Homily on St. Luke 23:33-43

St. Luke 23:33-43; Jeremiah 23:1-6; St. Luke 1:68-79; Colossians 1:11-20


Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

Today we celebrate both Christ the King Sunday as is evident by the gold displayed and also the annunciation of the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saints Anne and Joachim.  As we are focusing primarily on Christ the King, I will first write a brief explanation about the annunciation and then we’ll turn our focus to Christ the King.

The Annunciation of Mary

St. Joachim and St. Anne were childless.  St. Anne lamented and mourned her barrenness, but her servant Judith comforted her.  After which she was encouraged to pray remembering the story of the barrenness of Sarah and the birth of Isaac.  As she was praying an angel came to her and another angel came to St. Joachim in the field to tell both of them of the birth of Mary.  You can read a fuller account in the Ante-Nicene Fathers Series

Christ the King Sunday

Christ the King

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King.  This year we have travelled through the life of Jesus culminating today with His Kingship.  Among our Orthodox brothers and sisters, this is celebrated on Palm Sunday.  We will take a look at His kingship beginning with the gospel portion.  Our theme is God the giver and the gift.

Undoing the Fall

The Fathers take special interest in the fact that the place of our Saviour’s execution was called the skull.  They take it as either spiritually representing or perhaps even physically being the place of Adam’s grave.  The saw His cross as being between the two thieves and above the grave of Adam.  It was conspicuously in the centre of corruption.  This is where He was going to undo the fall of mankind – in the very centre of the corrupted world above the grave of the first sin.  He was setting up a spectacular victory.

Destroying Death

Jesus had become a man.  He had become like us in every way that through bearing our sufferings, He might restore us to how it was in the beginning.  For our father Adam had been in paradise and through partaking of the fruit of the tree had lost paradise for us all.  By the very same thing, by the tree, Christ destroyed death and opened the door for all of us to enter into paradise.

He Prays for our Forgiveness


As He is on the cross reconciling the world, He prays for us.  As a man, He prayed and as God with the Father He heard the prayer.  He prayed for forgiveness of all those who were desiring His death.  He prayed,

Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.

Future Members of the Church at the Cross

He saw the future members of the church below His cross.  He prayed for their forgiveness that those who wished for his death might be the very ones who would spread His kingdom of forgiveness to the world.

Lest we think that Jesus was able to pray for the forgiveness of those who tortured and killed him because He was God, let us also remember St. Stephen.  He was definitely a man and he still prayed for forgiveness of his persecutors and one of them became one of the greatest missionaries of the early church – St. Paul.  We have no idea how God will use our persecutors.  Let us therefore pray for them.

We also Must Forgive

We are Christians and since our baptism we carry the cross of Christ on our foreheads.  That mark teaches us what we should profess.  Our Lord spoke forgiveness and welcome to Paradise as He hung there.  We must be true cross bearers and bring the message of forgiveness to all those around us.

His Kingship Shines from the Cross

St. Ambrose points out to us that the inscription of His kingship is placed above him and not below him reminding us of three things.  First, as Isaiah nine tells us, the government will be upon His shoulders.  This government is His eternal power and Godhead.  Second, that His kingdom does not belong to His earthly body but rather to His divine authority.  Third and finally, that although He was on the cross, He shines above the cross with the majesty of a king.

The Door to Paradise Opened

Now we come to the thief’s confession and Jesus’ great promise.  The Fathers tell us what a great statement of faith this is.  The thief sees Jesus crucified with all the indignities associated with that and yet he still calls him a king.  Then we hear Christ’s response. “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”  I remember hearing a clip growing up of Billy Graham saying that the angels were watching who would be the first to enter Paradise and it was a thief.

What is even more amazing, which I hadn’t realised until I was studying this, was that Adam, Abraham, Moses, the prophets and all the saints in the first testament did not go into Paradise until the thief did.  Until Christ defeated death on the cross, Paradise was being guarded by Cherubim with a flaming sword, as we read in Genesis 3.  However, in His death Paradise was opened and the thief led the line of saints into it.

A Type of Christ

Now we turn our attention to the reading from the first testament.  There was a theory that had been put forward during the time of the fathers that Zerubbabel was the fulfillment of this prophecy.  The Fathers outright reject it since Zerubbabel was not a king but merely a popular leader.  However, they do see Zerubbabel as a type of Christ and that he fulfilled this prophecy in type so that we would know what to look for in the true King.

He was one of those who brought the captives from Babylon to Israel.  In the same way Christ has brought those enslaved by the devil to the freedom of the truth.  We see the king prophesied as the Lord Jesus Christ a descendant of David according to the flesh, and He is the righteous king, the king of justice that Jeremiah prophesied of.

Prophecy of a King

In Zechariah’s song, we see the word’s “a horn for our salvation”.  The sound of a horn signifies the man of God in sovereignty in kingship.  The meaning of horn throughout Scripture is associated with kingship and power.  Zechariah is not merely prophesying about a Saviour, but about a king.

Saved from the Evil One

Moving on, as the Fathers have taught us as Fr. Pat, others and I have said as well in the past, in similar passages our enemies are not corporeal.  We are not being saved from people, but we are being saved from our enemies who are the forces of darkness and of the evil one.  We must never, never identify people as our enemies.

Christ comes to save us from our enemies and from those who hate us that mercy might be shown to our fathers.  This brings us back to Jesus’ statement on the cross, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”  As Jesus destroyed death and our enemies, mercy was shown to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in that they were at last able to enter into Paradise.  We do not have an individual salvation.  Salvation affects the whole body of Christ past, present and future.

Rejoice in Salvation

They had rejoiced merely to see the day of our Saviour.  They could now revel in His salvation through His completed work upon the cross.

Christ came when the whole world was wandering around in error and darkness.  Night had fallen upon the minds of all the world.  We were without hope, but the Lord of all rose for the world.  He the dayspring from on high, has brought light to all the world that we might no longer walk in darkness.

God is Reconciled to His People

As we turn to our epistle reading, our theme is that God reconciles Himself with His people through Christ.  In the first few verses we see that not only has God given us the honour to receive His inheritance, but He has also given us the strength to receive it.  For this, we, with joy, give thanks to God the Father.

Christ has bound the strongman i.e. Satan and taken his goods which is humanity.  Formerly, Satan had abused humanity in his every activity but now God has delivered us and given us an inheritance.  He has restored the honour of humanity, by taking on our flesh and redeeming us.

In Baptism we are United to His Resurrection

We have received redemption not through the law, but rather through Christ who has borne the law.  He gave us redemption through a saving baptism, and we have now been united to His death and resurrection. In baptism we are alive from the dead just as Christ rose again.

Brought Into His Kingdom

It is great thing that has happened, we have been delivered from darkness, the Dayspring i.e. Christ from on high has visited us.  However, there is something even greater than this.  Not only, have we been delivered but we have been brought into a kingdom.  We are not left on our own to wander aimlessly, but we have been brought into His kingdom.

Through His incarnation into our flesh we share in His likeness, and we also share in His kingdom of love when we do good works.  We do not lead a life that is so good that we are counted worthy of His kingdom.  No, the whole life of the Kingdom is a free gift.

Christ Made Peace

In Christ all of God the Son dwelled in him.  It was not merely a sort of energy, but the very substance of God was pleased to dwell in humanity.  Through him all things were reconciled.  This brings us back to what we saw in both Gospel portions – the way to Paradise is opened for all saints, past, present and future.

He made peace in both earth and heaven.  Through His work on the cross He reconciled the angels with humanity.  We were in bondage to the evil one and as such we were enemies of the angels.  Through the cross, resurrection and ascension humanity was brought into heaven reconciled with God and as a consequence reconciled with the angels.  There is no longer any enmity between us and the angels because Christ has restored humanity.

The Cross – The Wisdom of God

St. Cyril of Jerusalem explains some of the wisdom of God in the cross being the means.

For we were enemies of God through sin, and had had decreed the death of the sinner.  One of two things, therefore was necessary, either that God, in His truth, should destroy all men, or that in His lovingkindness, he should remit the sentence.  But see the wisdom of God; He preserved the truth of His sentence and the exercise of His lovingkindness.  Christ took our sins “in His body upon the tree; that we, having died to sin,” by His death “might live to justice.”1

Isn’t this amazing?  There were only two options, an either or situation, but God didn’t see it that way and took both options.  Judgement and mercy were combined in the cross.  It was God’s love that enabled Him to look through this seemingly impossible scenario and bring both justice and mercy to us.


Today then, let us rejoice that Christ is our King, and that He has established His kingdom by opening the way to Paradise.  Let us pray for all those who both persecute us personally and the church at large.  We must ask for God’s forgiveness on them so that they might be included in His salvation.  They may become the future leaders of the Church.  We must not do anything to hinder that.  Let us remember that our enemies are never people, they are the spiritual forces of wickedness.  Every person is a potential saint of God and we must pray earnestly that they might know His salvation.  Finally, let us be faithful to live a life of good works and thus share in Christ’s kingdom of love.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,

Fr. Matthew

1 Thomas C. Oden and Arthur A. Just Jr., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IX (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 21

Gallego, Fernando, ca. 1440-ca. 1507. Christ in Judgment, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=47430 [retrieved March 25, 2020]. Original source: www.yorckproject.de.

Cranach, Lucas, 1472-1553. Christ on the Cross Between the Two Thieves, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57236 [retrieved March 25, 2020]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cranach_il_vecchio,_calvario,_1515-20.JPG.

Homily on St. Luke 20:27-38


St. Luke 20:27-38; Haggai 1:15b-2:9; Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21; II Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17


Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

The Resurrection

This morning our theme in the lectionary is The Disciplines of Christian Life.  In our Gospel passage, we are focusing on the discipline of looking expectantly for the resurrection.  The basic thrust of the passage is that all those who have passed on who belonged to God are still alive.

Sadducees  Viewpoint

Saint Ephrem the Syrian explains some insight into why the Sadducees thought there was no resurrection.  They believed that the only reason for a resurrection, was so that people could believe that they would be rewarded for what they did in this life.  They believed that they should do good without any thought of reward.  Which is a good thing, we must serve God and do good without our desire being the reward, but it misses the reality that we will be alive to God forever.

Some have pointed out that the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was not as clearly laid out in the First Testament as it is to us in the Second Testament.  Therefore, while we recognise that the Sadducees were wrong, we must be careful not to lay our judgement upon them.

Christ is the Resurrection

However, we must never even contemplate the idea of no resurrection, for our Saviour has stated that He is the resurrection and the life.  We also have the testimony of St. Paul and others in the Second Testament.  As St. Cyril of Alexandria sums it up,

We believe in him who says, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  He will raise the dead suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, and at the last trumpet.  It shall sound, the dead in Christ shall rise incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For Christ our common Saviour will transfer us into incorruption, glory and to incorruptible life.1

Like the Angels

What is meant by being like the angels in heaven and are not given in marriage?  First of all, we know that God isn’t rejecting marriage, for he instituted it.  However, St. Augustin points out a very practical reason of why there would be no marriage in the resurrection.  In our glorified bodies, we do not grow old and decay, but endure forever.  There won’t be one generation succeeding another generation and won’t be need for marriage to bring about another generation.

