With the unveiling of the so-called “whistle-blowers” involved with the debacle known as Benghazi, there also comes a rare opportunity for the Progressive Liberal Democrats to implode upon one another. This is, of course, if the Conservative element in the Congressional hearings keep applying the pressure as they well should. If they cave in, as they usually do, then they will miss a golden opportunity to wake this country up to what we really have in control of our government today. President Obama’s speech to “the” Ohio State University the other day and the student’s reaction to it was very telling. He basically said that government (make that BIG Government) is your friend and that any who say otherwise are unpatriotic rebels (I came close to saying “terrorists”) who would overthrow our way of life and established standards of living. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
Before I go on with this, I am remiss that I have not proclaimed: Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Orthodox Easter, Holy Pascha, was this past Sunday!
On of my favorite movies is “Command Decision” with Clark Gable, Walter Pigeon, Van Johnson and many others. It is a story of a Brigadier General (Clark Gable) who is in charge of planning and executing B-17 bomber strikes on Germany out of England. Walter Pigeon is his superior who has been through one war already and fought hard for the implementation of daylight precision bombing, in spite of the heavy casualties that come with it. Walter Pigeon’s character is away for a few days in Washington, so Clark Gable’s character takes the initiative to put into action a three-day top-secret operation called “Operation Stitch” (named for “a stitch in time saves nine”). This involves three straight days of daylight bombing deep into Germany to knock out the places factories wherein the Nazis are producing the ME-262, the jet-powered Messerschmidt. This means heavy casualties three straight days without and “milk-runs” in between to “average out the losses.” The plot is further complicated when, after knocking out the first target on the first day, they miss the second target by dumping their bomb-loads on a similar-looking target and so, must use a fourth day to complete the mission. The conflict then is between Gable and Pigeon: the former wants to finish the job, especially because the weather will only hold for the next two days, and the latter wants to “average the losses” by scheduling a few “milk-runs” in between, so he will not be in danger of losing the concept of daylight precision bombing to the Chief of staff in Washington. This conflict is played out superbly in the movie and I highly recommend it, not only as a great movie but also as a teaching tool for management classes in effective management techniques. The point I wanted to make with this synopsis lies in the fact that another element in the conflict plays a big part in resolving said conflict, the press. In my last blog, I spoke of a compliant press. In this movie the press is anything BUT compliant. There is one reported who wants to crucify Gable for his seemingly cavalier attitude toward the loss of human life as he sends out planes and men to be lost “just so he can gain another star on his shoulder.” The newsman, takes on a one-man crusade against Gable. When the information officer tries to soothe him by telling him that the American people want to hear of the accomplishments they were making and not “negative” journalism, the reporter says something very profound. He says of the two day’s losses over Posenleben and Fendlehorst (not knowing that Fendlehorst was a total failure and would have to be repeated) which totaled one hundred planes and one thousand airmen, “The loss of one thousand of our boys is still big news to the folks back home!” And he sets out to write his story of callous disregard for human life in search of a medal or an extra star! It all works out in the end but I will leave you all to see it for yourselves.
The loss of four people who did not have to die is still very big news to those of us who care about our country, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I think, personally, that Madam Hillary’s remark about “who cares” in regard to the how and why of this debacle in Benghazi is, at the least, reprehensible, and at the worst, a treasonable offence. She and Obama should be found criminally guilty of manslaughter for abandoning those who relied upon them for their safety and rescue!
What is the dilemma the Progressive Liberals face? It is simply this: there is no possible way, now that many facts are coming out into the open thanks to those who have the courage to speak out (God bless them! as opposed to our illustrious “Christian” President saying “God bless you for the work you do.” to an abortion mill!!!), that any “underling scapegoat” can be blamed for what happened. This, of necessity, will go right to the top!
That means that either Madam Hillary or Obama himself will have to take full blame for the fiasco; they will not be able to “palm it off.” That being the case, Obama himself will never, because of his super ego, accept any blame for anything, especially this. The Party is grooming Madam Hillary to be the “Great White Woman Hope” for the 2016 election and, if she takes the hit, then she goes down in flames for 2016! This could degenerate into a finger-pointing match between the two of them (remember the primary in 2008? There is still “bad blood” from that, I am sure.) and could develop into a huge split in the party. Can you see Obama denying responsibility and blaming Hillary, and then Hilary making the claim that the Obama faction is anti-feminist (“blame it on the woman!”). Then, in turn, Hillary will deny responsibility and blame Obama and the Obama camp will charge the Hillary camp with being racist! And where oh where will the compliant media fall in this controversy? They will be so divided that Chris Matthews will not know which of his legs is tingling!
