fr john abdalah
by Fr. John Abdalah
from The Word, April 1999
There is an anecdote of a priest who begins a new assignment at Pascha. He delivers a brilliant sermon, and receives many compliments. On Thomas Sunday, the priest offers the same homily, and again receives several compliments. On Myrrh-bearing Women Sunday, he repeats the same Pascha homily, but receives fewer compliments. The third week after Pascha, when the priest delivers his Paschal message for the fourth consecutive week, he is met by a delegation of Parish Council members at the coffee hour. “Why have you offered the same message four times?” they demand. The priest replies, “Because you have not changed yet.” Well, if any message would change a person or a congregation, it is indeed the Paschal message, Christ is Risen! But what kind of change can we reasonably expect, and what would that change look like?
The change that we seek is a change of attitude, an attitude that reflects an understanding of the world from God’s perspective. God’s perspective is that He loves us, He is faithful to us, He has taken on flesh and opens to us His life. Through His incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection, He loves us and saves us. With this clearly understood, we can look into His empty tomb as well as into our own graves with new understanding. Our purpose is not to come to the end of our lives with a massive count of possessions and accumulated wealth that we leave behind. We are created to love God and to be loved by Him, to enjoy the treasures that He has prepared for us.
by V. Rev. Fr. John Abdalah
from The Word, April 2000
A Christian is one who is defined by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, even in a day and age when some who call themselves by God’s own name deny the reality of the very act that defines them. You see, our God is one who acts in history and, in history, rose from the dead as was foretold. Risen from the dead, He is alive, and working in each of us. We are in Him and He is in us. His life in us could not end on Calvary; Life could not die. He can only be with us if He is risen from the dead, and He is.
We can speak of this with such confidence because He has revealed this to us. First, to those of us who heard His voice through prophecy even centuries before the incarnation, then to those among us who witnessed His earthly life and His empty tomb, then by those who stood with us as martyrs and confessors, suffering greatly to witness to the truth, and finally to those of us who, through prayer and love, have had these truths revealed to us in this modern age. All of this can only be so if He became man, died and rose from the dead. Only in rising from the dead can He lift us up into His resurrection, and save us.
by Fr. John Abdalah
from The Word, June 1990
If we consult a Bible concordance for the words “belief” and “faith”, we find many pages of Biblical references. So very much has been said in the Scriptures and by the Fathers, yet these words are still misused and misunderstood. In the Western Churches, debates on “faith alone”, or “faith and works”, have caused division and strife. Today, in our consumer-oriented society, as we look at the Scriptures, we tend to want to know what is promised, what we deserve, and what we can get from our faith and belief. Certainly, “all things are possible to him who believes”; but only from searching the whole of the Scriptures and the mind of the Church, can we come to understand what is revealed to us by God. Our understanding of faith cannot be limited to a belief in the existence of God. Satan knows that God is God, the demons recognized and knew Jesus Christ, and many devil-worshippers recognize, yet wish to deny, what God reveals to us.
One aspect of faith is trust: to trust that God will take care of all that we can not; to trust that God in His Wisdom will bring us all to salvation. Nevertheless, knowing about God and trusting in His might is still not enough. We are called to believe and to trust, and this belief leads us to experience God in the Church that He established, guides, and lives within. Our God “rests in His Saints”, and abides in His Church.
by Fr. John Abdalah
The importance of giving pastoral care to college-age people is certainly no secret to those who are doing it – and even more so in our time, when we have moved into what is called the “postmodern era.” Developmentally, the college years are a crucial and eventful time of moral, spiritual, physical and intellectual growth. I would suggest that the changes that occur in the four college years are so dramatic that, frequently, the college freshman is hardly recognizable as the same person when he or she graduates. College is also, in my opinion, the first time that individuals have the developmental skills and life experience really to understand the Christian message and dedicate themselves to Christ. Regardless of the effectiveness of our catechetical programs during childhood, those who are even younger are simply not prepared to understand abstract concepts like Trinity or Incarnation, and the implied relationships. Providing college-age Orthodox Christians an opportunity to discover, strengthen and (or) commit to Orthodox Christianity should certainly be a priority of the Church. Many Orthodox don’t return to the church after these years away at school. While the various statistics may be conflicting and controversial, all will agree that the loss to the Church of many young people, and the loss to the students of the Church, are of significant concern for the Church.