my compassion for balances.” Judgment tempered by mercy.  We cannot say that trials and difficulties will not touch us. God is not giving us a crutch for our weakness, but a real sense of the depth of his help and salvation that he gives to us; we have to expect the worst and hope for God as the best: to not be “those that trust vainly in falsehood, because the storm will not pass you by.” We have to leave the “covenant of death.” That is really a “hope… in Hell,” an “evil hope.” Instead we have to listen to the one who speaks to us in the midst of noise and confusion and trouble: “learn to hear, you the distressed; we cannot fight, while we are too weak for us to be gathered.” We need a Savior, not our own seeming strength that deludes us while compromising with the evil of this world. If we covenant with death this way, God will “with fury… do his works, a work of bitterness. While his wrath will do what is unheard of, and its bitterness will be unheard of.” We cannot rejoice in the ease which we purchase with our compromise with this world: neither “rejoice nor let your bonds be strong, because I have heard from the Lord Sabaoth things accomplished and cut short, which he will do over the whole earth.” He will cut down our compromises and our contract with the evil and death of this world, he will come and save those who desire him and who leave aside the “covenant with death:” he will destroy “death by death” through his cross and resurrection. He can bring to our saddest and weakest state as humans his divine power which destroys the one who wished to enslave us through his false power and evil covenant.

Isaiah 26-27 4th Wednesday of Lent

Isaiah 26-27 4th Wednesday of Lent. [26: 21 & 27: 1-9]

See, the Lord is bringing his wrath from the holy place upon those who dwell on the land, and the land will uncover its blood and will not cover those who are slain upon it. On that day God will bring his holy, great and strong sword upon the dragon, the serpent that flees, upon the dragon, the crooked serpent, and he will destroy the dragon. On that day a fair vine, a desire to make a beginning concerning it. I am a strong city, a city besieged, in vain shall I water it; for it will be captured by night, while by day its wall shall fall. There is no woman who has not taken hold of it. Who will set me to guard a reed in a field? Because of this enemy I have set it aside. Therefore because of this the Lord has done all the things that he appointed. I have been burnt up, those who dwell in it will cry out, Let us make peace with him, let us make peace. Those who are coming are children of Jacob; Israel will sprout and blossom and the inhabited world will be filled with his fruit. Shall he be smitten as he himself smote, and as he himself destroyed shall he be destroyed? Fighting and reviling he will send them away. Are you not the one who meditated with a harsh spirit to destroy them with a spirit of rage? Therefore the iniquity of Jacob will be taken away and this will be his blessing when I have taken away his sin, when they have broken all the stones of the altars in pieces like fine dust ; and their trees will not remain and their idols will be cut down like distant thicket.

