I HOPE AND PRAY THAT ALL OF YOU HAD A BLESSED, JOYOUS, AND HEALTHY NEW YEAR!
IF YOU HAVE NOT AS OF YET SENT IN YOUR 2017 STEWARDSHIP PLEASE DO THAT TODAY!
I HAVE BEEN ASKED BY HIS EMINENCE ARCHBISHOP DEMETRIOS TO REACH OUT TO OUR PARISHIONERS IN HOPES OF RAISING AN OFFERING FOR THE REBUILDING OF ST. NICHOLAS. PLEASE BE AS GENEROUS AS YOU CAN IN YOUR OFFERING FOR THIS VERY IMPORTANT REBUILDING EFFORT OF OUR GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE AND OUR FAITH.
WE HAVE SENT OUT THE 2017 CALENDARS, AND HOPE THAT YOU CAN BE AS GENEROUS AS ALWAYS DURING THIS CHRISTMAS AN DNEW YEAR'S SEASON IN ORDER TO HELP OUR EFFORTS TO KEEP ST. JOHN'S A THRIVING COMMUNITY. I THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART.
Hollywood has produced many war movies through the decades dealing with this aspect of our Fallen Nature and World. Recently some of these movies have given us insight into the intricacies and preparation of what it takes to become a twenty first century warrior. War for a Christian is very complicated, but as the word denotes war is exactly that, war. War can be fought whether on a battlefield against some oppressing power, or against the demonic powers trying to entangle us within its many tentacles. Whatever the situation maybe one thing is needed in order to conquer what is confronting humanity.
How many of us have ever heard of Seal Team Six before movies about their exploits were brought to the silver screen? GI Jane, Lone Survivor, American Sniper, and the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden revealed to us some of the inner workings of these elite fighting forces. During the Vietnam War my company was attached for sometime with to the 5th Special Forces Group (Green Beret) in Cung Son. I was privileged to see first hand the professionalism, cooperation, and work ethic that this twelve-man team exhibited. Do not get me wrong, I am not fantasizing or romanticizing the glory of war, but what I am focusing upon is the attitude and preparedness of these elite fighting men and women in dealing with situations that confront them.
In Boot Camp the recruit is brought into a kind of submission to the dictates of his/her drill sergeant. “A drill sergeant is a symbol of excellence in initial entry training, an expert in all warrior tasks and battle drills, lives the Army values, exemplifies the warrior ethos, and most importantly is the epitome of the Army as a profession.” Their objective is to reprogram your thinking, not in a negative way, but in a positive way that will reinforce your abilities and enhance the overall cohesion of the squad, platoon, and company. The drill sergeant’s objective is to move you out of your comfort zone and into a place where you feel vulnerable, while continuing to push the limits of your abilities.
Moreover, many service men and women once they conquer their own shortcomings while gaining confidence finish basic training and decide to go further with their training. So they volunteer to participate in advanced training and to become a member of an elite-fighting group of the military. This training is so rigorous that not many succeed in graduating from the program. However, those who graduate discover more about themselves and learn how to function at such a high degree of efficiency even under abnormal circumstances. The threshold of their abilities is pushed beyond what they think they are capabilities of. Pain and suffering becomes something that is tolerated and even block out in order to finish the desired mission. This is what separates the regular military men and women from the personnel of these elite military groups.
Today the world teaches that pain and suffering are something to be avoided at all costs. As a result, we learn to function in such a very myopic and limited way that any small irritant will create a major problem for them that they will not be able to overcome. We begin to think that everything is against us and we become paralyzed and unable to function at all. You can see it in the children of today. When someone or something interferes with them they have no internal mechanism to cope with it.
Furthermore, suffering is what propels us to go beyond what we believe our limits are. Suffering builds character and stamina to keep fighting. That is why St. Paul writes to Timothy, “But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra what persecutions I endured.” Christians are called to go beyond short term suffering, into an area of continual longsuffering. This is what all are called to endure with love and peace.
Unlike the military men and women I spoke about at the beginning of this message, Christians must suffer the wrath of the demonic powers that are persistently attacking us on all fronts. What kind of advance military training do Christians need to be able to deal with the onslaught of this Fallen World? Our drill sergeant is Christ Himself who will enable us to grow strong and fight against the attacking outside forces, but also fight those things that cripple us from within.
Finally, in Exodus we read that, “And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in goodness and truth . . .” He knows our weaknesses and deals with us accordingly as one who has Himself ran through the gauntlet of this Fallen World. Our strength is found in His humility and longsuffering for our salvation, but we must learn to overcome those things that are attacking us from without and from within. Do not be afraid; because He is in the trenches along with us spurring us on to conquer our own weaknesses and shortcomings, so that on the day of our falling asleep we will reap the rewards of a completed mission in His glory. AMEN!