Category: Sermon

Happy New Year! ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

So…  Happy New Year!   

What?  You say to me, “Bishop, did you skip Christmas altogether?”  Nope.  Today marks the beginning of the new liturgical year.  Do, please, allow me to explain:

Within the calendar year, there is another year:  the great cycle of the liturgical year, revolving around the life and ministry Christ.  Each season of the liturgical year has its own focus, feasts, words, and colors, giving us an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the coming of Jesus, his life, and his commission to His people to be a light to the world. words, and colors, giving us an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the coming of Jesus, his life, and his commission to His people to be a light to the world.

Since the 900s, Advent has marked the beginning of the church year, and is a season of great anticipation, preparation, and excitement, traditionally focusing on the Nativity of the Christ Child, when Jesus came as our Savior.  During Advent, we as Christians also direct our thoughts to His second coming as judge.

The word Advent is from the Latin adventus, meaning coming,” and is celebrated during the four weeks of preparation for Christmas. Advent always contains four Sundays, beginning on the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, (November 30) and continuing until December 24. It blends together a penitential spirit, very similar to Lent, a liturgical theme of preparation for the Second and Final Coming of the Lord, called the Parousia, and a joyful theme of getting ready for the Bethlehem event.

Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000-year-old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. That is a process in which we participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate. Scripture readings for Advent reflect this emphasis on the Second Advent, including themes of accountability for faithfulness at His coming, judgment of sin, and the hope of eternal life.

In this double focus on past and future, Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power. That acknowledgment provides a basis for holy living, arising from a profound sense that we live “between the times” and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s    people.     As the church celebrates God’s Incarnation in the physical presence of Jesus Christ, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which “all creation is groaning, awaiting its redemption,” it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

We celebrate with gladness the great promise of Advent, yet knowing that there is also a somber tone as the theme of final judgment is added to the theme of promise. This is reflected in some of the Scripture readings for Advent, in which there is a strong prophetic tone of accountability and judgment of sin. This is also faithful to the role of the Coming King who comes to rule, save, and judge, the world.

Because of the dual themes of judgment and promise, Advent is a time of preparation that is marked by prayer. While Lent is characterized by fasting and a spirit of penitence, Advent’s   prayers are prayers of humble devotion and commitment, prayers of submission, prayers for deliverance, prayers from those walking in darkness who are awaiting and anticipating a great light (Isaiah 9).

As we prepare ourselves for the coming Christmas season, let us also remember that we are in Advent, preparing for the coming of Christ, our King.  May all of you have a meaningful, blessed, and holy, Advent.

Giving Thanks ~ Br. Milan Komadina, Novice

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States and Canada. It is a special holiday when people should celebrate. In both Canada and America, family and friends gather for a feast on Thanksgiving. Traditional fare in America often includes turkey, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. Parades and football games also have long associations with the holiday. Since I grew up and live in South Eastern Europe I remember the time when I was studying English as a kid. Sometimes we had lessons called – Thanksgiving Day. I was sad because we in Serbia do not have this holiday. Yet I also understood how important deeper meaning of this holiday is. How important is to think really deeply about all the things we are thankful for. To think about all blessings and everything that God has done and is doing in our lives.

When I started preparing this sermon I was investigating a bit how many thanksgiving verses we have in the Bible and I found that there are more than 100 of them. In Psalm 95:1-2, King David wrote” I will enter and give thanks to the Lord”. In 1 Chronicles 16:34 it is written “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever”. More than 10 years ago when I was living in an Orthodox Christian monastery trying to become a monk for many months I was reading orthodox Christian books in order to learn as much as I can. Even though I declare myself as an old catholic since 2016 when met father Michael, I remember that there are some good things I learnt from Orthodoxy. One thing is Thankfulness. If you ever go to Holy Month Athos in Greece where only monks live you could hear very often them saying ”Slava i hvala Gospodu” which means “Glory and thank be to the Lord”. Also one important thing that I learnt I would like to share here with you. As a young man, when I was in my early twenties I spent two years learning Greek language, I also worked in tourism sector in Greece. I remember one very important word that we all use in Christian churches. This word is Eucharist or in Greek – Evharistia. This word actually means – thankfulness. In Greek language evharisto means thank you. So, it is very important to make this relation between Eucharist and giving thanks to God.