Why does God bring his “wrath from the holy place?” Because wrath is an expression of power and holiness in the Old Testament, and holiness is an expression of a carefully bounded approach to God. But the boundaries of this approach to God are contiguous with what it means to be his people. To be set apart. To be consecrated, or else… the consequences we can see with those who merely “dwell on the land,” who sit in a place where they are called to approach but do not concern themselves with the desire for God. These are the same who are okay with the covering of the blood, the guilt of those who are at ease. However, God will “uncover its blood and will not cover those who are slain upon it.” The slain are those who are casually, as a matter of course for the ease of society “sacrificed” to the ease of the static and unmoved inhabitants of the land who do not yearn for God and do not see all the obstacles that confront us. What obstacles? The “dragon, the serpent that flees, upon the dragon, the crooked serpent, and he will destroy the dragon.” God has to make the transformation that is turning dirt and mud to fruit: “on that day a fair vine, a desire to make a beginning concerning it.” Desire is at the root. Are we squatters on God’s place or do we desire to manifest the goodness of the land, the human body-soul-and mind given to us? If we desire God we see all the snares set before us, we see, on the one hand, our strength, and on the other, the attack on us: “I am a strong city, a city besieged, in vain shall I water it; for it will be captured by night, while by day its wall shall fall.” However, we know that God has set us tests and trials, and that it fits into some incomprehensible plan: the “Lord has done all the things that he appointed. I have been burnt up, those who dwell in it will cry out, Let us make peace with him, let us make peace.” We need the peace that means that we can live with him—we have desired him and want him to be with us in peace—which is a gift of life despite our being surrounded by the enemy and being tempted to give in. If we fight we move from Jacob the trickster to the mature Israel who wrestles with God and is wounded for the sake of blessing, of fruitfulness: “those who are coming are children of Jacob; Israel will sprout and blossom and the inhabited world will be filled with his fruit. Shall he be smitten as he himself smote, and as he himself destroyed shall he be destroyed?” Let God destroy us, as long as it is the hand of God that blesses. If he blesses us with his terrifying power, even if it seems to be painful and to hurt, there will be peace: “fighting and reviling he will send them away.” Just like the trickster Jacob, we will move from “iniquity” to a “blessing” that takes “away his sin.” This blessing comes to stop just dwelling in the land, living as lukewarm, mediocre Christians; instead God will destroy our idolatry, have “broken all the stones of the altars in pieces like fine dust.” We will rise as a new human, not just an oppressed creature made of dust, but an enlivened image of the true God; moved from a blood drenched earth to a heavenward fruitfulness. We will no longer seek to eat from the tree that expresses our disobedience, or even worse to plant new trees and idols of disobedience: “their trees will not remain and their idols will be cut down like distant thicket.” We will peacefully accept his presence and no substitute.

Isaiah 25:1-9, 4th Tuesday of Lent


O Lord my God, I will glorify you, I will praise your name, for you have done wondrous deeds, an ancient and true counsel. So be it. Because you have made cities a heap, cities strong so that foundations should not fall. Let the city of the ungodly not be built for ever. Therefore the poor people will bless you, and cities of those who have been wronged will bless you ; for you have become a helper to every humble city and a protection to those downhearted through want, you will deliver them from evil people, be a protection to the thirsty and a breath for people who have been wronged ; as down-hearted people, thirsting in Sion, because of ungodly people, to whom you handed us over. And the Lord Sabaoth will make <a banquet> for all the nations on this Mountain. They will drink joy, they will drink wine, they will anoint themselves with myrrh. On this mountain hand on all these things to the nations, for this Counsel is upon all the nations. Death has been strong and swallowed down, and again the Lord has taken away every tear from every face. The shame of the people he has taken away from all the earth; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken this. And they will say in that day: See, the Lord our God, in whom we hoped and rejoiced, and he will save us. This is the Lord, we waited from him and we shall be glad, and we shall rejoice in his

salvation.

God does “wondrous deeds,” he works miracles. He mysteriously sometimes saves people from dangers and sometimes works sign for people. But the prophet goes on to point to the true and eternal wonder we have to find, that he is “an ancient and true counsel.” In other words, that God is the one who knows the mysteries of all time and eternity. He expresses himself through plans that are incomprehensible, until we can lift up from our own time and context by being brought closer to his holiness and eternity. “Strong cities,” fortresses and the fortunes of great nations mean nothing to God, they are just dust before his eternity. Especially so for the “city of the ungodly:” a city that is founded apart from and against God—a sure recipe for ignorance of the power and counsel of eternity. The ones who peer through the fog of vanity in this world in order to seek God’s blessing are those who do not hope in it, the “poor people will bless you and cities of those who have been wronged will bless you.” If we want to lift up beyond this false glory, this confusion and fog, we need to gather as those whose vision is not tied to this world, but attached to the poverty, humility, and hope for God to meet us as “a helper to every humble city and a protection to those downhearted through want.” Our want, searching need, for a God who confronts evil can make us “downhearted;” but this should lead us to humble prayers, cries of entreaty for help. God is refreshment to the “thirsty and a breath” for those whose inspiration has been taken away by “ungodly people.” If we recognize ourselves in this position of need then the “Lord Sabaoth [of hosts],” Christ who commands the truly bright hosts of angels and the saints, “will make a banquet for all the nations on this Mountain.” We will be drawn to the Church as an ascent to the heavens, to commune  with the food that never perishes, ends or turns to waste: we “will drink joy,” the very joy of Christ’s resurrection that lifts us up to heaven by his blood which sustains the Church. We will be “anoint(ed) with myrrh:” we will be fragrant not with perfumes but the very Breath of Life, the Holy Spirit that rushes from the tomb of Christ and the mouth of the Risen Savior to the Pentecost and into every baptism and our own hearts. Christ, having gone to the depths with us, has taken us up the mountain of the Church, from all nations to see him as the “Counsel,” the eternal plan of God. “Death” tried to be “strong and swallow… down,” but the Lord, shattering its power, “has taken away every tear from every face.”