Clement of Alexandria points out that it isn’t marriage that our Lord is rejecting, but that we shouldn’t expect the same physical desires in the resurrection.  Whether it be marriage or other desires.  We will be changed and what all that entails we have very little idea.

The Honour of Virgins

In this life, virgins or probably more in our terminology, those who have committed to serving God in singleness, are worthy of a great honour.  They have begun already to live in the glory of the resurrection.  What we all will be, they have already begun, St. Cyprian tells us.  He concludes by saying,

You pass the world without the pollution of the world.  While you remain chaste and virgins, you are equal to the angels of God.2

I think there may be some who are reading this who have made a commitment to serve God in singleness, but even if you haven’t you probably know someone that has.  If you do know someone that has made such a commitment, please give them honour.  They are living in the manner of angels and are bringing a bit of the resurrected life before your eyes.

The Figurative Meaning

While this passage is speaking specifically about a hypothetical situation.  There is also a mystical or spiritual truth here.  The Fathers see this woman with the seven husbands speaking figuratively of the synagogue of the Jews.  They had Moses, they kept the law, but were not able to have offspring.  Now Christ the resurrection has come, and he has raised up the seed in the Apostles.  Through the apostles a church has been born out of the one who was childless.

The Two Advents of Christ

This prophecy in Haggai is given to Joshua the high priest among others.  Tertullian points out to us the dress of high priest and how it reminds us of the second coming of Christ and the resurrection.

In the next place, he was stripped of his former solid raiment and adorned with a garment down to the foot, and with a turban and a clean mitre, that is [with the garb] of the second advent; since he is demonstrated as having attained glory and honour.3

We see here in this passage prophecies concerning our high priest Jesus Christ and his two advents or his two comings.  The fathers interpret this shaking of the earth in at least two ways and both have to do with the two advents of Christ.

The First Shaking

First, we see the beginning of the fulfillment of the shaking in the birth of Christ.  God set the heavens rocking, when He broke through them with a star and angels as a witness to His son’s birth.  He moved the order of earthly things when gave Christ a virgin birth.

Second, we continue to see the earth shaken today. We see this as Christ’s name is proclaimed to the ends of the earth. The seas and dry land are providing the path to be used for the evangelism of the world.  Finally, the passage states that the treasures of all nations will come in.  This refers to his second coming.  For before the world can await him and desire his coming, it must first believe in Him.  This is where we are today.  We get to be a part of bringing the news of Christ so that others can believe.

The Second Shaking

A second interpretation of this shaking is that it is figurative.  There have been radical transformations of life in the course of the history of the world.  These are the two major covenants in the history of the world.  The first transitioned the world from idols to the law and the second from the law to the gospel.  The gospel also tells us of a third shaking.  This will take us from this present age to the one that will come.  It is the resurrection that will come.

Praise Forever

In the Psalm reading, we see that praise is to be done today and forever.  We must purpose each and every day to praise the Lord.  We must build it into our lives as a daily discipline, so that we come to the day without end, to the day of the resurrection, we will be in the habit of praising the Lord.

In verse four, King David mentions one generation and the next.  St. Augustin tells us this refers to our current generation where we are the sons of God.  The next generation refers to the day, the life of the resurrection where we are children of the resurrection.  By this, we understand that David’s prophecy states that there will always be praise both in this life and in the next.

Looking at the second part of the Psalm reading, we see that the Lord is near to those who call upon Him.  The fathers explain that this isn’t a carte blanche statement that if we call upon the Lord, we can live however we want.  No, part of our calling on the Lord, means that our lives do not contradict our prayers.  We must do the will of God and pray, if we wish to see answers to our prayers and be raised up at the last day.

The Lord’s Return

Our theme in the lectionary for our epistle reading is to hold on the traditions of true faith.  One of these traditions is that we don’t know the exact date of our Lord’s return, or the resurrection.  The fathers tell us that this is a good thing, extending it also to the fact that we don’t know the date of our death either.

If we knew when the final day of the earth or our lives, it would very likely change the way that we live.  We might begin to forget the necessity of waiting expectantly for his return and begin to live in a way to please only ourselves.  The plight of the lost might diminish on our radar and think there is still time for others to go and share with them.  When we know the day, the urgency of keeping short accounts may begin to diminish.

While we don’t know the exact day of our Lord’s return, we do know some of the other details.  We know that apostasy must first come, the lawless one must be revealed, and that Jesus and all the saints will appear at that time.  Let us then not bemoan the fact that we don’t know the exact date but let us look forward in readiness and anticipation for that great day.

Wait for His Coming

How do we rightly await his coming?  It is not in our asserting that the return is near, nor to assert that is not near that we rightly await his coming.  (There are people who believe it is so imminent that they are predicting exact dates, and we have others who are so disillusioned by such statements that they think it is long distant.)

However, the correct way to await his coming and to love his coming, is by keeping a sincere faith, firm hope, and ardent love.  As we mentioned, when discussing the psalm reading, practices must be learned daily.  We must each day, throughout each day remind ourselves that we are earnestly awaiting the coming of the Lord.  We must ask ourselves are we living in a way that is pleasing to the Lord.  Are we doing anything that is needlessly offensive to our friends and family?  Are we seeking to be constantly and fully reconciled to those around us?  And so on and so forth.

In the second part of the epistle reading, we are instructed to hold fast to the traditions that were taught.  What does this mean practically?  St. Cyril of Jerusalem points out that not everyone has the time nor the education to read and know the Scriptures, what is such a one to do?  He is to memorise the creed.  The creed is one of the traditions that has been handed down to us.  It sums up the faith for everyone, but especially is helpful for those who are illiterate or unlearned in the Christian faith.  The most important parts of our faith are collected in the creeds for quick reference.


Let us then hope expectantly for the resurrection.  We must put any thought from our minds that in the resurrection we have the same physical desires that we have now.  Furthermore, we must give honour to virgins or those who have committed their lives to serve God in singleness.

Let us also look eagerly for the final shaking when Christ from heaven shall return.  As we wait let us be eager to spread his good news of salvation that all might wait in expectation for his return.  We must build into our lives the discipline of praising the Lord  daily so that it will be a part of us when we rise in the final day.  Let us look to our lives and determine that they will match our prayers.

We must keep a sincere faith, firm hope, and ardent love in awaiting the return of our Saviour.  Finally, let us familiarise ourselves with the creeds and the other traditions of the church, that our faith might be strengthened and our anticipation will be increased for the day of resurrection.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

~ Fr. Matthew


1 Thomas C. Oden and Arthur A. Just Jr., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Old Testament XIV (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 313

2 Ibid, 313

3 Thomas C. Oden and Alberto Ferreiro, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IX (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 225

Souls Being Carried Up to Heaven, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57195 [retrieved March 20, 2020]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:De_Grey_Hours_f.188.v_The_raising_of_souls_to_Heaven.png.

Homily on St. Luke 19:1-10

St. Luke 19:1-10; Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4; Psalm 119:137-144; II Thessalonians 1:1-4


Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,

Complaint and Prayer

In the first reading today, we hear the prophet complaining to God, “when will you do something” – we’re stuck in this perverse world with no peace.  In the Psalm – we pray as with Christ.  We have faith in God, (His faithfulness) even with them turmoil all around us. People are looking for our lives, taking our possessions and peace.

Faith is a Gift


The Gospel lesson –  is a mirror of our own lives.  We have Zacchaeus – much like most of us before the gift of faith is received.  All of us are willfull sinners and we are drowning in a sea of lies, deceit and our own frailty.

He is afraid of the crowd, his sins are too well known and he fears what would they do to him.  We don’t have to wonder …We have learned that by the accusations they made of Jesus.  The leaders dared to berate him for simply eating with Zacchaeus.

Faith Produces Action

But once an opening is made by the Holy Spirit we respond in faith.  His heart was to see Christ this gave him disregard for his own person.  He, being the chief tax collector – climbed up into a tree.  I’m sure that he had servants and was mature.  However, he still climbed the tree – I don’t think that I could have.  He took action outside of his station to see the Lord.  He lost his life, in order to reclaim it.

Proof of His Faith

Notice, the proof of his faith, was to give away his riches – but he’s a smart guy.  He was not being foolish, he kept ½ so that he would have funds to pay the fourfold promise.

Giving is Part of the Apostolic Faith

Stop here a minute – ever think about why so many people don’t want to hear teaching about how to be responsible with money?  There’s an allergy to pleas for help and fear to talk about it, can cause preachers to skip those whole passages.  The greasy Devil has gotten us so confused about Biblical teaching and practice, eh.

Anyway – there’s aversion in our Apostolic faith.  The acts of helping the poor are the demonstrations of faith.  Jesus, himself says so here.  We have a heavenly obligation to help the helpless.  It’s not just a good idea, not for tax credit – no, there is even a link between wealth and difficulty to enter the Kingdom  It’s hard for a camel to go through the needle – not impossible, but hard.

Example of the Saints

So many saints, once they experience an awakening by the Holy Spirit – give away all they have Saint Anthony and St. Francis and many many others upon entering a monastic life.  In more recent times – Saint Katherine Drexel founded a religious order and gave away twenty million dollars of her fortune.

The monk I met at the monastery in Saskatchewan, explained how upon entering, all possessions are given away, usually to the monastery.  This is how the monks and the mission have been sustained for 200 years or more.

Generosity needed for Baptism

One of the prerequisites for baptism is that the life of the candidate is examined.  Is he humble, forgiving, a help to the poor – not greedy.  Often each one was examined for a long time (up to 3 years in many cases) to see if they really have had a change of life.  This before they would be admitted to the church through baptism.

Christ Came to Seek and Save the Lost

There were religious people all around Him, that didn’t want Jesus, and He seeks out the one who did.  None of them were willing to suffer loss to their reputation, wealth, or power.  Again we see sacrifice is needed for true worship and we have to give to gain.

Our Saviour came to seek and save that which was lost.  This is how he ended up in this tax collectors house.  He came looking for Zacchaeus.  He still comes looking today – He’s here today looking for you, if you need Him.  The result will be – love, joy and peace by the Holy Spirit and  not ease and comfort.  These are not the same things.

How Does Faith Increase?

St Chrysostom:

And how, you say, can faith increase? It does so when we suffer something horrible for the sake of faith.1

St Paul starts right off in his 2nd letter to the Thessalonians telling them that because of their endurance in trouble their faith is growing …

1:3 We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of everyone of you for one another is increasing.
1:4 Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring.

Faith Grows in Difficulty

St Paul, ever mindful that he could be disqualified strove to persevere to the end. It is wonderful that our faith isn’t shaken when some argument comes to us, but that’s a very small thing.  There was a time we were tossed about by every wind…described in Eph 4.  However, even more importantly, when we stand in the midst of hard trials or circumstances, forcing our deep rootedness in God’s faithfulness, our ability to stand proves that our faith is growing…We are a house upon a rock…Matt 7.

