Bearing the Fruits of the Spirit: On Great Monday

Jesus Christ and the Fig Tree by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia -
Each day of Passion Week is marked by special commemorations. After His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the Lord went every evening with His disciples to the Mount of Olives after spending the day in the Holy City. During these days He turned to them with words that are especially powerful and filled with profound meaning, words that reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom of God and open the curtain to the future of the entire human race.

Monday is associated with particular events. Along the way to Jerusalem, the Lord and His disciples saw a fig tree covered with rich foliage. When the famished travelers approached the tree, the Lord began to look for fruit but did not find a single one. He then cursed the fig tree.

It is well known how critics of the Gospel – people who for various reasons could not and cannot accept the word given to the human race by the Lord Jesus Christ – have criticized this passage. St. Innocent of Kherson responds to this criticism in remarkable manner. According to his words, it was not, of course, as if the Lord was offended by the fig tree and said: “I wanted to taste of the fruit, but there was none – so may you be cursed.” This is not at all what the Savior wanted to say; rather, He cursed the fig tree to give us an example of how barrenness is punishable. [Read more...]

Why Did the Lord Single Out Mary of Egypt?

St Mary of Egypt icon by Fr. Alexander Men -
On the fifth Sunday of Great Lent the Church celebrates the memory of St. Mary of Egypt, the holy ascetic struggler, who is an image of the deep and sincere repentance that brings forth great fruit.

All of you will remember her life. You will recall that her youth was spent in wantonness; that she was a harlot, a courtesan, a fallen woman in a large and depraved city in Egypt; and that she went from being a great sinner to a saint. Yet, regardless of such a manner of life, there was likely some Godly spark in Mary’s heart attracting her to God. She did not understand that she was not living as the Lord’s law or conscience demand. She thought that she was not hurting anyone.

Once a large ship with pilgrims and believers was leaving for the Holy Land, and Mary decided to leave with them. At first it did not even occur to her that this would be a pilgrimage to the holy places. She simply wanted to enjoy herself with the people who were leaving for a journey by ship. [Read more...]

The Mystery of Suffering and the Saving Power of God

Jesus Healing Blind Suffering and God Catholic Online -
Suffering, even of the just, can really be transformed into a ‘blessing’ if it becomes the occasion for God to intervene directly into our lives.

Moved by human suffering, Jesus healed many who were sick and cast out unclean spirits. What the readings tell us is not just that suffering can be healed. In the second reading St Paul explains the possibility for each of us to participate in the saving work of Christ. We can truly help to combat suffering by a life dedicated to the untiring proclamation of the Gospel. —

The first reading of the liturgy of the Word has the theme of innocent suffering through the figure of the righteous man Job, who, almost disheartened and greatly tried, raises his cry to heaven seeing the hard work and transience of his life. Job raises the deeply enigmatic question of the suffering of the just which, at the end of the passage, remains almost in suspense awaiting a response from on high. [Read more...]

When the Wood Is Dry

Cross Christ healing prayer by Daniel Boerman -
The gospel is all about healing and salvation and deliverance. It promises deliverance from sin and the judgment of God. It releases us from guilt and futility and frees us to live a meaningful life in the service of God. And it holds out the promise of a new life in the presence of God after this present life of struggle is over.

But what happens when this Good News seems to pass us by and leave us unchanged? For a period of several years, the gospel seemed to leave me out in the cold as surely as a marooned traveler stranded in a North Dakota blizzard. I struggled with confusion and depression and doubt.

During this period, I constantly prayed for some healing or deliverance. But nothing happened. I had the impression that God was sitting on the sidelines watching my struggle with some interest but also detachment. I questioned my faith and my status with God. It seemed that God wanted me to work out this problem on my own. The healing and grace of the gospel seemed to pass me by. [Read more...]

Still the Only Solution to the World’s Problems

Ten Commandments Orthodox by Dennis Prager -
There is only one solution to the world’s problems, only one prescription for producing a near-heaven on earth.

It is 3,000 years old. And it is known as the Ten Commandments.

Properly understood and applied, the Ten Commandments are really all humanity needs to make a beautiful world. While modern men and women, in their hubris, believe that they can and must come up with new ideas in order to make a good world, the truth is there is almost nothing new to say.

If people and countries lived by the Ten Commandments, all the great moral problems would disappear. Or, to put it another way, all the great evils involve the violation of one or more of the Ten Commandments.

