In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, let us remember the Holy Apostles Saints Peter and Paul, who were rocks of faith in our Lord and Christ. Apostles Peter and Paul, pray for us.

The two great Holy Apostles showed us the stoic and firm faith they championed, even as the great weight of the journey was upon them.

As we reflect on St John 21:18-19, we see that our Lord Jesus Christ told Apostle Peter that when he would become old, he would glorify God through his martyrdom, and yet, right after saying the inevitable end that would befall the Apostle, Christ our Lord urged St Peter, “Follow me”.

Apostle Paul, who was not one of the twelve, previously known as Saul of Tarsus, was a son of the Jewish tribe of Benjamin, and persecuted Christians. Yet, Christ revealed Himself to Saul (Acts 9:1-22) and eventually, he was baptized by Apostle Ananias. Thereafter, Apostle Paul was a steadfast missionary, the apostle to the Gentiles, eventually martyred, and his Epistles became canonized within Holy Scripture for us today. Apostle Paul who easily have not walked the road of following Christ, but he did, and spent his entire renewed life bearing the burdens of his evangelism to the world.

As we journey through life, there will be many times when we experience spiritual drought in an unbearable desert of life. There will be moments, or even extended periods of time, when we have to bear with streaming tears, what seem like insurmountable burdens in life, and cries to God that seem to vaporize into thin air with no answers. A blissful life spent in fasting, liturgies, penance and prayer, seem to mean nothing at those moments of great drought.

Is God with us when we experience such drought, in what seems like an infinite landscape of the desert with no end in sight? Yes!

He is ever present with us, even when we perceive Him not to be anywhere near us. God is with us before we were born, throughout our journeys, whether we choose to walk towards Him or not, and with us till the end.

We are not creatures of suffering or pain. We prefer comfort and an easy journey in life. This is understandable. And the evil one knows our hearts and desires, and every turn of the corner we encounter a temptation, the evil one will try his best to pull or push us away from our journeys to God. The evil one presents often very pleasant packaging of what hides mere poison that would kill our frail faith. Beloved, make no mistake. Our faith is often frail. Do not fall into the delusion of thinking our faith is strong, except through the mercy of God. The great holy saints and apostles would also attest that their faith is a mercy from God. So, guard our hearts through humbled prayer always, remembering that the evil one tries to delude us in every turn of the corner.

Conversely, in our spiritual drought, God is right there with us, His light ever illuminating our darkness, and in fact, because of our own delusions and darkness, we fail to comprehend God’s presence right beside us. If we can quiet ourselves with the prayer of the heart, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”, we may begin to comprehend God with us especially during such great drought in what we think is an insufferable and insurmountable desert (Psalm 46:10, LXX 45:11). After all, God has a straightforward manner – He does not toy with us nor does He play hide-and-seek with us. Often, our own spiritual blindness prevent us from seeing Him right in front of us, and with us.

Therefore, when confronted with moments or extended periods of spiritual drought and sadness, do not despair. Discard and ignore the noises and distractions of the evil one, who will relentlessly bombard us with lures and false words, to demoralize us. Ignore all those noises. God is right next to you, and giving many paths for you at every turn of the corner in the vast desert you perceive, to go ever closer to Him. All you need to do is pray with repentance, as we reflect upon Proverbs 5:21-23, and God will present spiritual refinement to strengthen us.

When trekking through the drought and desert in life, always return to calling His Holy Name, which has great mercy, strength, consolation, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.

Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:

It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr Raphael+

Readings
Isaiah 66:1-2
Proverbs 5:21-23
St Matthew 16:13-19
2 Corinthians 11:21-12:9