The Cross Is Life

By:Bro.Mark

We will never understand the meaning of suffering completely as long as we remain on this temporal plane, until we come face to face with the One who allowed it into our lives. I don’t believe God created suffering. Christ exposed Himself to it through His free-will and His “yes”. It says in Scripture, Jesus overcame suffering and death. For Him, suffering was the enemy of the body, the mind and the spirit. Christ tried to explain where it came from. He taught us that it came from the disobedience of the human family at the beginning when man first walked on this Earth. He also taught that suffering would be with us until the end of time. Why? With Christ defeating it, it still remains on this physical plane. Those in charge of the propaganda machine instill in our mind the many ways they believe suffering can be avoided, but we all know through experience their instructions are faulty. Advertisers try to tell us we can avoid suffering if we only watch more movies especially fantasy movies. This is how Mr. Disney made his billions. There is a man from New York City who firmly believes and teaches we can avoid suffering if only we had more luxuries and more money. He has built a tower in his name, but his sadness is revealed in his eyes and the crowds follow this man as if he were a god. The travel industry is one of the wealthiest industries in the world. They tell us, suffering can be avoided if only we take more vacations. Most of us cannot afford long vacations to the Caribbean Islands. If we try, we fall short, then swim in a mountain of debt. So what becomes the answer? ‘All creation groans in silent expectation.”, states St. Paul. We all await the second coming of Christ Jesus, to be rescued from our own personal brokenness. In the meantime, where is it we can experience strength and endurance to carry on? I believe firmly and without reservation that it is through the Cross itself, our willingness to carry the Cross each day will indeed transform our world and bring the healing needed for future generations to live in peace. Christ Jesus tells us, “if we don’t accept carrying the Cross we cannot be His disciples”. This is a tremendous blow to our psyche and it shatters the false illusion that bliss can be ours if we only have the finances to purchase it. But, we know that life doesn’t work like that. The Cross follows us wherever we are. We can be on an expensive vacation and we suddenly get sick. We buy a beautiful car and somebody keys the paint job. We run 5 miles every day and the doctor tells us they found a tumor. The Cross has to be accepted if we desire salvation. Many of Christ Jesus’ followers turned away from His path after they heard these difficult words, “to be My disciple you have to pick up your Cross.” He teaches us it is only through suffering (carrying the Cross) we find life. Accepting the obstacles we find in our every day life should not make us more fearful. When we accept it we gain strength. This strength is grace. God takes the deepest enemy of all creation and transforms it into life giving grace and energy. He fills our soul with peace and an inner joy that can only come from the One who created us. So, the bottom line is, do not be afraid to pick up your Cross each day. Accept your Cross as a reality in your life. Be not afraid for Christ Jesus will be with us. Grace will be in us. Are you ready to accept this truth for your life, in your life? Are you open to a peace and inner joy that will only come by walking through the door of the Cross? Are you ready to be disciple of the Son of God?