Therefore, Conservatives everywhere, put the pressure on your representatives and make sure he or she knows what is at stake here!
Now that I have said my piece, I will include the next Romanian Journal entry and a homily from Rose Sunday (the Fourth Sunday in Lent) for your reading pleasure.
Feb 21: Monday, the beginning of the second half of my trip.
Today was another fairly uneventful day, unfortunately. I was hoping that Fr. Iulian would have a schedule prepared for me and have some presentations arranged. I got up, washed and had breakfast and morning prayers.
Anca and I are going owl shopping sometime soon since I found a hat on my own. She says she is probably not a good “owl shopper” but I told her this will expand her horizons! She left the office at 3:30 PM today to go to her college classes. I asked her what she was studying and she said “Law.” I told her if she was going to be a lawyer, then that might end our friendship. She quickly countered with the fact that she does not want to be a lawyer so much as a prosecutor or a judge. I told her that there was some hope left for her! :O)
Father Iulian is such a busy man; he carries two cell phones and they are always ringing. He left just before lunch to take care of something and, when the girls brought out the snacks for lunch I figured I had better get back to the hotel for lunch. I excused myself and went for lunch.
When I got back to the office, Fr. Radu (he looks like Dale James!) was there, he and Fr. were in a discussion about the presentation in May. My name and portion of the presentation was on their sheets of paper. I remarked to them, “I bet you are talking about my schedule, right!” They said “No!” Father Radu is really funny sometimes. He can get very animated when he speaks and I told him I would love to hear him preach sometime because he looks like he can really get into it. He immediately invited me to his Parish this Sunday and Andreea seconded the invitation because it is her home Parish. She said she has had Fr. Radu as a spiritual father for many, many years. He was engaged in making a point to Fr. Iulian and going on with glasses in hand, gesturing, and really making his point (all in Romanian, of course) when he turned to me and said, “You agree with me, don’t you!” I said I fully agreed.
We spoke a bit more today about a pre-marital guide for the Priests to use, so I went on the website and looked under the dept. of Marriage and Parish family life to see if the manual Khouriya Maggie was working on was finished and it is. So I sat down and wrote her a nice long E:Mail telling her what I was doing here and would she send Fr. Iulian one of the manuals. It requires her training the user on the manual and I told her that Fr. may be coming to the US for the missions conference in October and that he would come see her for training if he thought the manual was suitable for the Romanians. I downloaded a free brochure on the Orthodox wedding from the department and forwarded it to Fr. Iulian but it was not of much use to him since it only covers the details of the wedding ceremony. He was surprised to see that we have wedding rehearsals in the US since they do not do that here. He asked why do you do that? I told him it was because most all of us are converts and many have never seen an Orthodox wedding, let alone participated in one. I asked Fr. if he had read through my proposal (I sent a copy to Khouriya Maggie) and he said not yet because he has to read it in English and then process it in Romanian and that is a very difficult task with his workload right now. Pray for him; he is a very godly and busy man! Before we left for the day, one of his colleagues, Fr. Sebastian, came in to talk to Fr. about something. After he left, Fr. told me that he was saying that his mother was just diagnosed with cancer and he is very upset. Please pray for Fr. Sebastian’s mother.
Tomorrow is the weekly staff meeting that I attended last week. Andreea is the leader of the group that addresses minorities, so she has charge of the Roma People, not an enviable task, I must say. Father said I should be there at nine AM again as he left. I packed up my things and bid Andrea good-bye until tomorrow and retired to the hotel for dinner. I have been having fits all night with my internet connection so I will have to use the Cosmotie to connect and send this off unless I can exorcise the demon out of the wireless router. :O) The clerk said it would have to be addressed in the morning since that it was when the computer technician comes in. Hopefully we will get it resolved.