When we participate in the holy Eucharist we also participate in thankfulness for the salvation that Jesus had given us though his the most holy sacrifice. When we eat brad and drink vine, we eat Jesus` body and blood. We show thankfulness to his sacrifice, we are thankful for His most holy body that is given to be sacrificed for the sinful humans and when we drink his blood we show thankfulness to God for the purest blood that was given to wash away our sins of everyone who believes and accepts Jesus as his or her savior.

Another definition of the biblical meaning of thanksgiving is that Thanksgiving means to respond to God’s goodness and grace with gratitude. The word for giving thanks in the Old Testament means to raise hands to God in gratitude. We can show gratitude through Eucharist but we can also show our gratitude through our prayers. From time to time it is really useful to all of us to think about all the things that we have and to become aware how blessed we are. Usually when we pray we ask God to do something. We pray for success at work, we pray for good health, we pray for better salary, we pray for many things. But I personally believe that the most powerful prayer is not to request anything from God. Just stay in His presence and say one sincere “Thank you. Thank you for all the good things that you gave me. And thank you even for allowing bad things to happen because those might be lessons and I may learn something from those. Thank you God for everything, for every breath I take, for every heart bit, for giving me this life, for giving me love, for allowing me to get to know Jesus. Thank you for the gift of salvation, for the love, the hope and the faith. Evharisto!”

I remember one old school friend when I was in my Secondary school. That friend unfortunately always lived in a very bad financial situation, as many people in Balkan do. And she always kept asking every single person for some small money. We were all helping her, sometimes when we could and as much as we could. But after some time, we were trying to skip seeing her in the school. All students knew that this girl would be complaining about her finances and ask for some financial help if you stop her to say hello. Students started seeing her not as a true friend, but as a material person who always asks for some material help.

I often remember this situation when I pray. I know it is written that we should ask for many things in our prayers but it is also written that Our Heavenly father is giving food to birds and water to flowers in fields and He knows what we need even before we ask for it. But human nature is strange, it seems that we always want more and more. My prayer for today on this Thanksgiving is let us all to stand for a moment and not to ask for anything new in our prayer. Let us just pray to good with the mouth full of thanksgiving. Let us think about all the things that we have already and let us be thankful for these.

In Philippians 4:6-7 there is a verse saying: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This does not teaches us that it is not good to have requests. We can have requests for our God. But those requests should be there with thanksgiving. God loves when we show gratitude and when we say:” Thank you, God”. As a result he can grant us more than we ask him to. And there is one more Bible verse talking about that. In Luke 17: 11-19 it is written: “Out of the ten lepers Jesus healed, only one went back to thank Him. This man, completely free from illness but full of faith, knelt at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him for showing mercy. Because of his gratitude, God healed him far deeper and more than the other nine men were”. With this story in our minds and hearts let us all be thankful on today`s Thanksgiving Day, and let us celebrate thanksgiving every day in our hearts. Thanks be to God forever. Amen.

Jesus Christ, King of the Universe! ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of  Universe.

Reading 1:Dn 7:13-14

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 93:1, 1-2, 5

Reading II: Rv 1:5-8

Gospel: Jn 18:33b-37

Liturgical colour: White.

Today we come together to honour Our King and Our saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus is the One and true King of all heaven and of all the earth. There is no one who Jesus is not the ruler of, whether such person be an Earthly King or Queen, a President or a Prime minister of a country, Jesus still is the ruler and the King of all. Earthly kingdoms and offices of power are just that, earthly.

Jesus has His true Kingship of all, not by elections or by earthly processes, but by election of God. From his resurrection from the dead and from his installation in heaven at God’s right hand. When our dear Lord rose from the dead, after paying for all our sins upon the cross, God the Father exalted Him and gave him a “name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow.” and this includes everyone, ourselves, and all the rulers of the earth. Jesus lives today and rules over us from his heavenly Kingdom with the Father. Jesus doesn’t rule with evil or hate, or with earthly wants, policies and pride, but rules with love, mercy and forgiveness and who loves and accepts each of us where we are as long as we love him. We have a King that loves us so much that he suffered human death upon the cross for all of our sins, so that we could have a chance of eternal life with Him. What a wonderful Lord and King we have indeed!

