Short essays written for the La Jolla Veteran's Hospital newsletter in La Jolla, California
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions (Joel 2: 28).
These words by the prophet Joel (whose name means Yahweh is God) were spoken during the reign of King Uzziah (800 BC). Uzziah's reign was focused on achieving success in external and internal policies, including extending economic and military resources.
Joel prophesized during a time of great calamity, most often plague and pestilence. He considered these upheavals not only as natural disasters, but also as a presage of God’s convulsing of the earth, known in scriptural terminology the "day of the Lord," an indication of an impending judgment by God when the people broke His law.
He considered these upheavals not only as natural disasters, but also an indication of an impending judgment by God when the people broke His law, a presage of God’s convulsing of the earth, known in scriptural terminology the "day of the Lord."
The notion of an Old Testament God raining judgment on the earth strikes modern ears as a quaint relic of the past (but not one that has been drained of all fear). But is this accurate? Or is our modern perception more the detritus of sated hearts and distracted minds; the result of the surfeit of material goods we consume beyond our immediate needs?
If the question appears too strong, consider the words of Christ: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Mt 6:19-24). What is our treasure? The treasures of many Westerners are material goods, comfort, wealth, luxury, power, sensual gratification, and technological escape. When any of these elements become an end in themselves, when they distract us from God and the commandment to love Him and our neighbor; they become idols - false gods which substitute for the light and life that has its source and origin only in the true God.
Even worse, in our pursuit of these idols and our conformance to the demands they make on us, we manipulate other people in order to experience the satiation the idols offer. We hurt others to obtain idolatrous treasure and in so doing break the commandment of God to love our neighbor. This is unadulterated secularism. The neighbor exists not as a person we are called to love, but a person who can gratify our desires. (Morelli, 2006).
We have to look no further that the recent tragedy in the Gulf Coast to see the effects of those whose visions and dreams lead them to worship the idols of material goods which bring wealth and comfort to those in control. In the face of the loss of life and the economic disaster brought on millions of Gulf Coast residents recently, an officer of a company which allegedly consistently ignored safety to earn more profits, stated publicly: “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I’d like my life back’’ [emphasis mine]. And another officer of this same corporation said he had concern for the “small people.” This may have been an unfortunate mistranslation by a foreigner, but it stirred great indignation among residents of the affected area. Is anyone “small” in God’s eyes? Indeed, such a statement would speak volumes about the above- mentioned un-Godly perspective on the value of human life.
As our Eastern Church Father, St. Simeon the New Theologian, tells us: “For he who has wealth hoarded up cannot hope in God. . . .” In contrast to these attitudes, recall the words of Jesus regarding the greatness of the poor widow: “A poor widow put in two copper coins. And He said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had." (Lk 21: 2-4). The hardworking Gulf Coast residents, as well as our dedicated military and veterans, contribute from what they have, the substance of their lives, not only for their own families but also for their neighbors. These are the visions and dreams that will build a strong and Godly nation.
Morelli, G. (2006, June 7). The Prophet Joel. http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/OT/view/morelli-the-prophet-joel
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V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist.
Fr. Morelli is the Coordinator of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministry of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese and Religion Coordinator (and Antiochian Archdiocesan Liaison) of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion.
Fr. Morelli is a Senior Fellow at the Sophia Institute, an independent Orthodox Advanced Research Association and Philanthropic Foundation housed at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary in New York City that serves as a gathering force for contemporary Orthodox scholars, theologians, spiritual teachers, and ethicists.
Fr. Morelli serves on the Executive Board of the San Diego Cognitive Behavior Therapy Consortium (SDCBTC)
Fr. Morelli serves as Assistant Pastor of St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church, San Diego, California.
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