KNOW YOUR FAITH: What do we believe about that?


Sunday, February 18, 2018

This was a tough week. The kind of week that makes you want to hug your children,  grandchildren and loved ones a little longer than usual.

Why did it happen? Why that school in Parkland Florida? Where was God and why didn’t he stop it?

God gets blamed a lot – earthquakes, hurricanes and acts of evil carried out by misguided, sick or evil people.

We need to remind ourselves God doesn’t cause bad things to happen. Our pain and affliction are not a punishment from God.

God came in the person of Jesus bringing a message of love. We don’t read anywhere in the Bible that Jesus took vengeance or hurt anyone -- even those who sought to kill him.

In the Gospel of John when Jesus heals the blind man, His disciples ask him who sinned that this man was born blind. Jesus responds that “neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the glory of God might be made manifest in him.”

Wednesday morning, and every day since, we have seen the glory of God manifest in the ashes of this disaster.  We have seen God at work in ordinary people who have done extraordinary things.

We saw the glory of God in Aaron Feis, the 37-year old football coach and school security that ran toward the shooter and used his own body to shield students from the bullets and died from his injuries.

We saw Geography teacher Scott Beigel, 35 years old, open his classroom door to bring children inside to safety, saving their lives, but was shot as he tried to relock the door again as the shooter walked by.

There was a female janitor that stopped kids that were mistakenly running toward the shooter in the panic of the fire alarm the shooter had set off. She told the kids to run the other way and herded them into a classroom for safety, saving the lives of as many as 40 students.

There are more stories of teachers and staff that put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of the students. These are the “Acts of God” that we need to consider.

And that night as 17 families gathered in order to meet one-by-one with the FBI team to learn the fate of their children, there were Red Cross psychologists, priests, rabbis and other clergy there to comfort and pray with the families as one-by-one they went in to learn the fate of their child or loved one.

Red Cross volunteer, Ana Leondis a psychologist, and her husband, Fr Mark Leondis, from Saint Mark Greek Orthodox Church in Boca Raton were there until the last family came out at 3:00 in the morning.

This is where God was on Wednesday. He is present and works through people that do His will.

OUR CHURCH teaches that God gives us free will.  Free will to love Him and to follow in His ways and also free will to rebel against Him and to do evil in the world.  He could force us to love Him and follow his ways, but what kind of love and obedience would that be?

God is All Powerful.  But in a way he has placed this limit on Himself by giving all people free will.  As a result, there will always be a struggle in this world between good and evil.  And this is another reason that we need God in our lives.

And we are angry. Anger has a definite place in a Christian’s life.  In fact a lack of anger could be an indication of spiritual weakness.

Aristotle said that “Anybody can become angry – that’s easy.  But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time and in the right way – that is not easy.”

Anger is sinful when we are angry for the wrong reason, at the wrong person, at the wrong time, and in the wrong way.  When we become angry because of wounded pride or bad temper, or because of personal insult or envy -- that anger becomes sinful.  We’re supposed to put away from us the kind of anger that stays with us and becomes a habit – the kind of anger that can’t forget a hurt or an injury; the kind of anger that we nurse to keep it warm; the kind of anger that seeks revenge.  This anger is sinful.

Misdirected anger would be anger at certain ethnic or religious groups or people of a different political party.

Abraham Lincoln became angry when he saw slaves being bought & sold like cattle.  When he became President he did something about it.

Martin Luther King saw the injustice of discrimination and became angry. And through nonviolent, passive resistance, things began to change.

We can become angry when we see how easy it was for a mentally disturbed 19-year-old young man to walk into a gun shop and legally buy a semi-automatic rifle.

So anger can be good or bad depending on what we do with it.

Tomorrow is the first day of Great Lent, the period of preparation leading us to the Passion and Resurrection of or Lord.  As we face this tragedy, the church raises up the cross before us.

What was once a symbol of horrible death has become, through the death and resurrection of Christ, a symbol of the love of God, the joy of Paradise, hope that is greater than the darkest despair, and a symbol of power.

Often in the world, it seems that evil conquers good; sin is greater than virtue.  Yet the cross reminds us that sin will not have the last word.  Evil will not last forever.  As Orthodox Christians, we can’t think of the cross without thinking of the resurrection.  Evil and suffering appear to win at first, but then comes the resurrection.

The lesson of this event and others like it, is not only about the mystery of evil, but it is a lesson about our need for each other.

We realize that the Parkland tragedy will not be the last school shooting. But we can all work together with whatever training, position and influence we hold, to do what we can to ensure the safety of all from this kind of senseless violence.

I can’t tell you what that would be. Only you know what you are able to do. But we are called to channel our anger and sadness in Christian love to find the seeds of hope in this tragedy.  

If any good can come out of this, maybe it will be a new beginning of the way in which we live our lives.  We have been reminded that life is short.  We need re-commit our lives to God as they were on the day of our baptism.  We need to be ministers in all that we do, and treat one another love and kindness.

On this, the Sunday of Forgiveness, as we begin our journey of Great Lent toward the Resurrection of our Lord, we can all do something in our daily lives to replace hate and intolerance with love for others – especially those that see the world differently from us.

God bless us all.

Fr Jim Kordaris