Lord Jesus, you are the King of Kings!!

Let us pray:

O Divine Saviour and King of all, transform us into that which is pleasing to yourself. May our hands be your hands. Grant that every faculty of our being may serve only to glorify you. Above all, transform our Spirit, our will, and our affections so that they become those of you, our Lord and King. We pray that you destroy all within us that is not of you, our King of all. May we live in you, by you, and for you. Amen.

Mules, Attitude, and Giving Your Best ~ The Rev. Frank Bellino, Novice

In days of old there was a woman married to a most annoying man. He would complain about everything. He never did anything to help his wife. He expected to be waited on hand and foot all the time. (Do not shoot the messenger guys) Remember if you want to be treated like a king, she must be your queen. One day he went to the river with his mule. He complained so much that the mule got upset and kicked him till he died. At the funeral, when all the men walked by the wife, she shook her head in the affirmative. Every time the women walked by; she shook her head negatively. The priest asked the woman after seeing this: “Why are you shaking your head “yes” for men and “no” for women?” Her answer was: “The men would say how bad they felt for me, and I was saying, ‘Yes, I’ll be good.’ “When the women walked by, they were asking if the mule was for sale…”” (“Simple Truths for Marriage”)

The readings today seem filled with despair and disaster. The prophet Daniel tells of the day when the great Archangel, Michael, shall trumpet the time Jesus returns. And Jesus speaks of the time when the Son of Man shall come in glory and gather the elect into His kingdom.

While select might find these readings frightening, they would be wrong. For the readings are given to us not to incite fear but to invite reflection about how we live our lives today.

The fantasy mule-kicked husband is just like those people that only care about themselves and want it their way all the time or they are unhappy. And while the husband may be an extreme example, the numerous variations of his behavior find a home in many places and peoples in our world.

Today’s readings challenge us to look at life with a diverse set of lenses…not with self-centered glasses but with compassion and care for all. It calls us to see with new eyes. To see that the person who cuts us off in traffic might be a single parent who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a little precious moment with her children. The older couple who are walking excessively slowly through the store and who block our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report from the doctor she got back last week, this might be the last time that they will be able to go shopping together for a while or forever depending on the aggressiveness of the cancer.

To serve each other is not only to learn to think differently it also means taking the next step and moving outside of we: to lend a hand to those in need, a listening ear to those who are lonely and a compassionate and understanding heart to those who find themselves living on the fringes of society.

It is only when we learn to give ourselves in service to each other and to those in need that we gain a proper perspective on life and let Jesus Christ lead us so that we might, in the words of the prophet Daniel, “be wise and shine brightly…like the stars forever.”

Who Are These In White Robes? ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints (also called All Saints Day).

All Saints’ Day, All Hallows Day, or Hallowmas is solemnly celebrated on 1 November by many Western Liturgical Churches to honor, literally, all the saints, known and unknown; those individuals who have attained Heaven; all the holy men and women who have lived their lives for God and for his church, who now have attained Beatific vision and their reward of Heaven.

In early Christian history it was usual to solemnize the anniversary of a Martyr’s death for the Lord at the place of their martyrdom. Frequently there were multiple martyrs who would’ve suffered and died on the same day which led to multiple commemorations on the same day. Eventually, the numbers of martyrs became so great that it was impossible for a separate day to be assigned to each individually, but the church feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a feast day to commemorate them all on the same day.

The origin of the festival of All Saints celebrated in the West dates to the month of May in the year 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs.  In the 730’s Pope Gregory III moved the Feast of All Saints to 1 November when he founded an oratory in St. Peter’s for the relics of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world.”

From our Readings today, we hear of the vision of St. John from the Book of Revelation:

After this, I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.  They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.  They cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.”