Growing Into Αγαπάς, An Unconditional Love

By:  Bro. Mark



img_2310One of the most inspiring stories that can be found in the New Testament is when Jesus appears to the 12 apostles on the beach that one morning after His resurrection. Jesus had made a fire on the beach and was cooking His brothers some breakfast. The apostles had been out fishing. When they arrived back on the shore they noticed it was Christ Jesus himself and were so happy to see Him again. They sat down around the fire and ate with Him. How kind of a gesture this was. How inviting and comforting. How “homey”. Not one of the apostles questioned if it was truly Jesus that was in front of them. They knew in their hearts it was the Son of God. The Risen Christ was in their midst once again, proving to them that He has conquered death once and for all. There is no need to concern ourselves anymore about life after death, Christ Jesus will be there for us with arms wide open when we depart from this world.
But what I really want to share with you is how the English translation misses a very important aspect to this New Testament story. When Jesus asked Peter, who was consecrated by Christ to be the first leader of His Church, if he loved Him, Jesus asks him three different times. In the original Greek, the language of the first New Testament, Jesus uses two different words for “love”. Jesus first asks Peter if he loves Him αγαπας. Agape The definition of this word means an unconditional love with no limitations. Pure love, the true love everyone seeks in life. A love we strive for but hardly ever achieve for it is a love so pure it is reserved for the one who created us. Peter answers Jesus, I can only love you with a φιλώ filial love This is a brotherly love. Peter is not yet ready to give Christ Jesus unconditional love. A love so on fire that he would die for Jesus if it came down to it. Eventually, Peter would be martyred, giving to Christ the ultimate sacrifice, but at this time Peter was not ready to give up his life for Christ. Peter had a mission, to lead and guide His Church. Why did Jesus ask Peter three separate times if he loved Him? Peter was asked three times to undo the three separate times he denied Him the night Christ was arrested on the Mount of Olives. Peter needed to be forgiven for denying Him.
The second time Jesus asked Peter, Peter do you love me αγαπας. Agape. Unconditionally. Peter answers Jesus I love you with a “brotherly love”. φιλώ filial once again. The third time Jesus asks Peter, “Peter, do you love me αγαπας agape unconditionally”? Peter once again answers Jesus with the word φιλώ filial. With a “brotherly” love. Peter was not yet ready to love Jesus with an unconditional love. Peter was only ready to give to Jesus a “brotherly” love. The beauty of this story that unfolds in the original text is how Christ accepted where Peter was in his life. Christ accepted Peters journey and had no intention to pressure him to love Him more at that time. Have you ever experienced this in your life? Especially, when you were young and deeply in love with another? You wanted so badly for the other to be as madly in love with you as you were with them. And when they said to you, “I just want to be friends.” That was a moment of pure heartbreak for you. You felt you had no more meaning in life anymore. You experienced in your heart a depth of love that curled your toes. How would you go on when the other did not reciprocate. The opportunity of finding pure, unconditional love had now vanished, instantly, with those six simple words, “I just want to be friends”. The gift of unconditional love would have to wait another day. You would have to begin now to learn to accept the naked truth that pure love would not yet be yours to cherish. So you went on with your life with that door of your heart open hoping one day you would be able to experience it with another. Christ Jesus knew that He would have to wait as well. But Christ Jesus is “agape” itself.  He understands how to wait for Peter’s heart to grow into His. If Christ Jesus would do this for Peter, He would wait patiently for our heart as well to grow into αγαπας agape, unconditional love. This depth of love can be reached.  Christ does patiently wait for us to grow more deeply in love with Him, but for now Christ accepts us at φιλώ filial brotherly love. Christ does not force us to love Him. He invites us into communion with Him. This is God’s greatest gift to us. The love of the most blessed Trinity in the second Person of this Blessed Trinity, Christ Jesus himself. Will we accept this invitation to enter αγαπας, agape, unconditional love, from the very One who created us? This is our ultimate journey. Will you say yes.?


Lead Us Not… But Deliver Us… AMEN

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DELIVER US, OH LORD

The Lord’s Prayer – How vast and deep a spring of pure water, to ponder the words given us by our Lord Jesus in the prayer He Himself taught us to pray!  Any one of its 7 petitions provide hours of reflection for discerning souls.  I once spent months pondering just the opening acclamation; “Our Father…Who ART!”.

The other day, I became involved in a dispute with a business manager.  It did not start out as a dispute at all, but as what I thought was going to be a simple request made face-to-face with the person.  A barrel filled with flammable oil had been placed beneath my apartment living room window that could easily have been placed under the Restaurant’s own rear window.  We share a courtyard and there was plenty of room. But 3 personal requests later, the barrel still had not been moved.

Being a person with disabilities and chronic illness, and very aware that, in most scenarios, I have very little power to actually enact much of anything in my life without help, I could feel the Temptation rising up within me to try somehow to take the matter, at least This One, into my Own hands and Force him to comply, calling upon various Health or Fire Prevention Agencies that could Summons him, etc.  How very small-minded it was of me.  But yet, I suppose it was God’s way of showing me that at some level, I was still resentful of my powerless-ness because of my chronic conditions, and had not fully accepted them or surrendered them all to Him. Full Surrender can take years, as chronic pain must travel through many layers of resistance before finding its place of rest in Christ.

“Lead Us Not Into Temptation” was the portion of the Lord’s Prayer that saved me from falling further down, as I was instantly made aware of the Temptation to use this situation for my Own satisfaction, rather than to resolve it in as peaceful a manner as possible, according to God’s Will and not my own.  And, that’s when I came to actually “realize” the High Wisdom revealed in the next portion of the Prayer.

“BUT Deliver Us From Evil”.  This was The Living Word; the Power of God which delivered Grace to my soul, thereby enabling a far more honest Surrender. I was not to act on my Temptation.  How could I, after that?!  But, I was rather to Trust that God would indeed bring about the resolution most in accord with His Will.  Whether the Evil was what had been hiding within my own heart without my having been aware of it, or what was in the manager’s heart, the Trust in God was the Key, regardless.                               I did nothing further.

Within a single 24 hour day, the barrel was moved.  The Main Office of my Apartment Building apparently had phoned the manager and told him to move the barrel to his own side.  He moved it instantly.

