From The Blog

Fr. Patrick’s Meditation from Aug/Sept 2014 Parish Newsletter

     “Do not ask for love from your neighbor, for if you ask and he does not respond you will be troubled.  Instead show your love for your neighbor and you will be at rest, and so will bring your neighbor to love.”

St. Dorotheos of Gaza

       Are we living in apocalyptic times?  I’m sure many would at least be willing to reflect on the thought, as foreboding as it might be.  I think about this as news updates are brought to us daily of the escalating tensions and violence between the nation of Israel and Hamas Islamic Resistance in Gaza.  St. Dorotheos is said to be from Gaza.  I do not know if the Gaza of his time is the same Gaza of today but I suspect it is at least similar.  How we all wish that this great Desert Father could have even the smallest of influence on all those involved in this deeply troubled area of the world.

Having just returned from the 2014 Antiochian Clergy Symposium I can share with you that especially – though not exclusively – our clergy from the Middle East are deeply concerned about what is happening in Gaza, Syria, Iraq and the entire region.  There was even the option of a daily seminar on this subject as part of our afternoon continuing clergy education.  All three afternoons had maximum attendance!  Obviously everyone is concerned.  While there is incomprehensible complexity to Middle East politics and relations, nevertheless my simple (Dr. Seuss) “Who” brain looks at the above quote from St. Dorotheos and wonders, “Why not, why not, end the juggernaut?”

War!  How utopian it is to think (fallen) humanity could actually be free from this horrific inhumanity!  (I seem to remember on Star Trek’s “The Next Generation” Captain Jean-Luc Picard once announced that earth had ridden itself of war and greed alike.  Gotta love TV, right?!) When considering the REAL state of the world, however, and the regular uprisings of conflict between peoples and nations, I often revisit the 4th chapter of the Letter of St. James: What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you?  Is it not your passions that are at war in your members?  You desire and do not have; so you kill.  And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war.  You do not have, because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.  Unfaithful creatures!”

I have a good friend from Palestine who grew up in the village of Nazareth.  Years ago she told me that when she was young (the early 1960’s) Christians, Jews and Muslims all lived together in relative peace and harmony.  From what I remember she also said it was after the Six Day Arab-Israeli war of 1967 when things began to change.  I also recall a serious conversation with a Christian Lebanese man about the virtue of humility and the act of forgiveness, especially in relation to Israeli aggression.  Like many from the region his family and town had been battered and gutted by war.  In essence he would have nothing to do with the “weakness” of humility or forgiveness.  Sadly, it’s a response I’ve heard many times since.

How can I comment on the experiences of others?  I certainly will not judge or criticize while I sit comfortable and protected from the wages of war.  It is also most difficult to defend these virtues – at least in worldly terms.  Even two of the world’s greatest leaders of non-violence, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ghandi, were violently murdered.  What are we to conclude?  The example and sacrifice of Jesus and the principles of Christianity are as critically necessary and relevant as ever!  And as we bring the discussion home from the horror of war to the conflicts within our own families, communities, workplaces, government, etc., what are we to do when facing the great demand for virtue?

The above teaching of St. Dorotheos is representative of the beauty and mystery of Christianity, which always instructs believers to be FIRST in showing honor to others – regardless what the other might deserve or respond.  There is no question that each of us in our lives will face this most difficult of challenges.  Let us pray that God help us to be ready when virtue demands – that we may choose the best of responses and witness to Love, and the Faith by which we name ourselves: Christian!

I will leave you with some lyrics from a current Contemporary Christian song entitled, “Forgiveness.”

It’s the hardest thing to give away, and the last thing on your mind today.  It always goes to those that don’t deserve.
It’s the opposite of how you feel, when the pain they caused is just too real.  It takes everything you have just to say the word.

Show me how to love the unlovable, show me how to reach the unreachable.  Help me now to do the impossible… Forgiveness.

It’ll clear the bitterness away, it can even set a prisoner free.  There is no end to what it’s power can do.
So, let it go and be amazed, by what you see through eyes of grace.  THE PRISONER THAT IT REALLY FREES IS YOU.

I want to finally set it free, so show me how to see what Your mercy sees.  Help me now to give what You gave to me. Forgiveness.

Matthew West