Memo to OCA Bishops regarding the SIC

  A word to the bishops of the OCA –  when the Special Investigative Committee report comes your way, no matter what it concludes, think about these words which were written about doctors and malpractice lawsuits:

“Admitting errors is only the first step toward reforming the health care system so that far fewer mistakes are made. But reforms can be more effective if doctors are candid about how they went astray. Patients seem far less angry when they receive an honest explanation, an apology and prompt, fair compensation for the harm they have suffered.” (NY Times editorial, 22 May 2008, “Doctors Who Say They’re Sorry“).


Samaritan Woman 2008

Preliminary thoughts on John 4:5-42            The Samaritan Woman

It was about the sixth hour. [7] There came a woman of Samaria to draw water.

This is about Noon, the hottest part of the day.  It would be unusual for someone to be coming for water at this the hottest part of the day.  Something unusual or special drew her to the well.  She comes for the purpose of drawing water but note in verse 28 she leaves her water jar behind and returns to the city.   If the point of her trip to the well was to draw water, she totally forgets the purpose of having gone to the well in the first place.  She has found something even more important than the water without which life cannot survive.  In her conversation with Christ, she has found something more important and more necessary than water.

Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”

Many Jews probably would rather have died of thirst than ask a Samaritan and a foreign woman (!) for a drink.   Some would have thought it a defilement to accept a drink from such a woman.  The woman is quite familiar with this attitude:  . [9] The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.   For His part, Jesus tells her bluntly to quit thinking so literally and mundanely:  [10] Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” [11] The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? lite

Once again we encounter in this lesson from John’s Gospel how a literal interpretation of His words will not help the interlocutor understand Christ.  In John 3, Nicodemus’ literalism prevented him from understanding Christ’s words about being born again. In John 5 the strict literalism of the people prevented them from seeing the healing of the paralytic as an act of God and instead left them seeing only a violation of the Sabbath law.  In John 6 Christ’s words about eating his flesh and drinking his blood sound to the literal minded Jews like cannibalism.  So here in chapter 4 Jesus speaks in spiritual terms when He talks about “living water” – He is speaking about the Holy Spirit not about spring water.   The Samaritan woman does seem to see beyond the limited literalist understanding.  [13] Jesus said to her, “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, [14] but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” [15] The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

Christ is obviously speaking of something more or different than drinking water here.  He is equating the Holy Spirit with water and leading the woman to think beyond the literal and the merely physical.

 [20] Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” [21] Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. [22] You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. …  But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. [24] God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

The worship of God is not located in a geographic place, but in the place where the Spirit and truth are – in the heart and anywhere on earth with spirit and truth are present.

 [28] So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people,

She really has abandoned her literalist thinking and her water jar too!   She has found something which satisfies her thirst but it is not in the well and fulfills what she came to the well seeking.

[29] “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” [30] They went out of the city and were coming to him.

Gossip in villages is a major pursuit.  There probably was a lot of speculation about this woman who had had 5 husbands.   To hear “all that she ever did” would have been irresistible to every wag in the village.  This is going to be the Samaritan version of Jerry Springer.  No wonder they all rush out to see this man.

Note the woman – she is neither shamed nor afraid that Christ knows all about her life and her sins.   He does not drive her away because of her sinfulness.   Nor does He shame her, but rather as in confession her admission of her misdeeds brings her to faith in the merciful God.

 [34] Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.

Jesus is nourished by bringing back the lost sheep into God’s fold.  This is the very job He came to do in the world.

[35]  I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. … [38] I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

The disciples as Jews would hardly have thought of the Samaritans as a field which God had planted, nor would they have thought that God could harvest the fruit of His labors from the Samaritans.   Christ is asking them to see something which they are not prepared to see.

 [40] So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. [41] And many more believed because of his word. [42] They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Another stunning claim –  it is the Samaritans who first recognize Jesus as the Savior, not the Jews.  Salvation may be from the Jews (vs. 22), but it is not the Jews who first recognize salvation, nor that it is the salvation of the world.  The Samaritans – Jewish outsiders – understand that truth first and realize what the coming of the Messiah means for the world.

Live so the poor will be sorrowful at your death

“Now there was at Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, whose name is translated as Dorcas … She was full of good works and acts of charity.   In those days she fell sick and died …   All the widows stood beside him weeping, and showing tunics and other garments which Dorcas made while she was with them”   (Acts 9:36-39).