Whenever we Pray the Lord’s Prayer, may we all be mindful to take the time to Meditate deeply upon the very High Wisdom it contains.  And to thank God for the Revelation of His Son to us, through the power of His Spirit, which lives and reigns within us and all things…AMEN.

Hope In The Eyes of Addiction

By. b.Mark
There will be times in life in which you must concentrate on keeping yourself alive because you have had a predisposition to annihilate yourself, to destroy your self by way of addiction. This truth is difficult to accept and even more difficult to talk about with others. Friends might characterize you as being nuts and family members might become overly protective. So you bury this character flaw deeper into your psyche, becoming more and more afraid to shine light on it. You fear being rejected by family and friends. You even can’t seem to help yourself, as it becomes a dark force within taunting you mercilessly day and night. Evil is well aware of your broken character. Evil seeks to assist in your self destruction, eventually stealing your soul if it wins the battle. However, there is hope. The hope comes from no other but Heaven above. You may have questioned this truth throughout your life time, thinking it to be just a fairy tale or perhaps believe that those who attempt to live a religious or spiritual life are some how weak. When life is good and all is going well for you, thinking about God and giving your life to God often takes a back seat. You barely think of God being intimately involved in your life because everything is good so your relationship with Him becomes less relevant. But why? Why do we have this tendency to forget about God when it was God in the first place who gifted us with peace and harmony? It’s usually when we are experiencing an inner battle we call upon God to defend us and help us find our inner peace once again. God, in His infinite love for us, opens the doors once again and walks with us. What we must do is concentrate on what we truly love in life. Be it God, be it family, be it friends or perhaps a career. Focus on something that brings you hope, that fills your soul with positive energy. If you are an alcoholic or a drug user and find yourself addicted, with dark forces haunting and taunting you endlessly, then you must grab a firm hold of that power of the addiction, shine light upon it through prayer and with the grace from God freely given to you begin to break the chains that hold you. You must accept the fact that you are no longer in control of this power of addiction. It seeks your destruction. You must accept the fact that you need a higher power and you can no longer control it on your own. If you cannot come to this truth, then my friend, it will more than likely consume you. It’s that simple. There are forces in this universe that are greater than ourselves. But we, you, are smarter than these forces because you have the knowledge, the understanding, the grace to know that your higher power is the Person of Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Father. The demons, they have only satan, who was an archangel when in Heaven. When man was introduced to God’s plan, he chose to serve God no longer. It was his own foolish pride and ego that brought him down. He chose to hate humanity. He turned his back on serving God and began to wage a war on God’s creation. Therefore, our fight is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities and powers around us. [Ep.6:12]. He did play an important role as an archangel, however, he remains only a creation of God. He is not a God even though some believe he is. A creation can never be the Creator of that creation. There is only one God. The Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You must give your heart to this power if you desire to live. If you have trouble bowing to a higher power, open your heart and allow the Holy Trinity to help you understand this truth and help you to accept it. Admit to yourself you do not have the strength to conquer this weakness alone. Remember, you are a creation of the Creator. You are not the Creator. You tried to conquer this addiction on your own many times and it might have worked for a little while, but those damn demons kept giving you trouble by tempting you and eventually they broke you down again and you gave in to their temptations and your own bodies tolerance to the drug. Now that you have witnessed your life slowly unraveling, you are beginning to understand you need help from a higher Being. This is okay. You are beginning to understand the universe and how life really works. Your relationship with God is unfolding into a deeper intimacy. Do not reject this invitation. Do not let yourself become dismayed. We are all in the same boat as human beings. We are all broken in some way. You are not alone. If you truly wish to survive and save your life, you must accept the fact you have an addiction. Begin to concentrate on what brings you hope and what brings you the most happiness and peace. Focus on a time in your life when you had inner peace and happiness before the addiction took over. Don’t be afraid anymore that you have this trouble in your life, humble yourself. You do have this power. It has been given to you. It’s in your heart and soul. It’s there within you like a seed ready to bloom. If you trust those who love you, then they will stand by your side and be there with you as you push through this battle with darkness. It demands a conversion of your very being and it will be a difficult process. You are growing into a new way of living while dying to old habits. There is no denying that this will be for you one, if not thee, toughest battles you have ever had to face in your life. Always remind yourself you cannot walk this road alone anymore. It does not work alone. It takes the assistance of an another. Surround yourself with positive people, those who you know you can place your trust in and can help you without judging you. Open your heart to the Son of Man, Christ Jesus, and accept the power of the Holy Spirit to get you through this darkness. This is your answer. This is your hope. There is your life now in the hands of God. Hold tightly to this hope and never let go. All the darkness you go through will be left behind if you cling tight and don’t let go. The darkness will not engulf you. You will not lose hope for it is a gift freely given to you. Faith in God will bring hope of a new resurrection and the love that surrounds you will pull you through this darkness. You must admit to yourself, in your fragile ego, that you can no longer win this battle alone. You are not equipped with the power to do so. You need this external force to guide you through. You are trying to break through to the other side of life. The side you come out alive and free. Addiction is no joke. Addiction is a life changer. It is a ball and chain and it steals your soul. It demands a higher power and that power is the Cross of Christ Jesus. Please do not be afraid to embrace the Cross. Through this Cross you will find life. My prayer for you is that you will embrace it so that you may enter into a full and healthy life once again.