Here is the case in brief for the Ten Commandments (using the Jewish enumeration, which differs slightly from the Protestant and Catholic):

1. I am the Lord your God.
There are moral atheists and there are immoral believers, but there is no chance for a good world based on atheism. Ultimately, a godless and religion-free society depends on people’s hearts to determine right from wrong, and that is a very weak foundation. [Read more...]

A Response to an Open Letter on Homosexuality

Fr. John Whiteford

Fr. John Whiteford

by Fr. John Whiteford
In response to the debate about homosexuality that is currently going on in the OCA, there is now an “Open letter to OCA Holy Synod from college students and young adults” that has been sent to the bishops of the OCA, and is making the rounds on the internet.

This letter is a classic example of the use of politically correct arguments to shut down those whom liberals disagree with, rather then deal with the actual substance of the question. This tactic is not by accident. When you can’t deal with the substance of an issue, complaining about the tone of those you can’t answer will do, in a pinch.

In short, the letter complains about the tone of those who say homosexuality is a sin, without unequivocally stating what the correct teaching of the Church actually is on the subject. There is no acknowledgment that statements that are morally ambiguous might be of any legitimate concern, only condemnation of those who seek to make clear what the teaching of the Church is. [Read more...]

Charlie Rangel’s Misunderstanding of Christ and Charity

Vineyard Parable Christianity Christby William Sullivan -
The left is desperate to coerce Americans into embracing the president’s platform of increasing taxes on the wealthy to redistribute to the downtrodden, slothful, and all those between who stand to collect. So Charlie Rangel appealed to a largely Christian nation, “What would Jesus do?”

The hypocrisy here is so obvious that it need not be discussed in detail. Suffice it to say, when and where progressives draw the line on Christian influence in legislation tends to compromise any faith they claim to have. Asking this question about the current budget debate but not about, say, the morality of tax dollars serving to mutilate and siphon unborn babies from their mothers’ wombs is suspicious to say the least. If conservatives cite Christ’s teaching to protect unborn lives from a progressive agenda that indiscriminately allows for their destruction, it is panned as the archaic ravings of crackpots. Yet when Christ is referenced as a template of charity to advance the progressives’ redistributive agenda, nothing could be more pertinent to American values. [Read more...]

Benedictine Monk: Remaining in Jesus the True Vine

Jesus the True Vine

I am the vine, you are the branches

by Fr. Gregory Gresko -
In listening attentively to the Word of God, we come to realize authentic communion with our Lord and are perfected slowly but surely in love of His Will through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, who is able to safeguard us from despairing or presuming. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you” (Jn 15.7).

As we continue celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ during this joyous Easter season, the Gospel passage from Wednesday’s liturgy called us to pause reflectively upon the image of Jesus as the true Vine and His people as the branches. Jesus teaches us: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit . Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me” (Jn 15.1-5). [Read more...]

Celebrating the Resurrection

Christ Resurrection - Pascha Orthodox by Mark Tooley
Hundreds of millions of Christians will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. And after a century and a half of liberal Protestant attempts to redefine the resurrection into merely a metaphor, the vast majority of Christians still believe that Christ’s body physically arose. Revisionist theologians still find airtime on the History Channel or PBS, but their project never gained a mass following. Even most secular media coverage about religion today focuses largely on orthodox expressions of Roman Catholicism or evangelical Protestantism. Whatever their own beliefs, most reporters and pundits intuit that rationalist liberal theology does not command a lot of adherents.

The Jesus Seminar, founded in 1985 to adjudicate over which Scriptures were historically accurate, and which always excluded any talk about miracles, once gained widespread attention for its routine objections to traditional Christian belief [Read more...]

We Should Not Despair, Even If We Sin Many Times

St Peter of Damascus by St. Peter of Damascus -
Even if you are not what you should be, you should not despair. It is bad enough that you have sinned; why in addition do you wrong God by regarding Him in your ignorance as powerless? Is He, who for your sake created the great universe that you behold, incapable of saving your soul? And if you say that this fact, as well as His incarnation, only makes your condemnation worse, then repent; and He will receive your repentance, as He accepted that of the prodigal son (cf. Luke 15:20) and the prostitute (cf. Luke 7:37-50).

