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Σάββατο, 22 Σεπτεμβρίου 2012

REFORM YOUR LIFE



Vol. 10, Issue 07-08Orthodox Heritage

Come, Brethren, be reformed in your life! You dread lest an enemy should bring you before a court; and you have no fear that God will judge you? Where is your faith? Fear while you have time to fear. The Day of Judgment is indeed far off; but the last day of every individual man cannot be far away, for life is short. And since even this brief span is uncertain, you know not when your last day will be.

Because of tomorrow correct your life today. Let the reproof in secret profit you now. I speak openly, but I am rebuking you in secret. I knock at the ears of all; but I address myself to the conscience of some in particular. Were I to say, "You, adulterer, mend your ways," I would in the first place say what I did not know, or maybe only suspect from something chance heard. But I do not say, "You, adulterer, mend your ways;" what I do say is this: "Let each one of you in this congregation who is an adulterer mend his ways." The rebuke is public; the amendment is in secret. He who fears God will, I know, amend his life.

I have come to know, and with me so will any man who has reflected even a little, that there is no man who fears God who will not amend his life at His word, unless it is the man who thinks he has a longer time to live. It is this that brings spiritual death to so many, as they keep saying, "tomorrow, tomorrow;" and all of a sudden the door is closed. He remains without, with his raven's croak, because his voice was not the grieving voice of the dove. Tomorrow,  tomorrow... the  voice of the raven. Mourn like the dove, and beat your breast; but as you beat your breast, let what you beat amend itself, lest you seem not so much to be beating your conscience as ramming it hard with blows; making a bad conscience more unyielding instead of more obedient. Mourn, but not in fruitless grieving.

It may be that you say to yourself: "God has promised me forgiveness, whenever I reform; so I am safe. I read in the Holy Scripture: If the wicked do penance for his sins which he hath committed, and shall do justice, I will not remember all his iniquities. (Ezek. 18:21, 22). I am safe; tomorrow, when I amend my life, God will pardon me and all of my sins." And what am I to say? Am I to cry out against God? Am I to say to God: Do not give him pardon? Am I to say that this is not written in the Scripture, that God has not made this promise? If I were to say that, I would say what is false. You are right; what you say is true.
That God has promised you pardon when you amend your life, I cannot deny. I agree and I grant you and I know that God has promised you forgiveness. But who has promised you tomorrow? Where have you read that you will receive forgiveness (when you do penance), and also the book that tells you as to how much longer you have to live. It is not there, there is no such book, you say. Therefore you do not know how much longer you have to live. Then reform your life, and be always prepared.

Do not live in fear of the last day, as though it were a thief coming to wreck your house while you sleep; but keep watch, and amend your life this day. Why put it off for tomorrow? If your life is to be long, let it be happy as well as long. No one puts off a good long dinner; and by putting off your repentance and amendment, you choose in turn the bad meal, a long evil life! If it is to be long, it will be all the better for being good. If it is to be short, it is as well that its fruits should last. Men so neglect their own life that, in it, they will have nothing bad except the life itself. You buy a house; you look for a good one. You marry a spouse, you choose a good one. You desire children, and you hope they will be good. You buy shoes, and you will not have bad ones. But you love a bad life! What has life done to you that you will only have it bad? That among all the good things that are yours, your life alone is bad?

And so, brethren, should I wish to correct one among you in private, it may be in my prayer and desire that you will listen to me. In public I correct many among you. All of you seem to approve my words; would then some of you do as I say? I do not care for the man who approves of me with his voice, and scorns me in his heart. For when you approve of what I say, and yet do not amend your life, you are a witness against yourself. If your life is bad, and what I say pleases you, then be displeased with yourself; because if your life is bad, and you are displeased with it, once you amend it you will be pleased with yourself.

In all that I am saying to you now, I am placing a mirror before you. These are not my words. I speak to you only at the command of the Lord; for fear of whom I dare not be silent. Who would not rather be silent, and not have to render an account because of you? But we have already assumed a burden which we cannot, and ought not, throw off our shoulders. When the Epistle to the Hebrews was being read, my brethren, you heard these words: Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief, for that is unprofitable for you (Heb 13:17).

When do we do this with joy? When we see men draw fruit from God's words. When does the laborer work with joy in his field? When he looks at the tree, and sees the fruit; when he looks at his crop, and looks forward to an abundant yield on the threshing floor; when he has not labored in vain, nor bent his back in vain, nor worn his hands in fruitless toil, nor borne in vain both heat and cold.

It is for this he says, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you. Did he say, Not profitable for them? No; he said, unprofitable for you. For when those placed over you are saddened by your wickedness it is profitable to them; their sadness is profitable to them; but it is not profitable for you. It is our desire that nothing shall profit us that does not profit you. Let us then, brethren, labor together in doing good in God's field, that together we may enjoy His reward.

Turning then to the Lord our God, the Father Almighty, let us, as best we can, give thanks with all our hearts, beseeching Him that in His goodness He will in mer¬cy hear our prayers. And, by His grace, drive evil from our thoughts and actions, increase our faith, guide our thoughts, actions, guide our minds, grant us His holy inspirations, and bring us to joy without end, through His Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Master of all visible and invisible creation was not ashamed to humble Himself and to take upon Himself our human nature, subject as it was to the passions of shame and desire and condemned by divine judgment; and He became like us in all things except that He was without sin, that is, without ignoble passions. All the penalties imposed by divine judgment upon man for the sin of the first transgression—death, toil, hunger, thirst and the like—He took upon Himself, becoming what we are, so we might become what He is...

Being rich, He became poor for our sake, so that through His poverty we might become rich. In His great love for man He became like us, so that through every virtue we might become like Him.

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