Faith Grows in Obedience

As we obey, like Father Abraham, faith will grow in us.  For the love of Christ, we will then obey our Saviour, who asked us to prove our love for him by doing what He commanded us.  Here daily, and in the face of any challenge we can stand together as one man contending for the Gospel.  Our faith is stronger today than last year, and the year before that.  This really good, because we’re not done.


Let us then feed on the Body and Blood, as often as we can thereby receiving grace.  Let us look out for each other and be a help and strength and a grace for them from God.  Finally, let us practice a life as those who’ve gone before us.

St. Clement

Such as St. Clement the Fourth Bishop of Rome, following St Peter, who was third – from 88 to 99.  He is the first Apostolic Father of the Church – mentioned in Phil. 4:3.  Who was said to be martyred by being tied to an anchor chain and cast into the sea, for miraculously helping poor prisoners get water to drink.  We’ll close with a portion of his “Prayer for all needs”.

We beg you, Lord,
to help and defend us.
Deliver the oppressed,
pity the insignificant,
raise the fallen,
show yourself to the needy,
heal the sick,
bring back those of your people who have gone astray,
feed the hungry,
lift up the weak,
take off the prisoners’ chains.
May every nation come to know
that you alone are God,
that Jesus Christ is your Child,
that we are your people, the sheep that you pasture.2

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

Fr. Pat


1 Thomas C. Oden and Peter J. Gorday, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IX (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 103

2 http://www.strobertbellarmine.net/books/Hamman–Prayers.pdf


Duccio, di Buoninsegna, -1319?. Zacchaeus, detail from Entry into Jerusalem, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57182 [retrieved March 27, 2020]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Duccio_di_Buoninsegna_-_Entry_into_Jerusalem_(detail)_-_WGA06784.jpg.

Homily on St. Luke 17:5-10


St. Luke 17:5-10; Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4; Psalm 37:1-9;  II Timothy 1:1-14


Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!

First Communion

It is  a very important Sunday today.  It is the 1st holy communion for four of our new members.  They have begun their journey of faith – being Born Again yesterday through baptism.  We want to feed them right away on the bread from Heaven.  New children born, feed them right away!  They will be served first today!  Everything in our journey of faith is centred around Christ and His table. – think Rev. 13:8

This is the first Sunday for our new members.  They were sealed yesterday with the Holy Spirit.  Today we share the Lord’s body and blood as members of each other in a new way.


As we come to the Gospel lesson today … it is very appropriate for this particular Sunday.  Christ had just taught about forgiveness.  Let us take a look at it:

Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!

It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.

And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.

Sins Against God

He specifically say, sins against you. Some small offence as some translations have it.  Any sin against us is small in comparison to sin against God.  God will judge that and we are simply to admonish once and then keep away from such persons – Tit 3:10

Forgive One Another

Cyril of Alexandria (375–444; fl. 412–444). Patriarch of Alexandria (Egypt) whose writings are characterised by a strong teaching of the unity of Christ.

Let us remember that we also are liable to infirmities and being overpowered by our passions.  This being the case, we pray that those who have the duty to rebuke us, and who have the authority to punish us, may show themselves forgiving and kind to us.  It is our duty, having a common feeling for our mutual infirmities, to bear one another’s burdens, so we will fulfill the law of Christ.1

Increase Our Faith

St. Luke 17:5-10 – my goodness, that seems impossible, we don’t have that in us … so they also ask, “Increase our Faith”.

The anointing of yesterday is specifically important for the power to have faith through the Holy Spirit.  You know, faith is a gift of God. – no one can boast! “no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” . Faith is not something we can come up with – it is a gift.  “Faith, Hope and Love …”, of course the greatest is Love – hence our lesson on forgiveness.

So “all things are possible for him who believes” not in his own ability, but by God.  St Paul even gives a list in 1 Corinthians ….So – the Apostles received this increased faith at Pentecost of course!  We, with the anointing of the Holy Spirit as yesterday we received it.

How Do We Increase Our Faith?

But …

Ever thought about this? What in the world does the illustration our Saviour uses have to do with increasing faith?

The short answer …

Well, just a minute,  we have more than one assignment on earth, while we wait eagerly for our Saviour’s return.  We are called servants of the Most High God.  A generation of Kings and Priests, which are also servants of people.  There is no time during our tenure (time) before heaven that we are free to be lords.


As we’ve begun to learn and experience …obedience is the way down to the heights of heaven.  We obey our Lord; we obey each other and we obey the rulers and authorities over us.

Ambrose of Milan (c. 333–397; fl. 374–397). Bishop of Milan and teacher of St Augustine. He defended the divinity of the Holy Spirit and the perpetual virginity of Mary.

Know that you are a servant overwhelmed by very much obedience.  You must not set yourself first, because you are called a son of God. Grace must be acknowledged, but nature not overlooked.  Do not boast of yourself if you have served well, as you should have done. The sun obeys, the moon complies, and the angels serve.…Let us not require praise from ourselves nor prevent the judgment of God and anticipate the sentence of the Judge but reserve it for its own time and Judge.2


The lesson today is Humility …Well, everyday that is to be our learning

St John Chrysostom (344/354–407; fl. 386–407). Bishop of Constantinople was noted for his orthodoxy, his eloquence and his attacks on Christian laxity in high places.

“He said, “When you have done everything, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants,’ ” to warn them in his wish that they keep themselves at great distance from that destructive passion. Dearly beloved, see how the person with his mouth open for human glory and performing the works of virtue on that account has no benefit from it.  Despite practising every example of virtue, if he seems to give himself credit for it, he ends up empty-handed and bereaved of everything.3

In other words, “We lose the reward if we gain the glory now …” as Jesus himself tells us in St Matthews gospel Ch 6


So for us, here today and through our lives …There is only ever, our increasing humility – in the hope that one day we may be as Christ,  – who humbled himself to death, even the death of a cross.  Who also rose in new life to a heavenly home.  Christ came as a servant of all, St Paul writes similar thing we have read in the daily lesson on Friday.  If by some chance we may win souls by our obedience.

As we look the Table this morning for sustenance on the journey, let us be ever looking for opportunities to increase our faith – doing our part to pursue humility, serving one another, in love.  Lot’s of opportunity as we rub together here …

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,

~ Rev. Fr. Pat


1 Thomas C. Oden and Arthur A. Just Jr., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament III (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 266

2 Ibid, 267

3 Ibid, 267

Christ with the Apostles, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57158 [retrieved March 18, 2020]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Catedral_S%C3%A3o_Francisco_Xavier_(Joinville,_Brasil)_38.JPG.

Homily on St. Luke 16:1-13


St. Luke 16:1-13; Jeremiah 8:18-9:1; Psalm 79:1-9; 1 Timothy 2:1-7


Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

A Strange Parable?

I don’t know how much each you my reader have thought about this particular parable.  In my own home, growing up, I remember it coming up multiple times.  It is kind of a strange parable.  What is going on here?  Is Christ commending dishonesty?

I think that our trouble is that we focus on the dishonesty, rather than the reason for the dishonesty.  This steward had the right concept but carried it out in a wrong manner.  He was planning for the future.

Plan for the Future

As we know, multiple times throughout the Scripture, especially in the 2nd Testament, we are instructed to prepare for the second coming of Christ.  There is the parable of the 10 virgins, the Olivet discourse, St. Paul’s warning that Jesus will come back as a thief in the night.  You can probably think of ones that I haven’t mentioned.

It is important that, in our lives, we prepare ourselves for the future coming of Christ.  Are we faithfully pursuing Christ?  Do we put sin away from our lives?  Are we building practices into our lives, such as Scripture reading, praying, fasting, giving to the poor etc.

Give to the Poor

A Matter of Obedience

Let us take a few moments to focus on giving to the poor.  The Church fathers very much see this passage speaking of that.  They really focus in on verse nine.

And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

We have dishonest wealth or unrighteous mammon i.e. the money with which we are entrusted to care for the poor.  Throughout the 2nd Testament, I think we’ll find it rarely if at all that money belongs to ourselves.  It belongs to the emperor, “Render to Caesar”.  It belongs to God and here the understanding of the Fathers is that it belongs to the poor.  St. Augustin for instance says,

It is easy of course, to understand that we must give alms and a helping hand to the needy, because Christ receives it in them.1

A gift to the poor, then, is not really a gift but a return of the loan of what Christ has given us.  St. John Chrysostom asks what kind of excuse we have if we lock away our wealth from the needy.  For in the day of judgement, if we have not given to the needy, we can count on no support from them.  There is of course more to salvation than giving to the poor, but it will be counted against us if we refuse.

St. Cyril of Alexandria explains that it is part of our obedience to the law of God to give to the needy.  It is following his will.  In another light, earthly possessions are at best a temporary method of a better life now.  It is expedient that we give them away so that we might receive a better eternal inheritance.

Don’t Judge the Poor

In giving to the poor, the question or excuse often comes up.  “What if they are going to spend it on something wrong?” or “What if they are faking being poor?”  The instruction of the Scriptures and the Fathers, however, do not allow us these excuses.  What if through our judgement of others we miss having compassion on those who need it?  Would that not be far worse than giving to the one who has no need?  St. Augustin explains this point well.

We can understand that we have to give alms and that we must not pick and choose to whom we give them, because we are unable to sift through people’s hearts.  When you give alms to all different types of people, then you will reach a few who deserve them.  You are hospitable and you keep your house ready for strangers.  Let in the unworthy, in case the worthy might be excluded.  You cannot be a judge and sifter of hearts.2

Let us be bold, therefore, to give to all that ask.  Let us be known rather for our compassion than our stinginess.  There are many ways to be hospitable.   All of us can and must be willing to open our houses to those who are in need of a night’s lodging.  We have the example of Abraham who entertained angels unaware and the exhortation of St. Paul to be hospitable in like manner.

Purpose of the Law


In our reading from the Prophet of Jeremiah, the people of God had turned away from his law through disobedience and he is weeping over them.  This shows us how much of the character of Christ that he had.  He had compassion for his people and desired that they would return to God through His discipline.

The law has seemingly brought destruction to the nation of Judah.  This does not mean that it is not beautiful and good.  It is the means by which we see our transgression and sins as St. Paul explains to us in his epistle to the Romans.  It shows us our sickness and our desperate need for the great Physician.  Jeremiah is not weeping because the damage is so great that it can’t be repaired, but because it will cause Judah such pain to be restored.

There is restoration for the nation of Judah.  In the context of our Gospel reading, if we failed in our provision for the poor, there is still a remedy.  God may discipline us to the point that we become generous and hospitable.  Let us, therefore, now purpose to care for the poor and strangers.  We must make this a practice of our lives.

Persecution of Believers

In our Psalm reading, we read about the destruction of Jerusalem.  However, as St. Augustin points out to us, this was written long before the destruction of Jerusalem.  Which raises the question which time of destruction is he referring to?