HOMILY FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT – ROSE SUNDAY – 2013
Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. … Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. X
Today we come to Rose Sunday on our journey toward Holy Pascha. Rose Sunday, as we know, is a brief glimpse of the Glory to be revealed in the Holy Resurrection of Christ following His Crucifixion and Burial. Why should we need this? We who know the end from the beginning because we are joined by Faith and good works to Him Who is The Beginning and the End, The A and the W, should not need extra assurances such as this. The truth is, however, that we are as the Psalmist describes us, Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, and His righteousness unto children’s children; To such as keep His Covenant, and to those that remember His Commandments to do them. If St. John the Forerunner needed assurances from his prison cell, should not we who are still saints-in-the-making be in need of some comforting and assurances?
As the Psalmist also tells us, We are fearfully and wonderfully made. The wonderful part of our nature stems from the fact that we are created in the Image and Likeness of God and are, therefore above even the Angels in the order of creation. The fearful part, however, is another story. We have a capacity for a fear that is to be directed toward God alone. Because of the entrance of sin, however, some of that fear has become misdirected toward the world. The Lord Jesus told His disciples, fear not them which kill the body and after that have no more that they can do; they are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him Who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
We are to have a healthy fear of God which perfects love for Christ in us, but that fear, if it becomes too great and overbearing, will quickly become unhealthy. Also, we are to have a healthy fear of the Evil One as did the Archangel Michael as St. Jude tells us: Yet Michael the Archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. In our own strength, the Evil One is to be feared, but in Christ we can resist him and he will flee from us. An unusual scenario occurs in Ac. 19 when St. Paul was casting out demons in the Name of Jesus; it is illustrative of the danger of approaching the Evil One in one’s own strength. Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
Having said this, we should now come to an healthy understanding of fear in the life of the Christian toward God. We love Christ but our love is much less than perfect, even though we are assumed to be working on perfecting that love for Him. The reason we have fear in our nature is because of sin; we still fear punishment because we know we are guilty before God because of our desires in the flesh causing us to disobey God, no matter how much we try to do otherwise. In his Second Epistle to St. Timothy, St. Paul writes: For God hath not given us the Spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. This is because, as he writes to the Romans, For ye have not received the Spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The remedy for our fear is found in St. John’s First Epistle: There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
This is not to say that fear in us is not a good thing. In fact, it is spiritually healthy for us to live with some fear of our mortality. If one reads the writings of the holy monastic Fathers, one will get the definite understanding that those closest to Christ live in fear of their sinfulness and mortality before God. I believe it was Abba Poemen who was found weeping on his death-bed by his disciples, who asked him, “Why do you weep, Holy Father?” He answered that God had told him that his death was imminent and they still wondered at his tears when he was going to be with God. He further answered that his tears were “because I have not yet even begun to repent!” It was that same Holy Father who wrote when comparing the action of water, which is soft, on a stone which is hard, to the action of the Word of God on a stony heart: “When a person hears the Word of God over and over, his heart is opened to fear God.”
This brings us to the Collect, setting the tone for the liturgical theme of the day, which reflects that healthy fear we should have of God. It reads: “Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of Thy Grace may mercifully be relieved, through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.” The healthy fear is expressed in our acknowledgment of our deserving of punishment for our sins. That fear is completely assuaged by Grace through Faith and good works. It is, however, never to be taken lightly or for granted. Therefore, we ask God from time to time to remind us of His love for us, especially in times when we are under heavy and/or severe persecution. At those times, God remembers that we are but dust, and He responds with visions of the glory that is about to be revealed in us.
There is, on the other hand, a fear that is very unhealthy for the believer in Christ. This is when we allow that fear within us to swallow up what we know of the love of God for us in Christ Jesus. We can become, because of the lies of the Evil One, the father of lies, who is the accuser of the brethren, overly fearful. This is the condition we call “hopelessness” and is the product of despair and discouragement. In the prologue to the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, when Clarence is being briefed on the condition of George Bailey who needs his help and for whom many prayers are being made. Clarence asks his superior, Joseph, “What is the matter? Is he sick? In trouble?” Joseph’s answer is very profound; he says, “No, worse, he is discouraged!”
Part of perfecting the love of Christ in us is to achieve a healthy balance of fear and “holy boldness” before the Throne of Grace. How do we do this?
This brings us to the Epistle reading. In this reading, St. Paul describes via allegory the difference between those who desire to remain under the Law of sin and death, and those who have become emancipated by Grace through Faith and good works, i.e., between those under the first and Second Adams. He contrasts the two sons of Abraham as being, one by a bond-maid, hena ek ths paidiskhs, and the other as one after the free-woman, hena ek ths eleutherhs. He says the former was born after the flesh and the latter was by promise.