All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures.  They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God, and exclaimed:

“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.” He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

Who are these nameless saints?  Their anonymity teaches us that sainthood is not reached through great achievements or rare acts of bravery.  Sainthood comes from simply loving God and doing our best to live our lives in a way consistent with Jesus’ commandment.  I would dare say that none of the saints actually set out to be saints.  They simply loved God and lived their lives to follow Him.

Revelation goes on to remind us that giving our lives over to God will not protect us or insulate us from hardship.  Living in, for, with, and through God, however, will make sure that we can and will endure whatever “great distress” comes our way.  In this passage of Revelation, John is speaking specifically of those who have given their lives for their faith.  Christians throughout the Middle East are being martyred by forces opposed to Christianity, but in reality, it is very unlikely that any of us will be called upon to sacrifice our lives for our faith.

Our challenge, then, is to live for Christ, rather than to die for Christ.  Jesus does ask to lay down our lives for Him. Peter said to the Lord, “I will lay down my life for Your sake,” and he meant it (John 13:37). Has the Lord ever asked you, “Will you lay down your life for My sake?” (John 13:38). It is much easier to die than to lay down your life day in and day out with the sense of the high calling of God. We are not made for the bright-shining moments of life, but we have to walk in the light of them in our everyday ways.  For thirty-three years Jesus laid down His life to do the will of His Father. “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

If we are true followers of Jesus, we must deliberately and carefully lay down our lives for Him. It is a difficult thing to do, and thank God that it is, for great is our reward.  Salvation is easy for us, however, because it cost God so much. But the exhibiting of salvation in our lives is difficult. God saves a person, fills him with the Holy Spirit, and then says, in effect, “Now you work it out in your life, and be faithful to Me, even though the nature of everything around you is to cause you to be unfaithful.” And Jesus says to us, “…I have called you friends….” Remain faithful to your Friend, and remember that His honor is at stake in your bodily life.  We are called to remain faithful, despite the reasons the world gives us to not, despite the “great distresses” in our lives.

Who are these dressed in white robes?  It is my prayer to be counted among them.  What about you?

Always Preach Love ~ The Rev. Frank Bellino, Novice

At times in the gospel, we must be thankful to Jesus, because he had a marvelous instinct for simplifying things. In his time, it is written that there were more than 600 laws that devout Jews were supposed to know and follow, dietary rules, rules about behavior, more than half were things that you were simply never to do. So it might seem like it was a bit of a big deal for Jesus to say that really, not to ignore the other 600 laws, but if you could do two of them right, love God and love your neighbor as yourself, and to be told that if you do that, you’re not far from the kingdom of God, that’s redemptive. It was uncommon for a scribe and Jesus to discuss with someone whose business it was to know all those laws, and yet who realized that they were not all of equal meaning, who was willing to say that God possibly doesn’t get that much satisfaction from burnt offerings, what God gets pleasure from than anything is our love, our love for God, and to see us authentically love one another. It is the same for us today, many of us feel like we do not know enough about our faith, or that we could not explain it to someone else. There are about 3,000 numbered paragraphs in our catechism explaining what we trust and how we should live, and to believe, if we get these two things right, that we can feel good about where we are in our walk, which is almost un-Catholic, isn’t it?

Just two commandments that Jesus gave to be accepted as a citizen in good standing by Jesus Christ himself. Before we feel too comfortable, though, about the easiness of what Jesus is saying here, we must remember the way Jesus saw the state of this world we live in. From the surface what Jesus is asking for sounds very peaceful and simple, but he is involving us in something much larger. Because when you read the gospels, it is impactable not to realize that Jesus saw this world in the hands of a dominion that needs fighting against, and he is recruiting us in building the kingdom that is going to be the alternative to that power. Sometimes we see this power that we are fighting, we see it daily on the streets and on the news, we see it in wars that go on for years and deprive people of the basics of life, we see it when people are demonized, rejected, and feared. We are not sure what this power is sometimes, but we see what love is up against, and we do not see how love is going to win. But the kind of love Jesus is asking for here triumphs over anything. He is not saying for us to be even-tempered, mild-mannered patience with everyone, or leaving people alone the way we would mostly like to be left alone. Instead, the love he is talking about is love that is 100% focused on God and others, love people who are hurting and who have nothing and no one else. And in this war, our weapon is not a rule book but a love that always asks the question, what if that were me? What would I want to have happen if I were them? If I were that person who is coming up here from another country, that person whose lengthy illness is so dispiriting and unfixable, that person who stands for things I do not believe in or understand. How would I want to be treated, for what would I desire? We may not be able to repair any of those situations, we do not know how to, and we cannot but acts of love towards others are the sign we need in this world of another way of life, of that other kingdom that is still on its way. This one commandment is not such an easy commandment to follow, as it appears today. Simple does not mean easy. What is going to save us from disappointment, from giving up? If we only had the second part as our labor, loving our neighbor as ourselves, we could never do it. But God gave us this, a gift of love.