Jerusalem has been physically destroyed three times while Israel and the Jews had possession of it.  First by Nebuchadnezzar, second by Antiochus Epiphanes, and third by Titus, it could also be a prophecy of the persecution and martyrs of the church.  Jerusalem is a symbol of the church as we read in Galatians.

The weight of the understanding of the church fathers is that it refers to the persecution and martyrdom of believers.  St. Augustin lived at the time of the Barbarian incursion upon the Roman empire.  He and other believers saw the dead in the streets left unburied.  This caused concern for some because how can desecrated and bones strewn by scavengers be brought together in the resurrection?

He explained that the church buries their dead properly because they have respect for them that they will be raised again, but if it happens that they are strewn about, God will bring them back together in the resurrection.  God will not allow a single hair to perish from our heads, He will restore us.

Serve the World

In our epistle reading, we see another way that we care for those around us.  It is a call for us to pray while the Gospel reading is a call to give physical provision. Notice, that the prayers are not primarily directed toward the church but towards the government.  St. John Chrysostom tells us,

The priest serves as the common father, as it were, of all the world.  It is proper therefore that he should care for all, even as God, whom he serves cares for all.3

Everyone, in the world, therefore, is under the care of a priest be they believer or unbeliever.  We as a church are called to pray for them.  First, we were called to provide for them and now we are called to pray for them.  This brings two benefits, first it removes any hatred we have toward the unbeliever, because we cannot hate anyone we pray for.

Therefore, if we have a problem with a neighbour, a government official or some random person on the street, let us pray for them.  God will remove our hatred or dislike for them as we pray for them.  We are in the midst of an election campaign and emotions can run high especially as we interact with those who don’t have the correct political viewpoint, like us.  We must pray for them and as we pray God will give us compassion for them.  Let us have the attitude that Clement of Alexandria had.  He desired more to win the person to Christ than to win the argument.

Pray for the Government

The fathers have different understandings of what exactly supplications, prayers and intercessions are, but they are agreed that thanksgivings are gratitude for blessings received from God.  The overall thrust of understanding is that prayer is to be made for the government.  This is still practised weekly in the Anglican and Orthodox churches and is in our liturgy as well.

This understanding that prayer is to be made for the government and that it is effective was used in Origen’s defence to Celsus.  (Celsus was a second century philosopher and opponent of Christianity.)  Celsus was maintaining that if the Christians really supported the emperor, they should join the army when he called upon them to do so.  Origen’s response was that the Christian is far more effective against the enemies of the empire by putting on the armour of God and praying for the emperor, than if he were to become a soldier and kill as many of the enemy that he could.

Corrupt Governments too?

As a Christian we are called to pray for the good of the country that we reside in.  The fathers also address the objection that you probably have heard many times.  I know that I have.  “What if the government is corrupt” or even worse “What if the government is persecuting us?”

St. Augustin tells us that the thought of overlooking the instruction of this passage to pray for our authorities should not even be imagined.  Our obedience to God is not dependent upon the conduct of others.  Even when governments persecute, they are also still doing good for their land.

They are upholding law and order and punishing evildoers.  They are transgressing in one area, but they are still God’s tool.  We can be confident that God will deal with their transgression.  He says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.”  It is not our responsibility.  Whether he brings them to repentance, or it doesn’t get sorted out to the final judgement, He will look after it.  Our duty is to pray.  To quote a man that I spent a lot of time studying growing up, “Duty is ours, consequences are God’s.”

Praying for the government that is kind of distant.  We for the most part don’t have interaction with our government.   For us it is usually a list of names that we don’t have interaction with.

Pray for  the Unsaved

The fathers bring this a little more tangible for us.  They instruct us to pray for the unsaved which is the will of God for the passage goes on to say that God wills, or it is God’s will that all will be saved.  The fathers, however, strongly warn and that we ought to fear praying against anyone.  This is against the nature of God and his will.  He has compassion, he desires all to be saved.  To pray against anyone, is to pray against the will of God.  Something, that I am sorry to say, I practised at one time.  But you don’t need to make the same mistake.

God desires that everyone to be saved has been misconstrued from early church history up until the present that everyone will be saved.  However, God has left us with the choice, and will not override our free choice.  St. Ambrose has summed it up well,

He is certainly good to all, because he is the Saviour of all, especially the faithful.  And so the Lord Jesus came that he might save what was lost; he came, indeed, to take away the sin of the world to heal our wounds.  But not all desire the remedy, and may avoid it…. He heals those who are willing and does not compel the unwilling.4

What Are we to do Now?

We, like God are to care for the world.  He sends sun and rain on both unjust and just.  We are to have compassion and love towards all around us, be they believer or unbeliever.

We must make the care for the poor a top priority, as we see the poor in front of us at the grocery store or the street corner asking for help.  Let us offer some form of assistance.  St. Augustin tells us it is better to help those who don’t deserve than risk not helping those who do.  Let us be people who care for the poor.

We are to pray, daily if we can, for our government.  As we go into this election campaign, let us endeavour to listen to other points of view with patience, looking for an opportunity to win others to Christ.  We must pray that all unbelievers will come to the knowledge of Christ.  We can begin with the names of the ones that we know to get into the practice of praying for all.  Let us pray for our government even if policies and laws are passed to our personal detriment.  Let us be people of prayer.

We must have compassion, like Jeremiah, on those who are under the discipline of God, knowing that he will restore them.  If we are under such discipline, let us be quick to repent and be restored to fellowship with God.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,


~ Fr. Matthew


Mironov, Andreĭ (Andreĭ Nikolaevich), 1975-. Parable of the Unjust Steward, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57060 [retrieved September 24, 2019]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%D0%9F%D1%80%D0%B8%D1%82%D1%87%D0%B0_%D0%BE_%D0%BD%D0%B5%D0%B2%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%BC_%D1%83%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B2%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B5%D0%BB%D0%B5._%D0%9A%D0%B0%D1%80%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B0_XXI_%D0%B2%D0%B5%D0%BA%D0%B0..jpg

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, 1606-1669. Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55695 [retrieved September 24, 2019]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rembrandt_Harmensz._van_Rijn_-_Jeremia_treurend_over_de_verwoesting_van_Jeruzalem_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg.


1 Thomas C. Oden and Arthur A. Just Jr., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament III (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 255

2 Thomas C. Oden and Arthur A. Just Jr., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament III (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 255

3 Thomas C. Oden and Peter J. Gorday, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IX (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 152

4 Thomas C. Oden and Peter J. Gorday, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IX (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 155-156

Homily on St. Luke 14:25-33


St. Luke 14:25-33; Jeremiah 18:1-11; Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; Philemon 1-21


Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

Forsaking All

In our Lectionary this week, we have the theme of Touching Godliness Through Submission.  In our Gospel portion we have the sub-theme of Forsaking All to Follow Christ.  St. Augustin tells us that this is a difficult passage, especially for younger believers.  It doesn’t seem to make sense.  We are to love our enemies, but we are to hate those who are closer to us.

Hate Relationships

The Fathers have left us some instruction on how these things are reconciled.  First of all, it is not the people themselves that we are to hate.  This would go against the teaching of Christ and the New Testament, rather we are to hate the relationships.

Basically, do we have greater affection for our fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, children, brothers and sisters, than for Christ?  If it comes down to making a choice between offending Christ or offending our family, which do we choose?  Christ calls us to forsake those relationships, to pursue him.

“More than Me”

Second, for better understanding, the Fathers direct us to the parallel passage in St. Matthew 10.

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.

They focus in on the words “more than me”.  We can still have love for our family, but it must be less than our love for Christ.  We remember our Lord’s words to St. Peter,

“Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?”

“These”, who are these?  The other Apostles, if anyone had a call on our affections would it not be these who walked, talked and were commissioned by our Saviour.  However, we must love our Lord more than even them.

Fight Against Affections

Third, this isn’t just about us.  Yes, we are to forsake these and all attachments that keep us from loving Christ, but we are to look to encouraging our family to do the same.  Our family is precious, and we want them to know and follow Christ to the same extent that we do.  Therefore, in our Christian warfare we fight against these affections in both ourselves and our relatives.

Count the Cost

Fourth, if we don’t forsake our inferior loves, and pursue Christ with all of our heart, we become like the man building a tower and unable to complete it or this king that is unable to win.  We must count the cost and see it through to the end.

Carry Our Cross

We now move on to carrying our cross.  Jesus has just given us a practical example of carrying our cross – forsaking our family.  There are many other ways that we can take up our cross.  In other parts of the world there is actual physical suffering and even martyrdom for those who follow Christ.

For us, together with the believers who lived post-Constantine physical suffering is less of an occurrence.  There are exceptions, but as a general rule, we don’t have physical suffering and martyrdom in Canada for following Christ.

St. Symeon the New Theologian addresses this issue.  First, he points out that the cross follows the sacrifices of life.  This tells us that we must face trials and temptations throughout this life before laying our lives down.  He then references that martyrdom and tortures were common in the time before his day.  He concludes with,

Now, when we through the grace of Christ live in a time of profound and perfect peace, we learn for sure that cross and death consist in nothing else than the complete putting to death of self-will.  He who pursues his own will, however slightly will never be able to observe the law of Christ the Saviour.1

This is what we are to be about, putting to death in our bodies the passions, choosing self-denial as we fast, choosing to care for others when we’d rather only look after ourselves.  As we say no to ourselves, we are free to observe the law of Christ.  As we discussed a few weeks ago, we need to destroy the practices of the old man in our life to make room to grow and nurture the practices of Christ.

Will Our Zeal Endure?

We now come to the tower and the army which we touched on briefly before.  St. Cyril of Alexandria has left us some instruction on these points.  What is the cost and materials of the tower?  It is our zeal.  We must make sure as we begin our journey to lead a glorious and blameless life that we prepare ourselves with zeal.  As one has said,

My son, if you draw near to serve the Lord,
Prepare your soul for temptation.
Set your heart right and be steadfast,
And do not strive anxiously in distress.2

We also remember the words of Christ,

“And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

It is very important that we count the cost in following and make the needed preparations.  It may mean that we need to spend more time in prayer and seeking God to renew our zeal.  Perhaps we will need to find someone to be accountable to as we struggle against a certain passion.  But in all things, let us make the necessary preparations that we can endure until the end.

Our Enemies

We have enemies in our Christian life.  St. Paul explains who these are,

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

We have other enemies as well as St. Cyril tells us,

They are the fleshly mind, the law that reigns in our members, passions of many kinds, the lust of pleasure, the lust of the flesh, the lust of wealth, and others.3

As this king needed to take count of his enemies to know how to face them, so we also need to learn the strength of our enemy to know how to face them.  How do we overcome this great host against us?  We will conquer believing in God we shall do courageously and trusting that he will bring to nothing those who oppress us.

Today to be his disciple we must break the attachments of this life whether they be physical possessions or relationships.  We must purpose to fight against the passions and other enemies that beset us and know that in the strength of the Lord we shall conquer.