The word paidiskhs, signifies a young female slave in the household, one particularly committed to keeping the door of the house. This is significant because she is the gate-keeper for those who perish in fear and estrangement from God because of a clinging to the Law which works death, no matter how hard we try. Notice the similar language used by St. Paul in Rom. 8:15 cited earlier: For ye have not received the Spirit of bondage again to fear. Here, St. Paul uses a different word for bondage, douleias, which means “the condition of being a slave.” It is described as denoting, “the slavish sense of fear, devoid alike of buoyancy of Spirit and of trust in God, such as is produced by the thought of death.” We have been set free by the blood of Christ which is the specific connotation of the word eleutheros, the free-woman. This word denotes the condition of freedom, “i.e. no longer under obligation to, so that one may now do what was formerly forbidden by the person or thing to which he was bound.” This, my friends, is the true and pure essence of freedom in Christ; it is the ability now to please God with our lives, as we were created to do, because we are now free from the Law of sin and death. We are free to love God as we ought and in the perfection of that love in our hearts, there is no fear.
This brings us to the Gospel lesson for today, the Feeding of the Five Thousand from St. John’s Gospel. This is the first time we have heard from the Fourth Gospel, which theme is Christ as the Son of God, since Epiphany III, the Wedding at Cana. It is appropriate that Rose Sunday uses St. John’s Gospel since it is a peek ahead at the Glory to be revealed in us.
In the other three Gospel accounts of this great miracle of provision, the disciples tell the Lord Jesus to send away the multitudes and let them fend for themselves in regard to their feeding at the late hour and in so remote a place. The nearest Albertson’s or Ralphs was probably almost a day’s journey from where they were and it was very late in the day. In the accounts of Sts. Mark and Luke, the Lord Jesus says to His disciples, You feed them, matter-of-factly so as to indicate that He expected them to be able to perform the miracle themselves. Only here, in St. John’s Gospel, do we see Him dealing only with Philip and Andrew.
The fact that the Passover was nigh indicates that they had strayed far from their “comfort zone” of the Law of Moses and were now wholly dependent upon this Worker of Miracles who had lured them away by performing miracles of healing of their bodily diseases. The people were like Sts. Luke and Cleopas would later be on the Road to Emmaus: they were filled with awe at His teachings but only revealed fully to them in the breaking of the bread. If there was any fear in them of being forsaken or abandoned, it was fully alleviated when He took five loaves and two fishes, fed five thousand men and their families with them, and then filled twelve baskets full of left-overs!
Also, in terms of fear of leaving the Law of Moses for this One accused by the Pharisees of destroying the Law of Moses, they were comforted in seeing Jesus as that Prophet, a reference to Dt. 18:15ff: The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; … I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. He was to be in the spirit and power of Moses in the wilderness; and here they were, in the wilderness, as in the Exodus, being sustained by God miraculously with more Manna from Heaven.
Many of those in the Exodus feared death in the wilderness and longed for the flesh-pots of Egypt, saying to Moses on many occasions, Why have you brought us out into this wilderness to die? Here they saw the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy to the Israelites: So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
What have we learned today from all this? We have learned what Solomon taught in the Proverbs: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We need not fear God as Judge if we know Him as Saviour and LORD. We do not have a cruel taskmaster for a God, but we call Him Daddy in the most affectionate way (Abba, Father). At the same time we retain a healthy fear, or reverence for God to keep us in a proper, balanced tension.
If we have too much fear, because of unconfessed sin or giving the deception of the Evil One place in our lives, then be become unproductive and cease to grow in the love of Christ. This is exemplified in several Parables. In the Sower and the Soils, the second and third soils do not produce fruit because they are laced with fear, the former due to tribulation in the world, and the latter due to desiring the world’s goods. In the Talents, the one with one talent said, I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground.
Fear can either be liberating, as in the example of Abba Poemen, or it can be debilitating, as in these two Parables cited. One thing fear is not, is an excuse for being unfruitful in serving the Master of the Universe. The Lord Jesus said, Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. The world can be very oppressive and intimidating. Indeed, Goliath the giant paralyzed the Israelites until a little runt named David came along and by faith said, Who is this uncircumcised Philistine who challenges the Lord’s Army? As St. Paul writes to the Hebrews, And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Commit to memory the words of the Lord Jesus to His disciples: Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom!
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. X