Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Humility, Prayer, and Gratitude


Humility, Prayer, and Gratitude
12th Sunday of Luke 1-20-2013
By Fr Ted Toppses
Let us Review this morning’s  Gospel from Luke 17:12-19
At that time, as Jesus entered a village, He was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said: "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." When He saw them He said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus's feet, giving Him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus: "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" And He said to him: "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well."
Imagine if you were an outcast in society and that you had contracted a contagious disease which makes people run from you in fear of contracting the disease you have.  This is the situation of the Samaritan who had Leprosy.  He was an outcast in Jewish society because of his religion, and with Leprosy people ran from him and did not want to ever go near.
In the Gospel the ten lepers stood at a distance lifting up their voices because they knew that as lepers they were not allowed to get close to anyone.    What did they cry? “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”.  Jesus’ response to them was to “Go and show yourselves to the Priests.” 
In Judaic law we see instructions for the diagnosis of Leprosy, specifically in Leviticus 13 in the Old Testament. It writes: And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: "When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling, a scab, or a bright spot, and it becomes on the skin of his body like a leprous sore, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests. The priest shall examine the sore on the skin of the body….
When someone with these ailments wanted to re-enter society, they would go to the priests so the priests would determine if they were ill or not, if they were found ill with leprosy they would be shunned or separated from normal society.  Jesus asked them to go to the priests knowing they would be healed on the way and declared well.
The ten lepers were healed, and when the one of the ten realized he was healed, his reaction was to run back and fall at Jesus’ feet in gratitude.
There is a profound formula for spiritual life that is given to us in today’s Gospel.  The formula that is given to us by this Gospel is number one humility, number two prayer, and number three gratitude.  Humility is demonstrated in today’s Gospel for the lepers stood far away daring not to approach.  Prayer is demonstrated in today’s Gospel for they cried out lifting up their voices for God’s Mercy, for Jesus to heal them.  Gratitude and humility are both demonstrated in today’s Gospel by the healed man who prostrated himself on the ground in front of Jesus’ feet and gave him thanks.
Humility is needed in all prayer and spiritual activities, without it we are powerless against the traps of the devil in this life.
St Anthony the Great once said, ‘I saw the devil’s snares set all over the earth, and I groaned and said, “What can pass through them?” I heard a voice saying, “Humility”.’
PENGUIN GROUP (UK) (2003-03-27). The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks (Penguin Classics) (p. 148). Penguin UK. Kindle Edition.
The prayer of the ten lepers was "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.", this is not unlike the prayer we all must strive to say without ceasing “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God Have Mercy on me a sinner.” We must reach to God at all times.
Gratitude is giving thanks.  We must feel a sense of gratitude to God who gives us all blessings, and we must thank the Lord every day in prayer.
I will now read a prayer of thanksgiving by St. Basil the Great
We bless Thee, O most high God and Lord of mercy,
Who art ever doing numberless great and inscrutable things for us––glorious and wonderful;
Who grants to us sleep for rest from our infirmities, and repose from the burdens of much toiling flesh. 
We thank Thee that Thou hast not destroyed us with our sins, but hast loved us forever; and though we are sunk in despair, Thou hast raised us up to glorify thy power. 
Therefore, we implore Thine incomparable goodness:
enlighten the eyes of our understanding and raise up our mind from the heavy sleep of indolence; open our mouth and fill it with Thy praise, that we may be able––without distraction––to sing and confess Thee,
Who are God glorified in all and by all, the eternal Father, with Thine Only-begotten Son, and thine All-Holy and good and life-giving Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.
Amen



Sunday, January 13, 2013

The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.


The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.
Sunday after Epiphany 1-13-2013
By Fr Ted Toppses
In the Name of the Father and of The Son and of The Holy Spirit.
Let us review the today’s  Gospel from Matthew 4:12-17
At that time, Jesus heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth He went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned." From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
In our earthly world the sun is shining and warming the earth.  Each and every day God provides, and the sun touches each part of the earth.  Sometimes the light of the worldly sun can be hidden from us.  We might be inside a building or home and not experience the sun’s rays.  If we stay hidden from the sun, at first we may seem fine, but soon after our bodies are deprived of vitamin D and we can experience a seasonal disorder due to lack of light which can lead to depression commonly occurring during the darkest months of the year.
The Light of Christ shines in all forms of darkness and warms and nourishes our soul, mind and even our bodies. The light of Christ shines in the darkness of this world.  It is imperative that we receive the light of God and have true health.  To receive this light we need to immerse ourselves in God’s presence and thereby receive the Light of God, shining the true light that enlightens all. 
It is important to understand when we need sunlight so that we can go outside and experience the rays of sunlight.  This exposure to the sun may relieve our seasonal depression or lack of vitamin D.  In our earthly life the sun can however damage our skin or even burn us if we are exposed to too much of it.  The Light of God that nourishes our soul is needed endlessly and never burns us, as long as we seek Christ.  With His Light we are blessed and God gives us His Grace.  Instead of going outside, we receive this light when we open our hearts and minds and pray reaching to God who receives us.  I repeat: Instead of going outside, we receive this light when we open our hearts and minds and pray reaching to God who receives us.   The more we pray the more we are nourished in our souls and transformed.
From the book entitled Sayings of the Desert Fathers we read the following story.  “The brothers asked Abba Agatho, which virtue in our way of life needs most effort to acquire?’ He said to them, ‘I may be wrong but I think nothing needs so much effort as prayer to God. If anyone wants to pray, the demons try to interrupt the prayer, for they know that prayer is the only thing that hinders them. All the other efforts in a religious life, whether they are made vehemently or gently, have room for a measure of rest.  But we need to pray till our dying breath. That is the great struggle.’”
[PENGUIN GROUP (UK) (2003-03-27). The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks (Penguin Classics) (p. 130). Penguin UK..]
Let us also read a small part from Bishop Igantius’ famous work entitled The Arena: “Prayer is the daughter of the fulfillment of the Gospel commandments, and is at the same time the mother of all the virtues, according to the general opinion of the holy Fathers. Prayer produces virtues from the union of the human spirit with the Spirit of the Lord. The virtues that produce prayer differ from the virtues that prayer produces; the former are of the soul, the latter—of the spirit. Prayer is primarily the fulfillment of the first and chief commandment of those two commandments in which are concentrated the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel. It is impossible for a person to turn with all his thought, with all his strength, and with all his being toward God, except by the action of prayer, when it rises from the dead and, by the power of grace, comes to life as if it received a soul.  – This was from the book The Arena by Bishop Ignatius.
Brianchaninov, Ignatius (2012-09-01). The Arena: Guidelines for Spiritual and Monastic Life (Kindle Locations 1385-1391). Independent Publishers Group. Ch 17


Prayer gives us breath and life to be with God here and now. Prayer begins the receipt of all blessings.  We need the Light of Christ that is received through prayer for us to become sanctified.  We must pray without ceasing, our prayer is the breath of our Soul.  Our prayer brings light into the darkness.  Our prayer awakens the light of God in us.  We must pray.  We need to pray.  With prayer we are full of light, when we cease praying we are full of darkness.  "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned."
Amen.