But if repentance is too much for you, and you sin out of habit even when you do not want to, show humility like the publican (cf. Luke 18:13): this is enough to ensure your salvation. For he who sins without repenting, yet does not despair, must of necessity regard himself as the lowest of creatures, and will not dare to judge or censure anyone. Rather, he will marvel at God’s compassion, and will be full of gratitude towards his Benefactor, and so receive many other blessings as well. [Read more...]

The Sheep and the Goats: Work and Service to Others

by Jordan Ballor -
In the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:31–46), Jesus differentiates between those who have done good to others and those who have not. The king, taking the place of Christ in the parable, says that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Whatever good was done was counted as being done to the king, and whatever bad was done was counted the same way. And on this basis the king separates the righteous sheep and the unrighteous goats. The goats “go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” It is natural to think that the good the sheep do to others (“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…”) refers to special acts of kindness, things that are only done occasionally and usually within a charitable context.

Lester DeKoster, in his book Work: The Meaning of Your Life—A Christian Perspective, provides a refreshing understanding of this parable. He writes that the good Jesus refers to includes these special acts of charity, but also refers to the service we do every day within the context of work. [Read more...]

Dying One Day at a Time, Living for God, Not for Me

Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson

by Chuck Colson – One of the most powerful lines of Christian writing I’ve ever read was in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s magnificent classic The Cost of Discipleship. “When Christ calls a man,” Bonhoeffer wrote, “He bids him to come and die.”

Sobering words. Its’ just the opposite of the therapeutic gospel we hear all too often in some churches these days.

Yet the Apostle Paul said the same thing. “I die daily,” he wrote in 1 Corinthians 15. What did he mean?

Paul was a proud, strong man; well-educated, a Pharisee, a Jew, a Roman citizen. He had it all together; Until, that is, Christ knocked him down on the road to Damascus and appeared to him personally.

Once Paul regained his sight, his view of the world and reality was dramatically changed. But I doubt Paul’s personality changed all that much. Throughout his letters, we see the mark of a strong, assured, powerful, bright, and intelligent individual. He remained all of those things—but I imagine he wrestled with the pride that those traits can bring. I imagine he struggled to use those traits to God’s glory instead of his own. [Read more...]

Can a Catholic Accept Evolutionary Theory Uncritically?

God Creation Christian Belief against Evolution 10/24/2010 – Msgr. Charles Pope -
Sobriety about Evolutionary Theory – It is common to experience a rather simplistic notion among Catholics that the Theory of Evolution can be reconciled easily with the Biblical accounts and with our faith. Many will say something like this: “I have no problem with God setting things up so that we started as one-celled organisms and slowly evolved into being human beings. God could do this and perhaps the Genesis account is just simplifying evolution and telling us the same thing as what Evolution does.”

There are elements of the truth in this sort of a statement. Surely God could have set things up to evolve and directed the process so that human beings evolved and then, at some time he gave us souls. God could have done that.

The problem with the statement above is less theological than scientific because there is a word in that sentence that is “obnoxious” to evolutionary theory: “God.” The fact is that most Catholics who speak like this over-simplify evolutionary theory and hold a version of it that most Evolutionary Theorists do not hold. They accept the Theory of Evolution uncritically. [Read more...]

Making the Creator in Our Image

Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson

9/22/2010 – Chuck Colson -

The debate about the origins of the universe just got a lot weirder. I can safely say, “Now I’ve heard it all.”

Yesterday on BreakPoint, I told you that Stephen Hawking, the great scientist, believes that the universe and life itself can be explained without referring to God; that God is, in Hawking’s words, “unnecessary.”

But there are some scientists who do believe there was a creator. The problem is that some of their ideas about the “creator” and his “creation” are straight out of a comic-book convention.

According to a recent article written by a university astronomer in the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper, it’s possible that the “universe around us was created by people very much like ourselves, using devices not too dissimilar to those available to scientists today.” [Read more...]

Become Like a Little Child

BreakPoint | by Paul Miller | Sep. 16, 2009

On more than one occasion, Jesus tells his disciples to become like little children.

The most famous is when the young mothers try to get near Jesus so he can bless their infants. When the disciples block them, Jesus rebukes his disciples sharply. “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mark 10:14-15). Jesus’ rebuke would have surprised the disciples. It would have seemed odd. Children in the first century weren’t considered cute or innocent. Only since the nineteenth-century Romantic era have we idolized children. [Read more...]