What if We Have Failed?

As we turn to the reading from the Prophet Jeremiah, our theme is to submit to the Master Potter.  The question is if we have failed, if we have not taken inventory of the cost or the enemies against us and have loved things more than our Saviour, what are we to do now?

The whole human race had turned out bad, therefore, God through His passion made the human race perfect again.  It is God the Father as the Potter remaking the human race through the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection.

God would not leave the human race helpless in their corruption but restored them.  How much more we who have put our trust in God, when our zeal wanes, when our enemies overwhelm us, will he leave us helpless?  No, he will come to our aid and in Him we shall overcome if we but submit to him.

God Knows Us Intimately

Our sub-theme for the Psalm reading is that God knows us intimately.  St. Augustin sees this Psalm as very much speaking of the incarnation.  He sees that Christ was made of our nature by God, so that we might become partakers of His divine nature.  The sitting and rising up, he sees as His passion and resurrection.  For us the sitting is humbling ourselves in repentance and rising up in forgiveness to the hope of eternal life.

We also know that God supports and fashions us.  He does this of everyone in the human race in their physical birth, but He also does it in every spiritual birth as well.  In his visitation, He has supported us, that he might protect us from all evil.  He has formed us for his pleasure and to serve him, and He will sustain us.

A Prisoner of Christ

Finally, in our pursuit to touch godliness through submission, we are to submit to our leaders.  We have here the example of Philemon and Onesimus.  St. Paul makes a request of St. Philemon that St. Onesimus should be returned to him.

Church tradition records that he sent St. Onesimus back to St. Paul.  He served St. Paul until his death and was made a Bishop and in his old age was martyred.

St. Paul in his letter very quickly identifies himself as a prisoner.  He does not do that to garner the sympathy of St. Philemon, but rather to establish his authority.  We, at least I, think of imprisonment as a bad thing, but this is not how the early church perceived it.  It was badge of honour and authority.  It meant that you had been counted worthy to suffer.  Those who had suffered for Christ were given an automatic authority.

St. Paul’s Request

St. John Chrysostom points out how cautious and delicately St. Paul makes his request.  His compassion will not allow him to force his request upon St. Philemon.  St. Paul is imitating Christ in this way.  God doesn’t force or tyrannise us but rules over us with compassion.  He encourages us in the right way to go, but He desires that we will give ourselves to the right way in willingness with the freewill that he has given us.  We also in our dealings with those under our authority must always do it with encouragement and not force.

Why is St. Onesimus precious to St. Paul?  He has begotten him in the faith in the midst of being imprisoned.  He was part of the forming of Onesimus in the faith.  God formed us physically and spiritually. It is something to think of how much more we are precious to God than Onesimus was to Paul.  God will look after us just as Paul is looking out for St. Onesimus.

Finally, St. Paul makes his request.  He desires that, Onesimus who has been begotten in his imprisonment, would come to assist him. In this way good can come out of evil.  (Onesimus had sinned in running away.)  In the same way as Joseph’s brothers had intended evil in selling him and good had resulted, so good can come here as well.  God delights in turning evil to good.


Today then, let us fight against the affections of relationships both in ourselves and in our families.  We must look to preparations in following Christ are we maintaining a relationship with Him that will nurture zeal that will last to the end?  Have we reckoned the force of enemies against us – evil spirits, passions, self-will etc.  Are we looking to God for strength to overcome?  Are we denying ourselves that we might overcome and follow the law of Christ?  We must also be quick to listen and follow the direction of our authorities as St. Philemon did for St. Paul.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit


~ Fr. Matthew


Philemon and Apphia, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55642 [retrieved September 13, 2019]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Philemon_and_Apphia.jpg.

1 https://catenabible.com/bible/lk/14/25

2 Scripture taken from the St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint™. Copyright © 2008 by St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

3 Thomas C. Oden and Arthur A. Just Jr., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament III (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 242

Homily on St. Luke 14:1, 7-14


St. Luke 14:1, 7-14; Jeremiah 2:4-13; Psalm 112; Hebrews 13:1-8


Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,

Rise of False Teaching

Jeremiah 2:4-13

That’s a pretty heavy charge ….What has God done that we should be turned from Him?  What wrong has He done, What sin?  The people God gave the charge to shepherd would not do it – They didn’t even ask, “Where is the Lord?”  We see it all around us still today – how many so-called churches are dividing over God’s commandments?

For a few hundred years, leaders of the modern church have been turning people from God’s ways.  They remove the things that would help us stand in temptation & trial — not teaching repentance to turn back to God’s ways.  Teachers teach their own ways – not those of our Apostolic faith, but to itching ears.  They turn far from the paths laid down from the beginning.  Even the grace of Baptism and the Eucharist has been subverted by many.  They don’t even know their own way – certainly not the ways of God.  The contemporary church is watching itself implode – and it seems, that no one knows what to do.

There is Hope

It is so surprising here – that God points out that not even those who worship false gods turn their back on their idols.  What kind of hope can there be for those who know God and turn from Him?  As unfortunate as that is – worse is the huge numbers who have been given false hope in a false gospel, and they don’t even know it.

Many however, are hearing the call to come back.  The resurgence of interest in the Ancient Ways are across the board, in all groups.  I’ve heard of many returning – from all denominations and traditions … so many are again giving Jeremiah’s call today.  Many want to know “what must I do …”

Benefits of Fearing God

Psalm 112

Our psalm today tells of the benefits of fearing God and delighting to do His will.  Eight verses to note the benefits.  To those who do God’s  will – not those who know it, but those who do it.  Some of you will remember an illustration from Francis Chan. – If you write a note to your child to clean their.  However, you return to find nothing done, but it is being translated, memorized, quoted and signs of it made.  But you just wanted it done…

They Watched Jesus

St. Luke 14:1, 7-14

14:1 And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him.

What would He do? – (while they secretly were looking for ways to kill him, it say’s elsewhere).  A Pharisee, of higher rank than usual, invited Jesus to a banquet. Although he knew their bad intentions, he went with him and ate in their company.  It says, “They watched him.” Why did they watch him? They watched to see if he would disregard the honour of the law and so do something forbidden on the sabbath day.

Mercy and Humility

While … They slaughtered the animals in the temple and performed the acts of service that were required of them. No one rebuked them, and the law itself was silent. It did not forbid people ministering on the sabbath.  You know, nowhere does the law forbid showing mercy on the Sabbath.  No, this lesson is simply about humility – as our Saviour demonstrated it.

Cyril of Alexandria (375–444; fl. 412–444). Patriarch of Alexandria (in Egypt) whose extensive explanations, characterized specifically by a strong advocacy of the unity of Christ, led to the condemnation of Nestorius in 431.

“If any one among you wants to be set above others, let him win it by the decree of heaven and be crowned by those honours that God bestows. Let him surpass the many by having the testimony of glorious virtues. The rule of virtue is a lowly mind that does not love boasting. It is humility. The blessed Paul also counted this worthy of all esteem. He writes to those who eagerly desire saintly pursuits, “Love humility.”1

St Benedict (you know, the guy’s rule about which the Benedict Option is written): The Scripture asserts that “everyone that exalts himself will be humbled, and he that humbles himself will be exalted.” …

“If we want to attain to true humility and come quickly to the top of that heavenly ascent to which we can only mount by lowliness in this present life, we must ascend by good works. We must erect the mystical ladder of Jacob, where angels ascending and descending appeared to him. Ascent and descent mean that we go downward when we exalt ourselves and rise when we are humbled. The ladder represents our life in this world, which our Lord erects to heaven when our heart is humbled. The sides of the ladder represent our soul and body, sides between which God has placed several rungs of humility and discipline, whereby we are to ascend if we would answer his call. Rule of St. Benedict 7.2

This, written for monks, has a moderation for most of us, as we have today in the Epistle reading

Be Free From Excess

Hebrews 13:1-8

He doesn’t say – don’t marry, but keep marriage holy.  Be content with what you have – he doesn’t say “have nothing”  All the fathers agree that being free from excess, things not necessary, keep us from pride and falling.  Not to covet, but be glad when what you have is useful for another.  All of these are action, which are the result of a purposeful training of our bodies and souls.

  • Submitting to one another in Love … Eph 5:20
  • Preferring another above your self … 1 Cor 4:5

God Knows Our Hearts


“Paul is not talking here about those sins that we all recognize and confess as such.  Rather he is speaking about preferring one person before another and making invidious comparisons of moral behaviours.  Only God, who knows all our secret doings, can judge that sort of thing with accuracy.  Only he knows what is more and what is less worthy of punishment.3

We need someone to point the way for us … not create a new way for yourself. Right!  But to point out the “boundary stones”.  Where do we walk on this journey … to holiness?  Without which we will not see God (Heb 12:14)

Ok, I know that for most of us, that has been a nice pious saying, but – it’s not a suggestion. St Paul writes to the Hebrews – the law keepers (Jews), and the Holy Spirit, by that same pen to us.  This really important lesson is the subject of much of the Father’s writings.  It is an awesome and frightful instruction – especially for those in service to God!  Holiness is required … do we know what that means?

The Way is Humility

The Ladder of Divine Ascent. St John Climacus (John of the Ladder) The Year of our Lord, AD 600 ($3 on Kindle).  “Undoubtedly one of the most influential Christian texts ever written”  Specifically for monks, there are valuable lessons here for all of us.

The path to true humility is not being last in line, or to be seated at the table …The 25th step … is humility. It is one of the hardest things ever to attain to in this life.  You don’t just poof, become humble.  That’s not even at the beginning.  Our Lord expected an audience that had been trained and was well versed.  Kind of like us …

GREAT – but how!!! Must I Do something? Wouldn’t that be “works righteousness”? – don’t I become holy as Christ is Holy be sitting and praying and waiting on the Holy Spirit to change me …? You know – Virtue will just appear, like fruit on a tree…Cause – well, that ain’t working – right?

The order that takes a lifetime – goes something like this:

  • The Break with the World:
  • Renunciation, Detachment, Exile
  • The Fundamental Virtues
  • Obedience, Repentance, Remembrance of Death, Mourning, Meekness (loss of anger)
  • The spiritual Passions
  • Remembrance of Wrongs (Malice), Slander, Talkativeness and Silence, Falsehood, Despondency
  • The Physical Passions
  • Gluttony, Lust and Chastity, Avarice, Poverty
  • The Spiritual Passions
  • Insensitivity, Sleep, Prayer and Church, Alertness, Fear, Vainglory, Pride

Only then do we get to the higher virtues:

Meekness/Simplicity, Humility & Discernment

I borrow a few themes here….So many are the references to “going up”

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of our God” (Isa. 2:3),

“Who sets us on the high places, that we may be triumphant on His road” (Hab. 3:19).

“Let us hurry until we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of God, at mature manhood, at the measure of the stature of Christ’s fullness” (Eph. 4:13).

