Wednesday, August 29, 2007

People with true faith persevere

This is a very good insight on the question of faith and works, regarding Mother Teresa's faith crisis, in our local paper.
peace, love and light in Him - Fr John Brian, Holy Transfiguration Mission, Madison, Wisconsin
People with true faith persevere

Wisconsin State Journal (MADISON) The big religion news over the weekend is the revelation that Mother Teresa, the "Saint of Calcutta," had an ongoing crisis of faith.

"I have no faith. I dare not utter the words and thoughts that crowd my heart and make me suffer in untold agony, " she wrote at one point.

Mother Teresa, who died in 1997, would have celebrated her 97th birthday Sunday had she lived. She spent most of her life in Calcutta, working with the poorest of the poor and tending to those dying on the streets. She is now under consideration for sainthood.

Since most of us look to her as the epitome of faith, a woman who gave up everything material to care for God 's poorest children, the apparent fact that she had grave doubts even to the existence of God is, initially, staggering. Why would anyone do that kind of work if she didn 't have faith?

It 's the wrong question.

Mother Teresa worked with the poor because she believed that 's what God had called her to do. The fact that she didn 't always believe in God and didn 't always believe that her life had a purpose was, in some ways, irrelevant.

True faith isn 't a happy assurance that everything is proceeding as it ought to proceed. If you really feel that God is at your side sustaining your every move, then it 's relatively easy to suffer hardship and pain.

True faith comes more from a place in the soul that keeps you doing what you must do, even as every fiber of your consciousness rebels.

It doesn 't take a Mother Teresa to exercise that faith. We see it displayed in parents of severely brain-damaged children. We see it in the witness of parents who remain in loveless marriages in order to raise their children. We see it in people who struggle with cancer or other dread diseases, enduring months of chemotherapy and drug trials that, in the long run, may prove futile.

Do we really think it is easy for these people? Do we think they never succumb to doubt and despair?


If Mother Teresa didn 't have a crisis of faith, she would have had to be blind or totally unfeeling. All around her, every day, she saw incredible suffering, pain and neglect. Often, the best she could do for the people she was sent to serve was to help them die in peace.

Do we really think she could end each day with a song in her heart?

She wasn 't blind.

One problem we have when we attribute super faith to those who do good works in spite of material obstacles is that we take ourselves off the hook. We assume it is easier for the Mother Teresas and the other "saints " of the world to face temptations, heartaches and betrayals than it is for us because they have such "faith. "

Probably not so. They contend with the same doubts, fears and despair that we do. The difference between them and us is that they keep on trucking.

The important thing about Mother Teresa and about all those like her who persevere in the face of doubt is that she did what she believed she was called to do, even without the reinforcement of the faith we all believed was her foundation.

"Give God permission to use you without consulting you, " was one of her favorite admonitions.

That 's actually what real faith is all about.

Living a Problem - August 2007

Living a Problem

Homiletic sermon delivered Sunday August 26, 2007 by Fr John Brian at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission in Madison, Wisconsin.

Scriptures for the 2nd Sunday after Assumption of St. Mary: Genesis 6:3-12; Ecclesiastes 7:1-7; Psalm 12:1-7; 2 Peter 3:8-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Luke 11:9-10

Thursday, August 23, 2007

perpetrators need victims? victims need perpetrators?

[written in response to a priest's commentary about the growing culture of victimhood and its impact on families, including divorce]
Dear Father,
While it seems obvious to me that victim/perpetrator models fall short of the glory of God, it is clear that evil is committed and needs to identified for safety.  One problem of the victim mentality that you have brought up is that perpetrators need victims; victims need perpetrators. Not to get too fundamental, but to have a victim mentality, one must have perpetrator(s) and visa versa.  Some have used that sympathetic stance for political and personal gain.  These, I think you would agree, need to be distinguished from those that have been injured and require our help.  Not an easy task at times.
The Gospel model (as I have witnessed in the Orthodox Church) is one where everyone is a victim of everyone's sin - so everyone is a perpetrator and everyone is a victim.  That is, we are in this together - whether we like it or not.  However, we can only tend to our own hearts to increase Godliness in this world. 
What do you call a victim that gets revenge on a perpetrator?  A perpetrator.  The prisons are full of them.  Alice Miller wrote about how a culture breeds violence by caning a child and, when they get old enough, give them the cane.  So it is with all harming behaviors and attitudes.
At the same time as we engage the gospel model, it seems like common sense that we need to be able to protect the innocent and those already injured from further harm.  Certainly, bringing to light the ugliness of the harm we are capable of inflicting upon each other may cause the moral to choose less violent ways, but it does not cure.  Only the love of God cures what ails our distorted mangled human existence.  For that, would anyone defer receiving God's love to insist that a perpetrator receive earthly justice? Yet none of us (I would hope) would hesitate in stopping a young child from running after a ball into a busy street.  So, it seems the emphasis should be on "making" less victims by looking out for each other, protecting those that are weaker, and giving less reason for perpetration of harm in the first place.  Idealistic, sure, but also possible.  The wise sage, Bill Cosby, once said, "Love is the only thing that, when divided, multiplies."
The dedication of the spiritually-minded among us to their nearly singular focus on God's mercy on THEM as sinners seems to move away from the victim mentality and toward doing what is true and good. Everyone deserves forgiveness and God's mercy. But we must individually request it - that is, we must become conscious of our need for it.  If any one of us does not deserve forgiveness and His mercy, then none of us can claim it and Christ died for nothing.  For who decides who can be excluded?
How do we know when a perpetrator is forgiven?  We can ONLY know if we have forgiven THEM.  As we pray, "Forgive us our debts AS WE HAVE forgiven our debtors."  It seems that we can recognize how much we have been forgiven by our own capacity to forgive.  Yet, I hardly see any substantive debate about who has forgiven more or who has forgiven the worse.  Didn't Christ emulate this for us on the cross?
If someone was a victim of an automobile driving through a stop sign, it would be foolish for anyone to believe that forgiveness would prevent such a horrible event from happening to anyone else.  Yet, with forgiveness, there can be a lighter more loving heart with the one who now looks both ways when crossing an intersection, even at a stop sign.  With repentance, there can be one less inattentive driver.  With education and learning from others mistakes, less pedestrian victims over all.
Father, your posts have certainly gotten me thinking about a complex issue in our society. Thank you.  I hope I have added to what may be an important discussion for all Orthodox Christians in modern society.
So, the martyrs were victims, right?  

Fr John Brian
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission Parish
Madison, Wisconsin ~ 608.236.9622


******* LIVING IN THE EIGHTH DAY By Fr. John-Brian Paprock look for it on *******


Monday, August 13, 2007

Living A Transfigured Life - August 2007

Living A Transfigured Life
Homiletic sermon delivered Sunday August 12, 2007 by Fr John Brian at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission in Madison, Wisconsin.

Scriptures for the Sunday after Transfiguration: Deuteronomy 25:13-16; End of Phillipians 4; Matthew Chapter 21:28-32

Monday, August 06, 2007

As Little Ones Enter - August 2007

Homiletic sermon delivered Sunday August 5, 2007 by Fr John Brian at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission in Madison, Wisconsin.

Scriptures for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost: End of Exodus Chapter 15;
End of the Book of Job; End of Romans Chapter 10; Beginning of Matthew Chapter18