February 20, 2022
“I have wasted the wealth which the Father gave to me, and in my wretchedness I have fed with the dumb beasts. Yearning after their food I remained hungry and could not eat my fill. But now I return to the compassionate Father and cry out with tears: I fall down before Thy loving-kindness, receive me as a hired servant and save me.” (Vespers Aposticha for the Prodigal Son)
“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” 1Cor 6:12
God has given to us great gifts, everything possible which can be used for our salvation is put at our disposal. We have the various powers and abilities of the body and soul, we have a wide variety of opportunities, we have unlimited resources in the world around us. All these things are given to us so that we might use them in the process of working out our own salvation, in Repentance – that is, so that we might actualize the image and likeness of God with which we were created and enter into eternal union and communion with our Lord Jesus Christ. We are prepared for anything and everything that we might need to acquire this goal. However, in our fallen and sinful state, we take what we have been given and misuse it for the wrong purposes. We use it to satisfy our own sinful desires and passions, we waste our wealth and resources which were given to us for heavenly and eternal purposes on temporal and worldly pleasures. As another hymn from the same vesper service says: “I wasted my whole life in a foreign land. I scattered the wealth which Thou gavest me, O Father.” As a result of this waste, we come up short and we have barely enough strength or opportunity for our spiritual needs.
In the way we live our lives, we have become blind to the true purpose of life and to our destiny given us by God. We no longer see the spiritual essence of the things around us and have become blind even to the working and purposes of God in everything that we do at every moment of our lives. There are those who, in their blindness, do not see God working in their lives and so have become content with the idea that God does not matter, God does not care for them personally and as long as their worldly wants and needs are met, there is nothing else beyond that.
This indifference to the spiritual world brings about negligence in any kind of spiritual activity and eventually brings one to a state of functional atheism where God does not seem to exist – or if He does, He is far away and doesn’t intervene in our lives. For this reason it is necessary that we do not allow ourselves to become negligent in our spiritual lives. In order to have the motivation and desire for that which is from God, we must first nurture within ourselves the awareness of God’s presence with us and His love and care for us.
Every day it is necessary to remind ourselves that God is with us. In order to do this, we pray in the morning when we arise, speaking with God and renewing our acquaintance with Him. Throughout the day it is good to remind ourselves to pray, asking for God’s help and blessing in even the simplest of our daily activities so that we become aware that He is beside us and helping us in everything that we do. At the end of the day, we set aside a few moments again for prayer to give thanks to God for all that He has done with us and for us in the past day and ask for His protection through the coming night. In this way we maintain our relationship with Him and strengthen it little by little.
Every desire and passion of the body – which are usually experienced as temptations of various sorts – was originally given to us to be used for our salvation. Do you desire to eat and drink? Then ask God for the food which is immortal and the drink which is never exhausted.
Do you become angry at people or circumstances that are not in line with your own desires and hopes? Turn that anger towards the sins which pull you away from God and which thwart your salvation. Do you desire to acquire good things, beautiful things, and valuable things? Work instead to acquire spiritual wealth, the adornment and beauty of the virtues and the grace of the Holy Spirit which is beyond price. See how even those desires which when turned toward the world are temptations with which we struggle, can instead be turned and directed towards heavenly things, and they become helps rather than hindrances, empowering us to pursue our salvation.
There is a proper use for everything in our lives that we come across whether it is an internal aspect of our personality or whether it is a circumstance of our external environment. As the Apostle says – “all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable.” In order to turn away from our wasteful use of God’s resources, we must begin now to break away from our old destructive and wasteful habits and begin to establish new ones which are beneficial to the spiritual life and in harmony with God’s purpose for us. The key element is our free will. God has given us the freedom to choose how we use that which we have been given. Because of our sinful nature, our will is inclined to make the wrong choices. Initially, we make these choices (directing our desires and energies towards worldly goals) because we are blind to the spiritual life and don’t see (or don’t understand) the alternative choice. After a time the choice becomes habitual so that even as we see the alternative choice of heaven, our habit is to choose the worldly goal.
We use – or rather misuse – what God has provided for us simply out of habit and so it is necessary to break that old habit and replace it with a new habit.
For this, God gives us more help. He sees that we have wasted that which we have been given, but out of His love for us, He does not abandon us to “get what we deserve” and “reap that which we have sown.” Instead, He sees our need and pours out even more gifts upon us from His inexhaustible grace. When we reach out to him from the bottom of the pit that we have dug for ourselves, He reaches down to us to pull us out. Then He gives us the help that we need to begin to live our lives anew, according to His original plan and desire for us. This help is given to us through the communal life of the Church. In the Church we help and support one another for we are all in need and we have all fallen short of the Kingdom of God. In the Church we are also given new tools and new supplies which are particularly useful for the restoration and repair of the damage that we have already experienced in our lives. These tools are the prayers and services and sacraments and traditions and customs and practices of the Church. The supplies are the infinite grace of God and His love which He pours out upon us through the sacraments and through the many blessings of the Church. By fasting and self-denial, we break away from our dependence upon worldly things and by works of righteousness we retrain ourselves to walk in the path of Christ. By participating in the life of the Church, by following the prescriptions for how to order our lives and by constantly dipping into the inexhaustible well of grace given to us by God, we are renewed and regenerated and healed.
The Apostle says that all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. Let us then choose the profitable things; let us order our lives according to the destiny which God has given to us. Let us reorient ourselves away from the things of the world and turn instead toward the things of Christ. May He become the center and focus of our lives, replacing our selfish and worldly ego. Let us then choose that which is profitable; let us then choose Christ.
Thank you Fr David!
Today we celebrate the Feast Day of St Richard:
St. Richard, King of Wessex (Kingdom of the West Saxons) and also known as, Richard the Pilgrim, is the brother of St. Boniface.
St. Richard was the father of Saints Willibald, Winnebald, and Walburga.
This noble and devout family came from Wessex, an English region and according to an account of the Nun Hugebure of Heidenheim, in 720, he entrusted his eleven-year-old daughter Walburga to the Abbess of Wimborne in Dorset, renounced his estates, and left with his two sons on a pilgrimage to Rome. Willibald was just twenty and Wunibald was nineteen. He and his two sons left England to undertake a pilgrimage of penance and devotion. They made their way through France. Then Richard fell ill and reposed in Lucca, Italy, in 722. He was buried in the Church of St. Frediano. Miracles were reported at his tomb and he became greatly venerated by the citizens of Lucca, who embellished accounts of his life by calling him “king of the English”.
His sons, joined by their sister, were recruited by their uncle, the newly elevated Bishop Boniface of Germany, to evangelize Germany. St. Walburga was the first abbess in Heidenheim. St. Willibald settled in Eichstatt. Some of St. Richard’s remains were then translated to Eichstatt, and many there were healed through his intercessions.
Troparion: Tone 3
Accepting Christ our God as King, O Father Richard, thou didst leave thy native Wessex to be a pilgrim. Pray that in our pilgrimage we may find salvation for our souls.
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