The point is we all want to reach higher, we are urged higher by the Holy Spirit.  So much “TALK” has passed for theosis that it could cause me to wish I were deaf.  Talk, preach, teach, read, hear ….No – we are to follow those who’ve gone before. Not only listen to them.

I dared asked our staff in Canada to watch my life – follow my example.  I have at least five people keeping me accountable.  For me, I need that – it’s so easy to surrender to the passions of this life.  But I can’t – you can’t – we are to be holy … and left alone – that won’t happen.There’s no way to become holy all by yourself.  No way to follow the path that so many fall from, especially as we grow older in our journey.  No, we must do something … I want to see God – so do you.

We Have to take some Action steps.

Make a place for God in your home.

I remember when we first became aware of the mission in the world and how GFA encouraged us to put up a world map in a prominent location in our home.  We were becoming aware of the need to keep our mission forefront in our family life.  How much more important to keep God forefront in our family life by placing a cross or an altar or a few icons in a location in our home.  Just like when neighbours would come or family or friends, they would see we are actively pursuing our calling to mission. Those who enter your home and find an altar or cross or icon, will see your active commitment to God to be a worshipper of God and carry the traditions from the home into the church.

Make an effort to learn about the most frightening aspects of our faith.

The practices, the traditions, the application to our lives.

I was ordained almost 10 years ago, here, within this community.  While that was not the beginning of our journey, it certainly underscored our need to comprehend and put into practice those things which our church was beginning to understand.  And I had a long list of things I did not understand! One of the very first was marking the sign of the cross on my body.

To me this was one of the most frightening things that could have come about. I had no understanding, I had great fear, until I began to learn and read and apply what I had learned in my life. The understanding, of course, that marking the sign of the cross began way even before Passover. It is in the Bible on so many pages and in so many situations. I wonder even if there is more mention of that in the pages of scripture that we revere, than even baptism. I learned that the apostles taught us to mark with the sign of the cross before even the destruction of the temple.

Yes, it was a lot of work. But it was critically important to me that I understand the practises of the church. And, take advantage of the active work of God that I had, for so many decades, kept from my life.  It helped me to have to do the hard work of reading the original texts as translated into English. The work of deciding to change my own personal practices. It meant changing what I had been taught about devotion time and practical application if any from my previous 30 years of experience with Christianity.

Make an Effort to Read all of our Faith and Tradition Series

All are available for download from this website.  Today, we have this wealth of teaching from Metropolitan and so many others. Are you reading them?

You can listen to podcasts, you can download materials, books to read to you, you can find materials online that have never been available in English before. We are at a time like the time of Jeremiah, like the time of the Apostles, there is so much understanding available to us that we can choose to return to God.

The humility part – well, I think that is very simply deciding to let go of, changing my strongly held, and usually misinformed, individual ideas, practices and fears, so that I can learn of God and allow his life through the Holy Spirit, through the sacraments, through daily life with him to change me, to change us, into the body of Christ.

Actively Becoming one with the Church on Earth

Lectionary, even our own GFA devotional email series. There are as many as 20k people following along with us, are you?

Irenaeus (c. 135–c. 202). Bishop of Lyons who published the most famous and influential refutation of Gnostic thought.  This was way before Nicene Creed or the Bible was ever written.

The Poor Invited to the Table. Where are the hundredfold rewards in this age for the dinners offered to the poor? These things will be during the times of the kingdom, on the seventh day that is sanctified when God rested from all his works that he made. This is the true sabbath of the just, in which they will have no earthly work to do, but will have a table prepared before them by God, who will feed them with all kinds of delicacies.4

The Grace of our Saviour is what we come here to receive today.  He has promised to meet our every need  This hope and promise we have is for all the world.  We actually have something to offer the hurting, needy and hopeless all around us.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,


~ Rev. Fr. Pat


1 Thomas C. Oden and Arthur A. Just Jr., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament III (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 236

2 Thomas C. Oden and Arthur A. Just Jr., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament III (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 236-237

3 Thomas C. Oden and Gerald Bray, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament VII (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 38

4 Thomas C. Oden and Arthur A. Just Jr., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament III (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 237


Lauder, Robert Scott, 1803-1869. Christ Teaches Humility, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55623 [retrieved September 9, 2019]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Christ_Teacheth_Humility.jpg.

Homily on St. Luke 13:10-17


St. Luke 13:10-17; Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; Hebrews 12:18-29


Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,

A Woman Healed

In our Gospel reading we have a miracle of healing.  This miracle has both a literal understanding and figurative understanding.  First the literal understanding, this woman had been crippled by an evil spirit and was in need of healing.  Jesus did not hesitate but healed her immediately.  However, this was done on the Sabbath and brought a reproach from the leader of the synagogue.

The Sabbath

As we know from even a minimal perusal of the 1st or Old Testament that there is a great importance placed on it.  We have here a discrepancy between our Lord and Saviour’s understanding of the Sabbath and that of the ruler of the synagogue.  The one saw it as a day that no work was to be done and the other as a day on which good was to be done.

St. Ambrose explains that it comes down to understanding what it is a day of rest from.  We are not to carte blanche rest from any work.  No! We are to rest from evil deeds and not good works.

A New Understanding

I think the first time this concept really hit me was when I was reading a book by George MacDonald entitled Donal Grant1 or The Shepherd’s castle.  In there the one character is repairing shoes for another so that he can go to church.  He explains that it is right to obey the Lord regardless of the day.

I had been raised with a very strict observance of Sunday and this did not make sense to me.  I talked to the friend who had encouraged me to read MacDonald’s books who had also been raised this way and he didn’t understand it either.

This was the beginning of a long journey for myself to realise what Jesus was teaching here and that in practise I agreed with the ruler of the synagogue.  There are just certain things that you don’t do on Sunday.  However, I think our or my issue is that we tend to categorise things by deeds rather than by motives.  It is much easier to have a list of things that we do or don’t do than to discern if something is loving or compassionate.

Compassion on Others

Returning back to the miracle, Jesus healed her because she was more precious than an ox or a donkey.  We need to be very sure that we do not place possessions on a higher pedestal than the people around us.  Our call is to have compassion on others not on our possessions.

We can also note that she was bound by a spirit. From this, we can learn that it is always a possibility to be bound by Satan if we become lax in our efforts towards piety.  Satan had no power over the human race before Adam gave him ground.  Sickness and disease entered the human race because we chose to say no to God.  This is not saying that every sickness is because we have sinned, but if we choose to say no to God we are opening our lives to the attacks of the evil one and one of the weapons that he has is sickness.

The Fig Tree

Secondly, there is a figurative understanding of the passage.  Back in March the lectionary took us through the first nine verses of this passage.  Most of us probably don’t remember that, but the fig tree in the previous verses is needful in understanding how the church interprets this passage.

The fig tree is the synagogue or the Jewish nation that was in danger of judgement unless they repented.  A judgement that happened in A.D. 70.  They then see this woman, the ox, and the donkey as speaking of the Church.

The Church

The whole human race, just like this woman, was bent over by the corruption of sin.  She had been bound and crippled for eighteen years.  St. Ambrose divides this into 10 and 8.  The whole law can be summarised in the 10 commandments.  In the number 8 we see the fullness of the resurrection.  (It is a bit much to go into in this blog, but the early church would say that Christ rose on the eighth day rather than the first day2).

In the eighteen years we see that law and grace has been fulfilled.  The time of the resurrection of restoring the human race to stand upright is now here.  The human race is healed in the work of Christ, but what of the ox and donkey?  This is a picture of the Jews and Gentiles being joined together in one body in the church.  The ox is clean – Israel and the donkey is unclean – the Gentiles.  Our mission as the Church of Christ is to bring this healing to the nations.

God Empowers the Called

As we turn to look at our 1st Testament reading, I would like to remind us that our theme is The Privilege and Responsibility of the Called.  In the Gospel portion we see our mission is to do good and to bring healing to the nations.  In Jeremiah we learn that God empowers the called.

The prophet Jeremiah was set apart for ministry before his birth.  Some of us here may have been as well, but all of us have been set apart to his calling in our second birth of baptism.  If we have been baptised, then we have been called.

Responses to the Call

Throughout history, both Biblical and in the age of the church, people have responded in different ways to this call.  Aaron and Isaiah welcomed the call, while Moses and Jeremiah seemingly shrank back.  Both of these responses are good and honourable and we are not to blame those who hold either as St. Gregory of Nazianzus explains,

I also learn that those who drew back were not blamed for their timidity, nor were those who came forward accused of being too eager.  The former stood in awe of the greatness of the ministry; the latter trustfully obeyed him who called them.3

There will be parts of our mission or calling that are impossible in our strength.  For these we need the grace of God.  This is why some shrink back from their calling not because they are disobedient to God’s calling, but because they realise how dependant they are and need to be upon God.

The Lord Places His Words in Us


In verse 9, the Lord states that he has placed his words in the mouth of Jeremiah to be spoken to the nations and kingdoms.  He does this in every age.  As we see here, he did it in the time of the prophets and now he places those words in his church i.e. in us to declare his message to the world.

Undoing Evil and Doing Good

In the final verse we see how hard it is to undo the evil that we can do good.  The human race needs to not only be unbent but it also needs to learn to good.  To remove the evil, the passions from our lives we need to uproot, tear down, destroy and demolish.  Then we will be free to build and plant the virtues and good works in our life.

Living a godly upright life takes effort.  Scripture describes it as a battle.   Our salvation has been accomplished by Christ.  We cannot add anything to that finished work, but we will struggle all through this life to live in a way that is pleasing to our Saviour.


Moving on to our psalm reading, we discover that we receive deliverance through the justice of God.  As Cassiodorus tells us,

…for it is the role of divine justice to spare the suppliant, since it has pleased his fairness to pardon the person known to condemn his own actions.  He says, “Deliver me form looming dangers, rescue me from the power of the devil”; this is so that he may not be condemned with the devil for eternity.  When he says “incline” he proclaims that he is lowly and prostrate.  Unless God’s grace inclines to deliver us, we cannot attain by our own merits the mercy which we long.  No person’s merit touches the Lord unless in his mercy, he bends low to reach sinners.4

Zion — The Heavenly Jerusalem

Finally, in our epistle reading, we learn about the communion of the called.  This is Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the Church.  We have all the saints from time past, like the prophet Jeremiah, who were included through the old covenant to all the present believers in the church today.

God’s purpose from the beginning was to bring all people into his fold.  He began this with the first great shaking i.e. the old covenant.  There was a trumpet and voice that shook the ground, a blazing fire, gloomy darkness, storm etc.  There were all these visible physical signs, but like the rest of the first testament they are but shadows of what God would reveal in the new covenant.

A Better Covenant

In that covenant at Mount Sinai, the people heard God speak but asked that Moses be the one to speak God’s words to them that they would not hear his voice again.  Now in the incarnation, God has come to us in the flesh and speaks to us directly.  The day of a mediator has gone.  The reality is here.

