December 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The highest values, those that ennoble both ourselves and our neighbors are our values. The seeds of aggression born of fear and ignorance do not rank among them. Long ago Aristides wrote to the emperor Hadrian about Christians:

"Christians love one another. They never fail to help widows; they save orphans from those who would hurt them. Ifa man has something, he freely to the man who has nothing. If they see a stranger, Christians take him home and are happy, as though he were a real brother." (Aristides to the Emperor Hadrian, 117-138 AD)

Some Christians inspire such praise in our time. Mostly they are courageous outliers who find in the Gospels a call to compassion that goes beyond the second mile. They find gracious words that heal to express themselves and actions that are beautiful and kind to heal broken hearts and so attract both the "least of the brethren" and critics alike who recognize love when they see it. They are like Jesus. Their love for him compels them to be so. We become what we love.

I think that a return to the Gospels, the shining heart of our faith, might inspire us to emulate unconditional love which is the Alpha and the Omega of the Lord's teaching. My observations lead me to the conclusion that we have forgotten the message and the fact that we will be judged on no other criteria. Not that we are looking for good PR or bad PR, but the rule is to do good no matter what and to have no expectations. That sets us free to love selflessly, moving from moment to moment in the infinite, unmistakable stream of God's will rather than our own. Love is the only goal. Whether we garner praise or we will be saved.

So, I leave you with these words of St. Seraphim (that are clearly inspired by Jesus) as a guide.

You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment ofeach other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face ofhim who gives and kindles joy in the heart ofhim who receives. All condemnation isji-om the devil. Never condemn each other. We condemn others only because we shun knowing ourselves. When we gaze at our own failings, we see such a swamp that nothing in another can equal it. That is why we tum away , and make much ofthefaults ofothers. Instead ofcondemning others, strive to reach inner peace. Keep silent, refrain from judgment. This will raise you above the deadly arrows ofslander, insult and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil.

To quote our Savior, "Do this and you will live."

Much love,

+Fr. Antony