Monthly Message from Fr. Ghassan - July/August 2023
We and the saints.
“For whoever confesses me before people, I will also confess before my Father in heaven, and whoever denies me before people, I will deny him.” I am also before my Father who is in heaven.” These words the Lord said to all His disciples, without exception, in all times and places. This means that He also said it to us, who stand in His temples today, and who count ourselves among His baptismal disciples. Like the lightning that pierces the sky without losing any of its brightness, the words of the Master have reached us in the Bible with full power and clarity.
The Lord's disciples are not those who call themselves that, but rather those who actually acknowledge Him as their Master and eternal King, following His teachings and fulfilling His commandments. Their confession must be in thought, heart, word, deed, and with all their lives. There is no place for confusion, shyness, or vacillation in this confession. This confession requires self-denial and a sense of victory, as before all people and angels.
We must be similar in our confession to the disciples who were not ashamed or afraid to confess the Godman, enduring persecution, declaring their confession before the authorities of religion and the world, before the rulers and sultans of the earth. They were in the world and not of the world. Confession of the Lord accompanied by self-denial is characteristic ofthe saints.
A weak and vague confession is not acceptable, is not needed, and is not upright before the eyes of the Lord. It is not enough for a person to secretly confess God in himself, rather the confession is with lips and words, and more importantly with actions and life. It is not enough to acknowledge the Lord's divinity and authority, but rather to acknowledge His teachings and commandments in living them, even if it is contrary to what is accepted in human society. This society is sinful and inclined to fornication because it has replaced the love of God with the love of sin. The customs prevailing in this world, which have come to amount to a law above the law, are against a life pleasing to God, even enmity. This vanity-dominated world hates and derides the life pleasing to God, so the weak and unsteady heart in faith tends towards pleasing people, turning away from the Lord's teaching and excluding himself from the ranks of the elect.
It is easier for a person to reject the requirements of society than to reject the requirements of the family, which are usually closer to the natural law and not necessarily close to God's commandments. The ideal situation is for the family's requirements to be God's requirements. That is why the Lord said, He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. The lover of Christ often finds himself confused by conflicting requirements and finds it difficult to discern God's will in them. That is why the Lord wants to say with this verse that whoever chooses someone else’s will has forsaken Me.
The difficulties that hinder acknowledging the Lord and come from without are incomparable with the difficulty that comes from within. The sin that lives in the mind, heart, and body stands as a direct opposite to the confession of Christ and the fulfillment of His commandments. The mixture that exists in us between our natural goodness and the harm that comes from sin is the greatest obstacle to our full confession of the Lord. It may be easy to turn away from society and relatives, but where do we go from ourselves and our nature. That is why the Lord commands us to crucify nature by carrying the cross and walking behind it by abandoning the carnal thought that desires and is influenced by passions. Hence, all the verses spoken by the prophets and apostles, and interpreted by some in the Church as self-torture or the like, are cries from the depths of the soul that is aware of its weakness and seeks to transcend its nature in order to reach what is higher.
In order for the Church to explain to us the fate of God’s chosen ones, after showing us in the evangelical reading the fate that depends on our following the Lord, she hears us the question on the lips of the Apostle Peter: “Behold, we have left everything and followed you. What shall we have? And if the Lord's promise is clear that He will compensate for every loss with what is much more precious than it. The actual persecution is life on earth because we were expelled to it and condemned to a journey of torment to live on earth before we return to heaven if we work for it. The present life is torment because the prince of this world rules it and sin controls it and does not stop persecuting the lovers of Christ. Sin attacks the lovers of Christ from without and within and thus torments them.
But the Lord does not leave his lovers but leaves his grace to them. His grace transforms their sufferings, trials, and repentance into holiness, and holiness gives them consolation and opens the doors of heavenly glory and riches for them. Everything that a person enjoys remains here, but the glory that comes from Christ begins here and continues to the end. The grace we gain here is the only wealth that crosses the grave with us. This is how the saints we celebrate every days in the church crossed, and this is what is decreed for us, and we are called to it. Fr. Ghassan Haddad.
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