This commandment says that all God wants is a connection of love with us,
establish love as our first job in life, before anything else, realize that we already have it. God is not an inactive participant waiting for us to take the lead here, saving the world by ourselves. We cannot fight this all-alone God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and all the angels and Saints are assisting us. God is already trying to have love take over. The love you have knowledge of from God in your life, the love that is poured out here in this parish, the love that God already showed for this world by sending his Son to the Cross, it is all on our side. Love has already rescued this world and us.

In the first reading today from the Old Testament where we heard these two commandments laid out for the people of Israel, God had already brought these people to the edge of the promised land, and that is available for us, also. We are not digging ourselves out of a hole against impossible odds. We have work to do, but it is as if we should know that God has already suffered death for us. Our relationship with God is already so influential that we can turn to Him no matter what needs to occur. We know it, and yet, we lose faith. We are human. We will at times feel like the odds are against love in this world.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says that in an age where evil is multiplied, most people’s love will grow cold, and some days it does seem as if that is possible.

St. Oscar Romero, who gave his life fighting this fight.
He said, let us never tire of preaching love; it is the force that will overcome the world.

Today we ask God to keep our love from dying, and to give us life to put love to work where love is required most.

Be Bold In Faith ~ The Rev. Dcn. Igor P. Kalinski, OPI

Dominican Hermitage & Oratory of St’s Peregrine and Sebastian in Gevgelija, Republic of Macedonia, Europe in the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Beloved family and friends, beloved sisters and brothers in Christ our Lord and Redeemer, in today’s mass readings from Deuteronomy, Hebrews and Gospel according  to Saint evangelist Mark, I will try to give my little brief of how the Holy Scriptures reflect this to us as ultimate truth for understanding better the meaning and the message, and for our daily devotional spiritual food.

We read here  “days…prolonged, Moses’ concern is that successive generations maintain the obedience to God’s laws that ensures life and prosperity, in 6:3 : a land flowing with milk and honey: a description that includes the richness of the land which the Israelites were soon to possess, in 6:4 has become the Jewish confession of faith, recited twice daily by the devout, the intent of these words was to give a clear statement of the truth of the monotheism, that there is only one God. The most important passage is that those commandments in 6:6 shall today be on our hearts. Such a beautiful message, inspirational, and we have to give that to our children, in our family members. Since the relationship such as this of love for God could not be represented in any material way as with idols, if had to be demonstrated in obedience go God’s law in daily life.

In the epistle of St. apostle Paul to the Hebrews we read:  “also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing, but He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable to save  to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them, that mean that by the authority  invested to them the priests in the old testament , after the establishment of the Mosaic law, the Levitical priests collected tithes from their fellow Israelites, and the submission was not to honor the priest but to honor the law of Moses. Melchizedek not only received a tithe from Abraham , but he also blessed him, and this prove Melchizedek superiority and another superiority is that of our Lord Christ’s divine  and holy character as proof for superiority of His priesthood. In 7:26 in His relationship with  God , Christ is holy , he is harmless without evil or malice, in relationship with himself He is undefiled, free of contamination, separate from sinners, He had no sinful nature, which will be source for any act of sin, so He is without sin , higher that heaven, how marvelous is to have such a priest, and we have to watch as in daily mirror to put these words in our heart, and to be faithful in daily attendance of mass, where alter Christus the priest is offer his daily sacrifice in the Holy Mass.

