My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
Christ is in our midst! he was, is, and ever shall be.
SEEK GOD’S KINGDOM FIRST…
The quest of the Christian believer is the attainment of the Eternal Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is compared by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to things that we can easily understand. He compares the Kingdom of God to an earthly "treasure." "Again," He says, "the Kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found, and hid; and for joy, over it, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." Again, He compares the Kingdom of heaven to "merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it." Another example of the kingdom of heaven is "a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away" (Matthew 13:44-48). Jesus explains: "So it will be at the end of the age. The Angels will come forth separate the wicked from among the just and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Jesus said to them. Have you understood all these things? They said to Him, Yes, Lord" (Matthew 13:49-51).
It is clear then for all who profess faith in Jesus Christ that they remain steadfast to their spiritual goal of seeking the Kingdom of God first. It is foolish to invest completely one’s life in trivial and temporal things and to neglect the attainment of His Kingdom. We witness daily the desire of men for material wealth. The challenge for the Christian is to persevere to gain the "pearl of great price."
Christ’s revelation of the importance of attaining His Kingdom by all those who believe in Him is very clear, but so is the warning of His Final Judgment. As is most plain to understand He compares the Kingdom to a fishing net, "a dragnet", which gathers the good and the evil; an image to that of the parable of the tares. The point is that the Final Judgment will finally disclose and separate the evil from the righteous souls.
We are not to be distracted by worldly enticements, but rather to keep our sights on Christ Jesus and His eternal Kingdom. We are not to fear the death of our bodies, but rather the spiritual death or the death of the soul. Biological death is merely the bridge that one crosses to the other life and therefore it is not be feared.
Our earthly life as we know it is one of all kinds of daily challenges, of sufferings, of tribulations, of afflictions, of disappointments, of temporary success, as well as opportunities to gain spiritual growth and maturity. This is a time to gain, by the grace of God, a greater understanding of Who our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is, what our purpose on Earth is, and how to spiritually prepare for a life in His heavenly Kingdom.
We are "surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses" (Hebrews 12:1). We truly believe that under the New Covenant (Testament), we can ascend to this heavenly place in worship and prayer. Orthodox Christians experience the heavenly dimension fundamentally in the Divine Liturgy. We ascend to that place where we are surrounded by a "great communion of witnesses". We also understand that this is not a physical place but a spiritual place,"The heavenly Jerusalem", to an innumerable company of Angels." "We are encouraged to approach and touch the "heavenly" mountain, for we already participate in the Kingdom and dwell there." This Kingdom is NOT earthly but heavenly, inhabited by "Angels" as well as men. Not everyone will inherit the Kingdom but the righteous of God. Upon receiving the Precious Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we receive "forgiveness of sins and life eternal." We are actually, and in truth, participants of the new life in Christ, the life of the Kingdom. We become, through the Divine Eucharist, members of the heavenly Church, the Church Triumphant.
We are never alone and without protection, assistance, inspiration, guidance, and the tender compassion of our All-Merciful God and His heavenly host, His holy Angels. Our Holy Orthodox Church teaches and believes that every person has his own Guardian Angel, unless he has driven him away by an evil life. According to the Holy Fathers of the Church, "some of them stand before the Great God, while others by their actions support the whole world" (St. Gregory the Theologian). It is true that without the aid and protection of the Holy Angels we could not endure the fury and contempt of the evil one.
It is prideful to say or to believe that everything that we are able to accomplish while on earth is only our own accomplishment. We are reminded by our Lord Who reminds us that "you cannot do anything without Me." Pride is the mother of all sin and evil. We are to learn from the example, par excellence, of the Head and Founder of the Church, Jesus Christ, of HUMILITY. Humility is the source of all good and holiness.
No one should take salvation, the Kingdom of God, for granted. None can enter the Kingdom of God without living a life of virtue and holiness, without sacrifice, and without "denying one’s self and taking up his cross to follow Him." No one can enter without a "wedding garment". In the Church, the "wedding garment IS TRUE REPENTANCE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS-THE WAY OF SALVATION-GAINED ONLY BY THE GRACE OF GOD.
"If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from ALL SIN. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word IS NOT IN US" (1 John 1:6-9).
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostom
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry)
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George