View from our Divine Liturgy today at St. John the Theologian Orthodox Mission. The Gospel reading today included the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Father Matthew preached a very strong sermon about the risks a Samaritan of the first-century Holy Land would have taken to have done what Jesus recounts in the parable. And the Samaritan did it for a stranger. Father Matthew laid it hard on our hearts to consider how little we are like the Samaritan, and how much we must repent of our hard-heartedness. He said in particular that reading all the books in the world about the faith won’t make a difference; what is required is to act, to show mercy. The pious Jews who wouldn’t help the wounded traveler certainly knew more about the Law than did the Samaritan — but the Samaritan showed mercy, which is what counts in the eyes of God.
In a typical Father Matthew rhetorical flourish, he ended with, “You don’t need your priest to tell you what to do. Your priest doesn’t need his priest to tell him what to do. We just need to do it.” I love that aspect of Father Matthew’s preaching, how he seems to have anticipated all the evasions we will employ to talk ourselves out of doing the right thing when it’s hard. He has my number, that’s for sure. I’ll be thinking about and praying all week about the challenge he laid on my hard heart.
I found out after the liturgy from our parish’s treasurer that you Good Samaritans who read this blog have donated over $1,100 to our mission since I posted on Thanksgiving my meditation about how we may lose the mission, and how grateful I am for what God has done for me through it. Plus, a family that wishes to remain anonymous — only the treasurer knows who they are — has pledged to give $500 monthly, to make up for what we had to cut from Father Matthew’s salary, owing to our poverty.
I certainly did not post that on Thanksgiving expecting anyone to give a penny; I wanted simply to share my thoughts about loss on this, the first Thanksgiving without my dad, who died this summer, and how I was now facing in this next year the loss of my church, and the spiritual fatherhood of my pastor, who helped me so much, as my own father did. My hope, if I had one, was to inspire readers to be grateful for the good things they have, because all things mortal pass. Prior to this morning’s services, I knew people had donated to us after reading the post, and I prayed for all you generous people during the liturgy today. But I did not know you had been so very kind. It’s humbling for a grumpy misanthrope like me to realize how many good people there are in this world, and to be moved to repent of my gloom. Thank you all so much. St. John Mission is wounded and lying in the ditch, and the mercy you have shown and are showing to us will help us to heal, and, we hope, get back on our feet.
To thank you for your generosity to my parish, I’m going to find a way to make a donation or to do something merciful for the refugees from Syria. I’m not going to say what it is; I’m just going to do it. I want you to know, though, that your mercy has inspired me to pass it on.