In the Mark’s gospel we read that vinedressers were greedy because they wanted the entire harvest and the vineyard for themselves and would stop at nothing to achieve that end , they plotted to kill the owner’s son. Because Jesus had achieved such a following, the Jewish leaders believed only the way to maintain their position and power over the people was to kill Jesus.

The owner of the vineyard will execute the vinedressers, thus serving as a prophesy to the destruction of Jerusalem. So also another attribute, prophet, for Jesus  King, Prophet and Priest.

According to Matthew if I can little include this verdict was echoed by the chief priests, scribes, and elders, Matthew 21:41 “give the vineyard to other” those others dear beloved family and friends are all of us the Gentiles, , this  was fulfilled in the establishment of Christ’s church and its leaders who were most Gentiles. In Mark 12:10 the stone which the builders rejected, those builders that typically rejected stones until they found one perfectly straight in lines that could serve as the cornerstone, that is critical for the stability of the building. So here Jesus is metaphor He Himself is the stone, the builders were the Jewish religious leaders rejected Him, as crucified Him. But the resurrected Christ is the cornerstone, and the chief priests, scribes and elders were completely aware that Christ was condemning their actions, but it only aroused  their hatred, not their repentance.

So what we learned from today’s  Gospel? We can be servants as the stones that support the cornerstone, to be bold, and steady  to the end, always confession our Lord, if we want to be recognized from Him in Heaven as his family, so don’t be afraid to make the proper sign of the cross in public, or before you eat in public restaurant, when we usually pray, we always have to be not people who hide privately  the faith, that’s  not what Jesus would do.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

The Gift of Salvation ~ Br. Milan Komadina, Novice

As you know I live in Serbia (Balkan). In my country there is something interesting related to the practice of receiving gifts and that is showing excessive gratefulness for every single thing that we get. Even a small one. I think this is similar culture and in N. Macedonia, Bosnia, Montenegro. People feel a bit uncomfortable when receiving gifts.  This phenomenon dates back to many periods when people were very poor and had to literally sacrifice a lot to get a small regular gift for someone. The thing that we may often experience while giving gift to a Yugoslav person is hearing many times ”thank you”, but we should not be surprised if we get some other gift back in order to show thankfulness. This culture is specific for this part of the world.  Why I started this sermon with talking about gifts getting practice in my country is related to what I read in today`s Bible reading. This inspired me thinking about the salvation that we get as a free gift. And while meditating on that I found out that people somehow feel uncomfortable with getting the gift of salvation. Seems that we often would like to add a bit of our own deeds or our own sacrifice to the most holy sacrifice that Jesus did for the sake of the forgiveness of all sins ever. In Hebrews 5:1-6 we read:

”Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. ”And he says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.””

Here we read that Jesus is a priest forever. We can see that in the past Israel people had many priests, one of them was Aaron who had that honor to bring many sacrifices to God. But when the time came, it was clear that human deeds, human sacrifices and all the goodness that a single human could provide was never enough to please God and to cover sins of a fallen human. There had to be a perfect sacrifice, a spotless lamb and that was Jesus.

Of course today we have bishops, priests, deacons as it was founded by apostles and we can learn a lot of all those brothers and sisters, but only Jesus is the one who saved us by grace through His mercy. In Serbia and neighbor countries people bring big bouquets of expensive flowers, they buy and bring to Christian temples expensive candles made of purest bee wax and bring many gifts to the churches which sometimes look to me (as a person looking from aside) that they believe they could add something to salvation and they can add their own gifts to the perfect gift of Jesus` sacrifice.

We sometimes fast, sometimes pray to saints and Holy Mary (to assist us in prayer to God and to pray for us) and we try to live morally and to be good people as a result of being saved by grace, by faith in Jesus and all that he has done for us. Holy Eucharist is here to remind us on the Sacrifice of Jesus. All these things are necessary and they are good but what is not God is having fear of our loving God which would lead us to depression and feeling that we will never be saved. Nowadays I also read that some number of people (so called anti-vaxers) are afraid of anti-covid 19 vaccines that billions of people have received and are receiving for almost a year. They believe that there is some satanic chip in the vaccine and that if they get it they may lose Christ and they may lose the salvation. I met many Christians in several denominations believing in these conspiracy theories and I really feel sad about that.