 

The Cross of Disability


By Bro. Mark 

Carrying our Cross effectively is an art form. What is accepted in tragedy becomes in potential created goodness. Through the suffering you and I endure each day, wounds that are both physical and spiritual, we are healed and transformed into a fullness and an embodiment of our Creator, the Holy Spirit, Hagia Sophia, the very person of Christ Jesus residing within the soul. ‘I in Him and He in me.’ ‘ if you desire to be My follower says Christ Jesus, we must be willing to pick up our Cross and begin to follow Me’. Why the Cross? Why, through suffering? Haven’t we been taught in society to avoid at all cost the suffering that is naturally ours each day? The Cross is the antithesis of pleasure, the enemy of pleasure. Yet, what is born through the carrying of our Cross is inner harmony and a joy beyond our human understanding. How can this be? How is it that the acceptance of struggle, pain, and brokenness there blooms an internal happiness which radiates outward, reaching out into the very center of the universe. A healing energy is created through the carrying of the Cross. In this creative process a spiritual transformation ensues. A piece of art is created by the Person of the Holy Spirit, the Hagia Sophia. The acceptance, through free will, of the Cross along with the ability to carry this Cross, one becomes an artist. In collaboration with this Hagia Sophia the artist within each of us has the potential to transform our broken world into a world that is full of possibilities. The virtues of Faith Hope and Charity become in a sense, our paint brushes, they become the mode of creating the energy that transforms the brokenness we see all around us into a wonderful master piece of art. What is born from this “fiat”, this “yes”, of ours, is a Love and Inner Joy our world so desperately needs. Through our struggle of carrying of the Cross we become a new creation. Our world becomes a new creation. When we create we are artists.        Prayer is none other than relationship. God in His infinite wisdom invites each of us into this relationship through the acceptance of suffering. Suffering means exactly what Christ Jesus said it is, ‘To be My disciple you must pick up your Cross and follow Me”. The mystery of why He chose suffering as the main way to follow Him is actually quite simple to understand. The acceptance of Suffering is the most repugnant aspect of daily. life. We find our life is full of ways in which we seek with all our might to avoid it. The “world” teaches us we are to avoid suffering. That suffering has no redeeming qualities. Yet, once we do accept to embrace the mystery of suffering and its transformative properties, we begin to enter this relationship with an open loving God. The mystery we enter into becomes a delight and we learn “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Christ Jesus uses the analogy of the “yoke”. This instrument is designed for relationship. When we are “yoked” together, we work together and the fields we plow are plowed together. Christ Jesus works with us to till the soil, a metaphor for our daily life. The yoke becomes more than just a symbol of relationship between creation with Creator, it becomes a union between Lover and the Beloved. Christ assures us that we do not walk through the difficulties of life alone. Christ is “yoked” to us in which the two have now become one. The contemplative life is not a one stop shop, for like life, it becomes a daily experience lived every day. It is a saying “yes” to this relationship every day. We must enter into the darkness of Faith that complete trust that our invisible God will reveal Himself through the action of suffering. God willingly enters into the dirt and the muck we deal with each day. God walks right by our side carrying the Holy Cross right here with us. God is not afraid to step in the mud with us, to get dirty with us. But He waits to be invited. God does not force us into relationship, yet without Him life with all its struggles becomes nearly impossible. The weight of our Cross becomes an object that has the potential to crush us under itself. With or without Him, we must understand that daily suffering continues to exist. Suffering is buried deep into the very fabric of our life, as part of our very marrow. We learn this at a very early age, yet God continues to quietly and patiently reach out His hand toward us and invite us into an intimate Union where two hearts begin to beat as one. Thus, reminding us we never, ever have to walk it alone.

Your brother in Christ Jesus,

Mark