Formerly, it was just the people of Israel, now in the heavenly city there are innumerable angels, saints of old and the saints of the new covenant.  This city like any earthly city is a community that is administered by law.  However, it is a heavenly law and as such it is not our place to know the ins and outs of how it is administered.  This is part of what no eye has seen, or heart conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.  We must be content to know that there is a heavenly community governed by a heavenly law prepared for us.

Zion is also the Godly Soul

The Fathers tell us Zion speaks of both the heavenly city and also the soul of every holy and godly person who have set their eyes on the things above.  This focus lifts them above this life as they focus on uprooting and destroying the passions in their life and learning the virtues.  Eusebius of Caesarea tells us Zion means “watchtower”.  In this way we are lifted in the watchtower so that we can see the vision of the heavenly Jerusalem.

The Second Shaking

We have come from the first shaking or transformation, this was from idols to law, to the second shaking from law to gospel.  The reality that was promised in the shadow, we have now.  We have a new way of life based on compassion and mercy.

A Voluntary Choice

However, despite this great change there is still an element common to both.  To be part of either covenant was a voluntary choice.  God does not force himself upon anyone but leaves us with the option to choose.  God desires to persuade us and not to force us.  St. Gregory of Nazianzus tells us that a choice made from force won’t last while one made of our own volition will.  He concludes by saying,

It belongs to a despotic power to use force; it is a mark of God’s reasonableness that the issue should be ours.5

Called to Mercy

As God is merciful in giving us a choice, he also calls us to mercy.  St. John Chrysostom has said,

Nothing is so characteristic of a Christian as mercy.6

He further tells us that mercy is always standing before God pleading for those who have offended and sinned.

It breaks the chains, disperses the darkness, quenches the fire, kills the worm, drives away the gnashing of teeth.  The gates of heaven open to it with great security.7

As our Lord and God is merciful so we are called on by Christ to be merciful as well.

Be merciful, as your Father is merciful


We have seen then Christ’s mercy to the woman bound by a spirit, and we understand that it is the nature of God to be merciful.  That being said what are we to do?

  1. Let us join in Christ’s mission of mercy, and declare to our neighbours and the nations that Christ has come to heal them and unbind them from the power of the evil one.
  2. We must not rest from doing good but rather cease from doing evil.
  3. Making war against the passions, we must uproot, tear down, destroy, and demolish the passions in our lives.  We have an ingrained way of life from birth that needs to be destroyed so that we are free to practice the virtues and live a godly life.
  4. Let us ask the Lord for mercy and He will deliver us.
  5. We must live a life of mercy, just as Jesus did for this woman.  Let us show mercy as unexpected things come into our lives, but we must also purpose here and now to be merciful to everyone we meet.  Instead of expending our imagination on frivolous things, let us use it to see how we can be more merciful.  You know just spend some time running through different scenarios in your mind of how to do it.  I used to do it for winning computer games so I am sure we can use that same God given imagination to accomplish good.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,


~ Fr. Matthew

1 https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2433

2 https://preachersinstitute.com/2013/06/05/the-eighth-day/

3 Thomas C. Oden and Dean O. Wenthe, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Old Testament XII (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 6

4 Thomas C. Oden and Quentin F. Wesselschmidt, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Old Testament VIII (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 90

5 Thomas C. Oden, Erik M. Heen and Philip D. W. Krey, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament X (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 227

6 Thomas C. Oden, Erik M. Heen and Philip D. W. Krey, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament X (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 226

7 Thomas C. Oden, Erik M. Heen and Philip D. W. Krey, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament X (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 225


Tissot, James, 1836-1902. Woman with an Infirmity of Eighteen Years, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57031 [retrieved August 26, 2019]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HealWomanSabbath.jpg.

God Touches Jeremiah’s Mouth, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55596 [retrieved August 26, 2019]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WinchesterBibleJeremiah(cover).GIF.

Homily on St. Luke 12:32-40

Worship without Right Living is in Vain

St. Luke 12:32-40; Isaiah 1:1, 10-20; Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16


Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

A Little Flock

Our Lord addresses us as a little flock.  Why this terminology?  It is not that we were once part of a great flock and have been diminished to something that is small, but rather that we have begun from small beginnings.  It could also be in reference to the fact that in this world the saints seem little because they choose to live a poor lifestyle or frugally.

Give Alms

The kingdom is promised, therefore, we are to give alms.  We must remember that almsgiving or giving to the poor is something that is required of us as believers.  Christ is not making a suggestion that it’d be a good idea, but He is commanding us.  St. Gregory of Nazianzus reminds us that in St. Matthew 25 that the goats are placed on the left not because they were guilty of robbery but because they failed to minister Christ among the poor.

We receive the kingdom of heaven and treasure there in exchange for our giving to the poor here.  Giving is required even if it is against our natural will.  Through lending our wealth to God, we  become truly rich.  We may not have many things in this life, but God will bless us in the resurrection.

Wealth has the ability to either draw our souls and hearts up to heaven or to bury them here on earth.  St. Peter Chrysologus explains,

O man, send your treasure on, send it ahead into heaven, or else your God-given soul will be buried in the earth.  Gold comes from the depth of the earth – the soul, from the highest heaven.  Clearly it is better to carry the gold to where the soul resides than to bury the soul in the mine of the gold.  That is why God orders those who will serve in his army below to fight as men stripped of concern for riches and unencumbered by anything.  To these he has granted the privilege of reigning in heaven.1

We receive the kingdom through giving and St. John Chrysostom also tells us that it is impossible to even see the kingdom without alms.  Our lifestyle of generosity is crucial to our spiritual development.

Gird Our Loins and Light Our Lamps

We are first instructed to sell and give because God is pleased to give us the kingdom.  Second, we are instructed to gird our loins and light our lamps and prepare for the return of Christ.  So, what does it mean to gird our loins and light our lamps?

First, to gird our loins means to have our minds in readiness to work hard at anything that is worthy of praise.  It is to put a guard on or to restrain our lustful desires.  It is to live a life of self-control.

Second, to light our lamps means to have an alert mind.  We shine and glow with good works.  It is concerned with doing justice.  With the two working together, we live a life of self-control and justice.  The Didache encourages us to meet together frequently so that we can search together what is good for our souls.  It encourages us to continue in pursuit of faith to the very end, since a good start and a lifetime of faith is worthless unless we remain faithful until the end.

Watch for the Return of Christ

In this pursuit until the end, we are to watch for the return of Christ.  There are three watches of the night.  St. Cyril of Alexandria compares these three watches to the three periods of our lives – childhood, youth, and old age.

In the first watch, or childhood, not as much is called into account by God because of the innocence of our minds and the weakness of our understanding.  Our minds have not been shaped by maturity yet.  However, in the second two watches, we must look to the conduct of our lives.   Are we faithfully following God and living a life of self-control?  Are we doing justice and loving mercy?  Is preparing for his return, the mindset we have?

Whoever is found watching and ready will be counted blessed whether they are young or old because they will be counted worthy of receiving Christ’s promises.  Indeed, it is the mark of a Christian to watch daily and hourly for the return of Christ, walking in a manner worthy of our calling.

Worship and Right Living

For the passage from the prophet Isaiah, our lectionary has the theme – Worship without Right Living is in Vain.  This builds on the instruction that we just had from our Gospel portion that we must live rightly.

We see Israel was very faithful in offering sacrifices, keeping sabbaths and festivals, but they were missing the right lifestyle that was to accompany it.  This problem continued on into the time of Christ when Jesus said,

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Justice and Mercy Needed

The things prescribed in the law are important, but if they are not coupled with a right life of justice and mercy, they are worthless.  God would no longer accept their sacrifices because they had forgotten to serve Him with their whole heart.  In the new covenant sacrifice and a right lifestyle are related even closer, as St. Augustin says,

…the Christian’s sacrifice is alms, or kindness to the poor.  This is what makes God lenient toward sins.2

St. John Chrysostom tells us it doesn’t really matter what we do or how good it seems, if it is not done with an intention of Godliness it is worthless.  As St. Paul also states,

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

So whether we pray, fast, or give to the poor which is our spiritual sacrifice, we must begin with a pure intention to please God.  This is how we will be pleasing to God.  Otherwise we will run the risk of being like those at the end of St. Matthew seven.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

God’s Mercy for the Repentant

If we have fallen and have been overcome by sin and we are in a place where our prayer will not be heard, what must we do?   We must cleanse ourselves through repenting, apologising to those we have offended so that we might be reconciled, weeping over our sin, giving alms etc.

You see we don’t need to despair when we have been overcome and stumble and fall.  God is merciful.  The problem is if we remain on the ground and in our sin.  St. John Chrysostom expounds,

Let us not therefore give up in despair; for to fall is not as grievous as to lie where we have fallen; nor to be wounded as dreadful as after wounds to refuse healing….These things I say not to make you more negligent but to prevent your despairing.3

In the movie Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell is running a race and gets knocked down.  The one observer says, “Get up lad, get up.”  Eric gets up and not only finishes the race, but also wins.  We are going to be tempted.  Falling is inevitable, but we must purpose to repent quickly and finish the course and be faithful until the end.

We can also look at the life of King David.  He sinned with Bathsheba, didn’t manage his house real well, commissioned a census of the people etc.  However, after each sin, he repented, and God restored him.  No matter what sin we fall into, there is mercy with God if we will repent.


As we see, Isaiah has first a call to repentance, then he promises a cleansing.  The fathers understand this cleansing to be speaking of baptism.  After repentance we are baptised into the household of God.  We go into baptism with our old nature and come out with our new nature as a new man.  We are cleansed from every wrinkle and spot and our formers sins are washed away and pass into nothingness.

The Incarnation

In our Psalm reading we again focus on the importance of right sacrifices in the new covenant.  In verse two we see that our God shines forth from Zion.  This tells us both that Christ was manifested or revealed in the flesh and that it happened in Zion.

After his manifestation or his incarnation, the animal sacrifices quickly ended.  The sacrifices that are now required are a godly and holy lifestyle.  We are to be completely on fire with God’s love as a burnt offering before Him continually.  To be a sacrifice of praise is for our words, deeds, doctrines, habits, and disciplines to be the cause of God being praised and blessed.

He was revealed in Zion.  There he was crucified and rose again and from there the teachings of the church began to be spread.  In the end, Christ will return with the apostles, martyrs, and teachers who will have proclaimed the gospel of His kingdom throughout their lives.  These will be the heavens that declare the glory of God.   When God begins to judge, they will announce his righteousness and mercy.

Our Faith and Hope for  the Future

As we have mentioned the saints will come with Christ, who have died in the hope of coming kingdom we will now take a look at a few in specific as well as at faith.  The saints died in faith.  What does this mean?

Faith is seeing the unseen.  It is the aid to believe what we are not yet able to see.  It is what enables us to lay hold of what we hope for.  We are hoping for the resurrection.  We are hoping for the return of Christ with His saints.  It is something that we cannot see, but by faith it is a reality for us.