So today I wanted to share that as Christians we should know that God is our father and he is not some scary god who is willing to put us all in hell and who is calculating our sins. Christianity is about joy, spiritual joy of saved people. It is about feeling saved, feeling safe and feeling that God will always be here with us and for us. With all that lightening candles, incense, praying with rosary, giving charity and all other activities we do can make our lives much happier. We cannot earn salvation and all the things we do should be the result of previously being saved. And remember that it was written you are saved by grace it was not written you become perfect and sinless. Unfortunately we will make some sins in the future and during our lives. And yes we should always repent and try not to repeat them. But please don`t feel lost and depressed because of that.

From time to time we might feel week and sinful or we may feel that God is far away from us. This is all normal and in this situation we should not doubt in the gift of salvation. We all experience ups and downs, but our salvation was given as a gift when we gave our hearts to Jesus. What I would also like to emphasize here is the importance of prayer. The prayer is always powerful. Especially when we fall in sins it is very useful to pray. Or if you feel in a bad mood ask your Christian brother and sister to pray for you, ask Holy Mary, or some saint or holy angels to pray for you and with you. Jesus hears your prayer, he knows how you feel and he knows what situation are you in at the moment. He will listen.

In today`s Gospel we also read the story when Jesus healed blind man in Jericho. Mark 10:46-52

“Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”

As many times in Bible, Jesus emphasizes the importance of faith. Here we should remember these words: ”your faith has healed you”. Every time when we ask for something we should have faith. Jesus did not tell him ”your gifts given to the local church, expensive flowers and candles, Greek expensive incense and the money you donated has healed you”. He simply stated that the faith is what he counted. Because our God is God of Mercy. I pray today for all of us to have faith and to be thankful for the mercy that God is giving us. Amen.

Divorce, Sin, and Jesus ~ The Rev. Frank Bellino, Novice

I must admit that when I read the Gospel for today, my first reaction was, “Oh no!” This is one of the more misinterpreted and argued about reading in all the religious world. It has the disastrous effect of making many wiggle uneasily in their seats while others settle back into theirs in self-righteousness.

Neither answer is right. One of the purposes of Christianity is, after all, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Here we have chance to do both.

To the comfortable, let us remind each other that in God’s sight no sin is greater than the other. Sexual sin is not worse than any other, despite what the media might have us believe. Just because we may be stronger in an area to prevent one sin does not make us better than our Christian brother or sister who is not. And for some pride or vindictive actions could be your cross. Remember – God is displeased with the proud but gives grace to the humble. There, but for the grace of God, go I.

To the stricken, those of us who struggle uncomfortably in our seats, let me say something very important: God loves you. He knows that you are divorced, and he loves you. Divorce is not one of the unforgivable sins.

I’m going to repeat myself because there are many, and I’m sad to say, particularly in the church, who will oppose this message. Divorce is not the unforgivable sin.

God in his great mercy can forgive all sins, including those that cause divorce. So, if you are divorced, know that God still loves you. (Remember everyone sins and if you’re not divorced you have another one).

In fact, I’m going to say something, and some will not agree: Divorce is not a sin. Now before you get upset and walk out and never return take a minute and listen. I am not condoning divorce. Divorce is horrible. I’ve been through it. It’s really, ugly. I’m not saying for one instant that divorce is anything less than terrible and outside of God’s will. But not, itself, a sin.

It’s the result of sin. And that’s different. It is not sin in the same way that going to jail is not crime. It is the result of a crime.

I have worked in the jail and been in and out taking people there for various reasons. God created a world where there was no need for jails or prisons, and there will be none in heaven. But we live in a fallen world and because of free will there is a need for jails. Being in jail itself is not sin, what you did was the sin. Ending up in jail was the result of sin. In the same way, I would argue, divorce itself is not sin. The little things or the dozen huge things that caused the marriage to fall apart were the problem. Divorce was the consequence.

Let’s make sure we base our thinking on what the Bible says about divorce, not what we think it says. We don’t have time right now to examine all the verses, but I would recommend that you take time to do a careful study. And it may surprise you. (It surprises me every time.)