We are to “say in that day,” this day: “See, the Lord our God, in whom we hoped and rejoiced, and he will save us.” All that oppresses is gone, will be gone, because “we waited from him,” we knew faith not through flash and worldly power, but in patience; “and we shall be glad, and we shall rejoice in his salvation.”

Isaiah, 4th Monday of Lent

Thus says the Lord Sabaoth: In the way that I have spoken, thus shall it be, and in the way I have planned, thus shall it remain, to destroy the Assyrians on my land and from my mountains, and they will be for trampling down and their yoke shall be taken from them and their glory shall be taken from their shoulders. This is the plan which the Lord has planned against the whole inhabited world, and this is the hand that is uplifted against all the nations. For what the holy God has planned, who will scatter it and will turn away his uplifted hand ? In the year that King Achaz died there came this word. Do not rejoice, all you foreigners, that the yoke of the one who struck you is broken, for from a serpent’’s seed there will come a race of vipers, and their offspring will come forth flying serpents. And the poor will be pastured through him and paupers will rest in peace. But he will destroy your seed by famine and your remnant he will destroy. Howl, gates of cities, and let troubled cities cry out, all the foreigners, because smoke is coming from the North and there is no possibility of being. And what will the kings of the nations answer? That the Lord has founded Sion and through him the humble of the people will be saved.

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God is going to take away the “glory…from their [the Assyrians’] shoulders.” This may refer to an attribute of an idol in ancient Mesopotamia which was something like a halo. This is how worldly power presents itself as something sacred, as something idolatrous. This is the demonic aspect of worldly power—to present itself as something with irresistible force and “magic” at its command. God reveals to those who wait and pray, who hope and live in faith that he has a plan and his hand is hidden within the fabric of all the evil things are that are done in this world. The world is his. Mystically, all that is in the world works out his plan even when it fights against him. This is not an easy consolation for us—we sometimes see only the tragedy, we see the “glory” of evil. Evil is undone by itself, and cannot help to bring about its own downfall—it is consumed by its own “serpents.” God is known by those who have cast away the “glory” of evil and know their place in sacrifice to God, as sheep. People sometimes say that sheep are stupid, why does God want his people to be “sheep?” Sheep are an essential sacrifice. They are relatively peaceful. They are ruminants—even if they are not smart, the way they eat their food is an image of wisdom—chewing a long time. And here they are an image of a good sacrifice because they are chewing over the events and the ways of the world, not joining the violence but slowly observing the end of the violent. Here, like sheep “the poor will be pastured.” The poor—those who have chosen nothing but the hand of God to feed them, the hand that blesses, the same hand that strikes down the predator. The “paupers will rest in peace.” Even if it means R.I.P. What is better than perfect rest? We try all our lives, hopefully, to do our best. The best finish is in death: the end of a life that manifests the hand of God; a life where we can say “the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God… their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself” (Wisdom 3:1,5)  Those who do not get fed by the Lord make their own “famine:” of the heart, of the mind, of hope. If we trust in the glory of the world “there is no possibility of being.” Destruction then reigns. But what in the end is victorious through the poor and the prayerful and those who see beyond the violence and the glory of any age is “that the Lord has founded Sion and through him the humble of the people will be saved.” Zion is the place where we meet God, where we gather in his name, where we know the kingdom which is coming. Where we come under the hand of God which preserves even in troubles, even in death and receive blessing from the same hand which is fearful to our adversaries, our true adversaries that guide the mystery of evil, the forces of darkness and temptation which use the foolishness of human power to claim false glory on earth.

