Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why Is It So Hard For Me To Grow Spiritually?

Have you every wondered why you struggle to keep your faith strong, even while you never really struggle to find something to eat? Perhaps the reason has to do with the fact that gifts and abilities in the Body of Christ are not equally distributed. They are not equally distributed so that Christians may grow in Christlikeness by sharing. The Bible and the Fathers of the Church tell us that some of the spiritual gifts that the wealthy are lacking exist in abundance among the poor. And it is through the sharing of material gifts and the thanksgiving prayers of the recipients that spiritual gifts are shared throughout the Body of Christ.  

Below is a letter I wrote this morning to the Faithful of Holy Nativity Church and to a few of my friends (I hope they are still my friends) about the need of some brothers and sisters struggling (and succeeding to an amazing degree) to save the lives of orphaned boys near Tijuana. Please read it and consider what is lacking in your life spiritually. Perhaps the answer to your spiritual need is in the thanksgiving prayers of these poor saints who are rich in faith.

Dear Holy Nativity Faithful and Friends,

I am writing you on behalf of Project Mexico and my friends Geoff and Deanne Bray, the directors. "The poor you will always have with you," Jesus said. And truly it seems that there is always an urgent need. However, I would like you to read the note printed at the bottom of this post that I received from my daughter Sarah's mother-in-law, Lois Machnee.   

St. Paul in the second letter to the Corinthians, uses the example of the generosity of the Macedonian Christians, in spite of their "deep poverty," to encourage the Corinthian Christians to be generous. His goal, he says, is not that one group should be burdened while another abounds. Rather, he says, it is that there may be equality--and then he quotes the Old Testament: "He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack." Then at the end of chapter 9, St. Paul mentions that the gift of the Corinthians will result in thanksgiving to God not only by supplying for the "needs of the saints," but also (in verse 14) in their (the needy saints') prayer for them. St. James tells us that God has chosen the poor to be rich in faith.  By sharing in the poverty of the poor—even in some small way—we gain their prayers which are powerful because of the rich faith God has given them. And so in the spirit of St. Paul, I share with you the poverty of our friends at Project Mexico in the hope that it will spur you "to love and good works."  

As many of you know, I was raised in orphanages and foster homes. Were it not for the deep generosity of people who opened first their hearts and then their homes and pocketbooks, I would not be who I am today. There are thirty or forty boys near Tijuana whose lives are in the balance and a handful of staff who are skipping pay cheques and going without cooking fuel to try to save them. Are you going without anything for Christ's sake? Maybe a small sacrifice on your part will make a huge difference in the life of a poor boy (and the poor staff trying to help him). And maybe their prayer of thanksgiving on your behalf will result in the spiritual gift—faith, love, patience—that you have been longing for. After all, we are a body, and each part is supposed to supply what the other is lacking. 
Forgive me,
Fr. Michael

August 30/12

Hello everyone:

All of you are familiar with Project Mexico and the work they do to serve the poor in Mexico. Our son Tony, has spent several summers there working with the Housebuilding project. As well, most of you know Geoff Bray, who is the Director and carries a very heavy load in trying to make that place fly. I received an e-mail from him yesterday, requesting help. A year ago, they were in a similar state of desperation and I told him then, that if ever they were desperate he should contact me and I would do what I could, both personally, as well as publicly, to bring some much needed assistance. So... some of you are clergy, some are not, but I would like to suggest that you make a presentation of this need in your parish and possibly do a fund raiser or a general offering, or even take some money from your parish budget, and send them some financial assistance. I know that they would be SO grateful for anything they receive, and God will pour our His blessings on you that give. I know that Tony said many of the staff have not been paid in months and I also know that Geoff and his family often go without a paycheque. Last year they were so broke they couldn't even fill the propane tanks so that all the houses could function with stove, dryer, etc.  So the need is great! It saddens me that we, as corporate Orthodoxy cannot make that place fly a little easier without a constant struggle and much stress for Geoff.

May God guide and bless all of you as you consider this urgent need.

With love in Christ,

Lois Machnee 

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