In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. My beloved, today is the feast day of Saint Poimen the Great from Egypt. St Poimen the Great was born around 340 AD in Egypt.

Together with his brothers, they received monastic tonsure. To many monks, St Poimen was a spiritual guide and teacher, and wrote down many of the answers for the sake of others. His name means “shepherd” in Greek.

The saint was known for his wisdom and discipline, and he once said, “It is useful to observe 3 things: to fear God, to pray often, and to do good for one’s neighbor. Wickedness never eradicates wickedness. If people do evil to you, do good to them, and your goodness will conquer their wickedness”.

St Poimen died at the ripe age of 110, around 450 AD. Soon after his death, he was acknowledged as a Saint pleasing to God. He was called “the Great” as a sign of his great humility, uprightness, ascetic struggles, and self-denying service to God. Saint Poimen the Great, pray for us.

Yesterday was a great feast day, one of 12 in our Liturgical year, that of the Nativity of our beloved Theotokos, by her parents Saints Joachim and Anna. Let us remember them, and the courageous and steadfast faith our Theotokos showed for God and our Christ. Beloved Theotokos, our mother, pray for us.

As we reflect on the transient life behind us and before us, let us consider that God is without bias, without prejudice. When we read in Jonah 4: verses 1 to 11, we find that God said to Jonah that even as a mere mortal can feel compassion for others, God’s compassion and mercy is infinite, and extends to everything He lovingly created. Therefore, God’s love, mercy and grace is given freely to any mortal person, animal, plant, landscape, elements, sun, planets, the universe known and unknown.

Do not be deceived to think that God only loves the Christians, and do not love others, whom He also lovingly created. To be a Christian is a grace and mercy given by God, so that we can rise up towards Him in discernment, prayer, and joyful tears, just as we read from Psalm 62. It is not a weapon for us to think lowly of others. Rather, we are called to love one another, and to love all God’s creation, for God, truly, is found in ALL things.

In Psalm 62, let us reflect inwardly and consider our lives and circumstances, as David’s desert. Do we spend time in such a barren and painful desert, or do we spend time finding, praying, and growing closer to God? Just as the blessed St Poimen left the comforts of home to grow towards God, are we praying and growing closer to God rather than dwell on the material comforts?

Mark 7: 24 to 30 might look paradoxical to some and imagine our Christ as unfeeling towards the gentiles. The gentile woman approached Christ to exorcise the demons out of her child. Contrary to what Christ would normally do throughout Scripture, instead, He said, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”

However, the passage is important in understanding the nature of God’s love and mercy towards us. Does God ALWAYS give us what we want? Or does He help us by refining us and therefore getting to be better, more spiritual persons? In the story, the woman showed her love for her demon-possessed child, and showed her faith in Christ no matter what. By understanding that everything in life has a Divine reason to allow us to make discerned choices to grow closer to God, and not further from Him, we can recognize the depth of God’s love and mercy by looking way, way deeper than the surface of things.

Think of Mark 7 as an exchange between a martial arts master and his student. The master cannot help the student to grow by simply giving easy lessons and lax endurance training. The martial arts master will skillfully and creatively engage the student in actual fights so that the student will learn real-world skills, not just demonstration art that can’t be applied.

So in the context of mastering martial arts, it is important to know that you have to endure trials, which are not meant to break you, but rather, opportunities for you to be strengthened. Let us be reminded of James 5:11, that one is blessed if he can endure, much as Job endured tremendous trials, and remained steadfast in his love for God. Let us, as Psalm 62 tells us, to pray often. Let us constantly pray the prayer of the heart, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

And with joyful remembrance of the Nativity of our beloved Theotokos yesterday, let us pray 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.

Blessings
Fr Raphael+

Readings today:
Jonah 4:1-11
Psalm 62 (LXX)
St Mark 7:24-30
St James 5:11