We have hope and confidence that our faith and hope will be fulfilled because we have the testimony of saints in the past who lived by faith.  As St. Ephrem the Syrian tells us,

“By faith Abraham” obeyed and left His Father and family “to go” not to his private estate but to “an inheritance” prepared for him.  Constantly supporting himself “by faith” through his wonderings, he “sojourned” and lived in the land of promise as in a foreign land, that is, as in a foreign inheritance, “living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise”.  Through the promised inheritance, which they did not receive, it became evident that “they looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”4

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all died in faith without seeing the fulfillment of the promise.  We also may die in faith without seeing the return of Christ, but we know it is coming by faith.  Because we believe and hope that Christ is returning, we live in a certain way as we have been discussing.  This is why we gird up our loins and light our lamps.

The Life we are to Live

We are to begin the lifestyle of the heavenly country now, here in this present life.  We are to live a virtuous life a life of generosity and holiness.  Let us purpose to live a life of:

  • First, giving to the poor.
  • Second, to be ready to do anything that is praiseworthy to the Lord and live a life of self-control.
  • Third, we must have a mind alert to do justice and shine with good works.
  • Fourth, if we have fallen in sin, let us purpose to arise again, repent and refuse to give up in our pursuit of Christ.
  • Fifth, let us spread the news of the Kingdom of Christ so that we can be part of the heavens declaring His glory when He returns.
  • Sixth, we must live a life of faith in the expectation of Christ’s return.  Choosing to learn and practice the virtues so that we will be prepared to live in that heavenly country.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit


~ Fr. Matthew


1 Thomas C. Oden and Arthur A. Just Jr., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament III (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 211-212

2 Thomas C. Oden and Steven A. McKinion, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Old Testament X (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 13

3 Ibid. 18

4 Thomas C. Oden, Erik M. Heen and Philip D. W. Krey, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament X (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 184-185

Rubens, Peter Paul, 1577-1640. Sacrifice of the Old Covenant, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55531 [retrieved August 13, 2019]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sacrifice_of_the_Old_Covenant_Rubens.jpg.

Homily on St. Luke 10:25-37


Love of the Good Samaritan

St. Luke 10:25-37; Amos 7:7-17; Psalm 82; Colossians 1:1-14


Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,

Love God and Mankind

For this Proper our lectionary gives us the theme of Following the Way of the Lord.  We see in our Saviour’s response to this scholar what that way is.  It is to love God and all of mankind.  All the teaching of Scripture is based on these two tenets.

Father and Son Both Command to Love

His answer also exposes those who seem to be experts of the law but disregard the spirit of the law.  We know and can be confident that this is the intent of the law because both the Father and the Son proclaim first at the beginning in the law, and now in the incarnation.  Anyone that does not accept that love is the basis of the law is ignorant of it from its very first chapter.  We must therefore follow the way of the Lord by loving God and humanity.

The Parable

We will take a look at the overarching picture of this parable and then specifically how it applies to us and how we can live it.

The Picture

The Fall

Jericho is a picture of the world.  Our Father Adam was cast out from Paradise, from the Heavenly Jerusalem and he now descends to Jericho.  However, along the way he is confronted and beaten by robbers.  These robbers are the hostile powers, the angels of darkness that have wrapped themselves in light.  Adam in his rebellion had removed the protection of the Lord from his life.  As we spoke a few weeks ago if we open ourselves to the attack of the enemy we will.  It is in choosing disobedience that we open ourselves to the evil one and more temptation.

The Law and the Prophets

Three travellers come across this unfortunate man – the human race.  A priest, a Levite and a Samaritan.  The priest is the law and the Levite is the prophets both stood at a distance and could do nothing to relieve the sufferings of the man.  They could only pass by and take note of his situation.


Love of the Good Samaritan

But the third man a Samaritan, He is a picture of Christ.  He came down from Jerusalem as Christ descended from heaven.  Christ had the power to be neighbour to the whole human race, and he joined our humanity to His nature and treated and healed our wounds in the filth of the road, in the filth of sin.  The wounds are our disobedience.  The donkey is the Lord’s body – his incarnation that bears us to the Inn i.e. to the Church.

Stepping back a minute, how does he do this healing?  St. Ambrose explains,

That Physician has many remedies with which he is accustomed to cure.  His speech is remedy.  One of his sayings binds up wounds, another treats with oil, another pours in oil.  He binds wounds with a stricter rule.  He treats with forgiveness of sins.  He stings with the rebuke of judgement as if with wine.1

Christ heals and bandages through his words and his forgiveness.  It is only through the Gospel and forgiveness that humanity can be restored, and our Saviour has dared to come to earth, taken our nature to bring us this restoration.  His work of healing enables the establishment of the Church.

What Must We Do?

Our salvation has been made possible by Christ and we ought to praise Him and thank Him for His grace and mercy.  However, this passage as well as Christ’s life has left us an example to follow.

Love God

First the premise of the story – the commands to love.  In the first command we are given three ways to love – heart, being and strength.  These three correlate to and are the key to overcoming the threefold temptation of the world i.e. possessions, glory, and pleasure.  These three are the same basic temptations that our Lord was confronted with.

Love Our Neighbours

We shall love our neighbour as ourselves.  This brings us to the great and resounding question of the passage, “Who is my neighbour?”  The Fathers tell us that everyone is our neighbour and indeed all people are our brothers, sisters, and relatives.  St. Jerome tells us that we should not harm anyone and that it is not allowed to do evil to strangers.  If we believe we can do any man evil, he refutes this by concluding,

God forbid such a belief!  We are neighbours, all people to all people, for we have one Father.2

Children of God

Verse five in our Psalm reading states,

They [the gods] know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.

Who are the gods?  Verse six tells us that they are the children of God.  The fathers explain that this is referring to all believers, we who have become children of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.  As we read also in the first chapter of St. John’s Gospel,

But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.

Children by Grace

We realise, however, that we are not gods by nature but by the gift of grace that God has bestowed.  This is the very reason that the Word was made human, so that we in receiving Him and His adoption should be made God’s children.  St. Cyril of Jerusalem warns us not to take this honour lightly.

Being but a wretched person, you are a recipient of a divine title.  For listen to Paul, “God is faithful,” or to another text in Scripture, “God is faithful and just.”  It was as foreseeing that a divine title would come to be applied to human beings that the psalmist, speaking in the person of God said, “I have said you are gods and all children of the most High.”  But see that when the title is faithful, the purpose is not faithless.  You have entered the contest; run your course steadfastly.  No other chance like this will come your way.3

Walk as Children

We are gods, the children of God by grace, therefore we are to imitate Christ as the Samaritan and show mercy to all people.  Returning to Psalm 82:5, if we refuse to follow Christ in this matter and instead choose to hate our brother, to hate our neighbour, we will fall away from that which is properly called knowledge.  We will walk in darkness, i.e. we will walk in a way that we show that we are guilty, and we will become ignorant of divine matters.  We will hold our title as children of God as nothing, and we will count lightly the honour that God has bestowed upon us.

St. Ignatius of Antioch warns us,

No one making a profession of faith ought to sin, nor one possessed of love to hate his brother.4

Healed to Heal Others

Love of the Good Samaritan

We have now been brought to the inn.  Our wounds have been tended to.  Our bodies have been clothed.  We are being cured in the Church.  What is our responsibility now?  We take the role of the innkeeper, tending those who our Lord continues to bring in.  As Metropolitan has reminded us, Jesus goes out to rescue the lost sheep.  He has compassion on all and doesn’t just say well they learned their lesson.

Use the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

We use the money, the gifts that He has given us by His Holy Spirit, to tend to their wounds and injuries.  If what He left us is lacking for their care, He will provide more.  St. Gregory the Great explains what our care is to look like.

Or in the wine he applies the sharpness of constraint, in the oil softness of mercy.  By wine let the corrupt parts be washed, by oil let the healing parts be assuaged; we must then mix gentleness with severity, and we must combine the two, that those who are put under us be neither exasperated by our excessive harshness, nor relaxed too much by too much kindness.5

Gentleness and severity must be coupled together.  We must have a balance where we are neither overly harsh nor just let anything go.  Seeing the example of Christ’s mercy and compassion, we understand what it means to be neighbour to another and we are left with the scholar to heed or disregard his command to, “Go and do likewise.”  What will we choose?

Our Hope

In our Epistle reading, St. Paul speaks of the good things to come.  He knows that while we are in the midst of this life we are in the midst of temptation and he is giving us hope.  Just as in the story of the Good Samaritan, the man was assaulted and beaten by the forces of evil and temptation, but there is hope because Christ rescued him just as he rescues us and promises us the good things that are to come.

We already can see heaven waiting for us as we endure through all the assaults of the evil one in this life.  Furthermore, the gospel that has come to us is spreading and growing throughout the whole world and is bearing fruit.  The Fathers tell us that the growth speaks of the number of believers increasing.  As we have heard recently that over the last three years the work has grown by a third.  The fruit speaks of those who hear the gospel and whose lives change to the praise of the glory of our Lord.

The Will of God

The Gospel has not yet reached everyone, but we can see by faith that it will encompass the whole world.  We are privileged to be a small part of this as we labour here in the office and at our homes.

St. Paul teaches us that this is the will of God that by walking in good works, words and desires, we should be filled with God’s will who puts His spirit in our hearts.  This is the difference between us and those who passed by.  They had knowledge, yes, but they differed in that they had no works coupled with their knowledge.  Let us not fall into the same trap.  Faith must always be coupled with conduct.


Let us purpose to love the Lord our God with our whole being, strength and mind and in this way defeat the three main temptations of the Evil One.  We ought to love our neighbour through showing compassion, admonishing when needed, and yet being merciful enough not to drive him away.  We must also make sure that we make no distinction based on ethnicity or culture for we are all created by God.

Finally, Let us not despise the honour of being made children of God, but purpose to imitate our Saviour in all things.  We must be diligent to look after those He has rescued and brought into the Church.  If we seem to be lacking in our ability, let us ask Him to supply that which is lacking according to His grace.  We are to rejoice that he has defeated the robbers and transferred from the power darkness to His kingdom and let us live a life full of faith coupled with good works.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit


~ Fr. Matthew


1 Thomas C. Oden and Arthur A. Just Jr., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament III (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 180

2 Ibid., 179

3 Thomas C. Oden and Quentin F. Wesselschmidt, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Old Testament VIII (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 146

4 https://catenabible.com/bible/lk/10/27


Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, 1606-1669. Good Samaritan, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56981 [retrieved August 13, 2019]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rembrandt_Harmensz._van_Rijn_033.jpg.

Hodler, Ferdinand, 1853-1918. Good Samaritan, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54698 [retrieved August 13, 2019]. Original source: https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-Q4TCYE8XBMQ/TSVOPwCkCOI/AAAAAAAFkhU/zLz-qNCq1og/s512/Hodler%25252C%252520Good%252520Samaritan.jpg.

Andersen, Emil. Good Samaritan, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56979 [retrieved August 13, 2019]. Original source: https://www.thorvaldsensmuseum.dk/en/collections/work/B195.