Throughout the Bible you will see a repeat. In Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Ezekiel, divorce is cited in a matter-of-fact way, as something that happens, with no judgement. In Isaiah and Jeremiah, it is the faithlessness that causes divorce that is rebuked. In Malachi 2 God says he deplores divorce and I totally agree. If you read the entire chapter, you know that God is referring to the sin. Divorce is the result of the transgression, and it’s the transgression that is the result.

In the New Testament, Jesus has strong teaching about divorce. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, its repeated so we know it’s important. But look carefully. Jesus does not say “don’t get divorced”. Really, he doesn’t. He is, however, very clear about the seriousness of divorce. In the rest of the verses, he restates Gods original purpose for marriage, as a life-long union; not something to be dismissed when troublesome or when someone more intriguing comes along.

You may know that it was a common practice in the days of the New Testament to allow divorce on the most unimportant of grounds, based on Deuteronomy 24, and that’s what Jesus is criticizing against in today’s reading. Jesus is stressing that marriage is a serious commitment and not to be taken, or ended, lightly. He’s differing treating marriage like the latest phone, which you can swap when the next model comes out, instead of like a heart pacemaker, which is supposed to be with you for life.

Jesus acknowledged, however, that there are times when divorce is the less of two evils in an imperfect world. Which would you rather face, an earthquake or a volcano? The debris from that earthquake smashes families and hits friends, hurts children and wrecks relationships for years and years – even when we have confessed and been forgiven. But sometimes in real life we have a choice between bad and worse. And God knows this. We don’t live in Eden anymore. Divorce is never part of God’s plan for the best, but so is much of life. And God is bigger than any of our messes and bad decisions.

So, is divorce always bad? Yes. Always bad. Is it sin? I would say it is the result of sin, and God, in his incomprehensible mercy, forgives sin.

If you are living with the pain of broken marriage, firstly, I understand. You are not alone in this. Secondly. God understands. Really, he does. He knows all the hidden bits of you and still loves you. Let that sink in. Try reading Ps 51 or Ps 139 and tell your Loving Lord all the nasty stuff. He knows it anyway, so you won’t shock him. Then let his forgiveness wash you clean for a fresh start.

Cut Off Your… Really? ~ The Rev. Dcn. Igor Kalinski, OPI


Dear brothers and sister, reading today’s Gospel of Mark about our carnal temptations through the parables of expression of our Lord Jesus Christ, made me think first of myself.

What an example I am to the people that surround me, my relatives, neighbors, grocery people, my virtual friends, my close members of the family and my cousins .

Where is at first my own integrity when I have to appear to the sanctity throne on the foot of our home altars,  going through the long time , many months in spiritual desert, negative overthinking thoughts that eat us from inside.

Jesus is very practical in his words of the example to cut that what stop us to walk in to the path of sanctity, our spiritual eyes, our spiritual hands, and our carnal hands, cut, not in the literal words to butcher and destroy our bodies, but turning our direction to a different way, if I so much make sins through my hands, than I would need the two hands to unite in prayer, if my eyes makes me to make a sin through seeing , than I might open the Holy Scripture, and read the holy sentences, just to distract with positive practices that will benefit in our future life.

Today we live in a world too modern, but we have to nourish ourselves into these words, our tradition, if we search and collect from the source of the truth, then we will be like the wise virgins who had enough oil to welcome the long-waited bridegroom.

I just want that parable to include in today’s Gospel readings in gospel of St Mark, chapter 9.

I am not example for sure, I am already buried in my daily burdens of this valley of tears, I do sins, I am too carnal too, and this words today speak for myself, that I have to make my first step to the foot of the altar and begging God to be merciful on me sinner, to give me renewed strength and brave heart to start overcoming the stumbling rocks that I need to jump.

We need to make effort for the sin, God have to see our initiative, we can’t overcome by ourselves , but our effort to sweat and give blood, and God will give us his grace when he sees our faithfulness.

So cut your hands , eyes, and feet that walks to sin , transforms same parts of your body for the Gods holy act of work for the salvation of the mankind,

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen

23.IX.21 Gevgelija

The Rev. Dcn. Igor Kalinski OPI