Mark 2:14-17 Gospel for 3rd Saturday of Lent

Mark 2:14-17 Gospel for 3rd Saturday of Lent

As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.  Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners? When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Christ has come to call the sick. As sickness becomes a problem for us now, we are warned by God: “see what sickness is?” Maybe it is you, maybe it is not you this time. Be warned! Whatever good we have done must be about establishing the truth of God’s power, not our own sense of “rightness” in this world. But we have developed a callous sense of our own goodness and superiority. As a callous, it has to be attacked by the filing off we do through repentance. It is a disgusting metaphor—but self-righteousness is disgusting, when it is confronted by the Physician of souls and bodies who must file away at our stony hearts with his Cross to get them to feel compunction, the sting of need and a desire for true health of soul in humility and gentleness. Christ is gentle, meeting the weak–it grates and tears at the callous hearts of the self-righteous, this meekness and gentleness. Let us be meek, let us follow him, facing him and sitting with the sinners as a sinner, with the weak as ourselves weak, with the sick as also in need of healing.

Short Exhortation

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Let us think how to develop a rule of prayer for our families. Bishop Paul has rightly talked about the need for families to develop a sense of how they are a Church. This time has been given to us to try to develop prayer within the home. Everyone should sit down and come to an agreement to pray in some coordinated way—maybe not all at the same time, but at some times together. We need to shape what can become shapeless days if we are stuck at home. If we are not and we are on some front line position and have to return to the home, we should also develop prayers to ask God to cover us and protect us by his power and grace so that we can enter the home safely and with peace.

Traditionally the Church has named, from the first century onward hours of prayer: starting with three and ending up with seven that we now have. We may not be able to do all of them, but should punctuate our days with prayers. We must not let time seize us! By the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the word by which the heavens and the earth were made, grasp time and sacrifice it in prayer! If you do this eternity enters in and floods us with light. In the midst of all the mess!  We see as the martyrs, the witnesses see, who sacrifice all their lives, the heavens opened and Christ the Son of Man coming on the right hand of Power. In some small way. Making the apocalypse less horror and more liturgy. Fewer monsters and more angels. In the midst of all, Christ sovereign over time, eternal.

He has seen, and in fact we have seen, too, all disasters. The Liturgy includes the sovereign view of all time and history. It is not troubled by each monster. Name it! God sees its end. Meanwhile He is enthroned and angels sing. We can hear it. The liturgy is our access and constant practice. But even if the building should disappear and we should all be locked up, the Liturgy is still going on. We are just poking our heads into eternal Liturgy when we celebrate here. Even if we cannot celebrate now openly in a place together, if we pray and love God and seek his peace and his eternal life and the victory over death, we can see it. The present small trial is a warning. Seek God! He is blessing and his hand is powerful. If we are not seeking a blessing we can be crushed by the weight of the blessing that he must give to all—especially when we are in the midst of folly and arrogance. We need God’s blessing, powerfully. So we have to be ready through prayer.

We will all be tempted by some despondency, some frustration, laziness. We will ask ourselves “What is the point?” Let us remember what the point is: God’s life and love known in difficulties, through difficulties, in the Cross that brings us the Resurrection.

So don’t just wait for the services to recommence before you pray. Don’t throw off the fast. Fast and pray and ask God to be merciful and show us his goodness, his love and power.

Fr. Elijah