Imagine if we lived such a life so that when we died, the poor and the needy would gather together and show all the good things we had done for them, and would be able to show how much we had given them.    Imagine that our legacy at our death could be pointed out by the poor and the needy.  And at our death, they would weep because of their loss.

Are we so generous in our own lives that others will notice when we are gone?  Will the poor and needy suffer loss when we die?  Will Christ Himself be among the poor weeping at our death –  “as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me”? 

Or instead of Christ weeping for us, will we hear him say to us:  “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;  for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’  (Matthew 25:41-43)

Will we be the only ones weeping at our death?

“The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.  

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

He who has ears, let him hear” (Matthew 13:41-43).


Must Have Been an Angel

I think most of you are familiar with the miracle in which the Apostle Peter is suddenly freed from prison as recorded in Acts 12:6-11.   To refresh your memory, here is the story:

The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison.  Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his wrists.  The angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”  Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision.  After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him.  Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

I have a sort of reverse of that story to tell you about.   A couple of weeks ago I went to the Lebanon Correctional Institution where I did the Divine Liturgy and Chrismated Daryl C., an inmate who had asked to be received into the Orthodox Faith and who I have visited for a couple of years.   Daryl and I were the only ones present at the Liturgy, but it was truly a beautiful and Spirit-filled event.

Getting into the prison was not easy, and there were several weeks of administrative delays, and hoops to jump, and approvals to get.  I had to reschedule the Liturgy once as things had not fallen into place.  But then at last it all seemed worked out and I got a call that all was approved.   I must admit I was surprised myself as to how smoothly everything happened at the prison that morning.  Usually when I visit an inmate the guards search everything and I am not permitted to carry anything in.  But that morning the duty chaplain who met me at the front gate escorted me into the prison and the guards let me through, indicating all was approved.

About two weeks after Chrismating Daryl and celebrating the Liturgy with him in the prison,  I got a call from the Head Chaplain at the prison, who expressed some embarrassment and dumbfoundment.  He told me he had no idea how I had gotten into the prison, as it wasn’t allowed.  He told me it was not allowed to bring in wine for communion, or for me to get into the main prison itself to do a service for a prisoner.  He said I should never have been allowed to bring in and out of the prison a whole suitcase of vestments and liturgical items.  He wondered if the guards had not questioned or tried to stop me, but I assured him everyone accepted the event and seemed to think it was approved.  He couldn’t believe it happened as he said no one is supposed to be able to get into the prison like that.  He said everyone must have been asleep.

As it turns out the duty chaplain who let me in is no longer working there.   And Daryl C. has been moved to a new prison as well.  The head chaplain told me it should never have happened and he couldn’t explain how I had been able to get through administration, walk through prison gates and past guards and done the Liturgy in the middle of the prison, and then departed without someone questioning what was going on.

The Acts of the Apostles tells us who helped Peter get out of the prison he was in.  My story raises the question, how did I get in to the prison?

Must have been an angel.

“The Naked Truth” – in Allegory and Song

 I heard a song on the radio a couple of Saturdays ago called “The Naked Truth” by Joel Mabus.  It had a good moral to it with a catchy tune. The song describes Truth & Falsehood as two women friends, Truth always wore white and Falsehood always wore a sexy, tantalizing red outfit.  Anyway in the song Falsehood true to her nature wants to pull off a deception and when opportunity arises, Falsehood puts on Truth’s white dress and  “laughed to herself, she said, ‘Wait ’til people see – They’ll think it’s Truth comin’, and it’s gonna be me!'”   You see Falsehood always wants to dress itself up as Truth, but Truth never wants to be seen as Falsehood.   When Truth sees Falsehood in her white dress she becomes angry, and I’ll let the song finish its message:

Falsehood said, “You don’t get the joke, here’s the set-up
I wear your clothes, you get into my get-up.”
Truth said, “Uh-Uh, girl, that won’t do.
I’d rather go naked than be mistaken for you!”
And that’s the naked truth,
That’s the naked truth,
That’s the naked truth,
You know I wouldn’t lie to you.

And that’s the way it is to this very day –
Something looks a little too good, you better just walk away,
‘Cause a pretty little dress can cover up a lie,
But Truth goes naked – she’s got nothin’ to hide.

 That’s the naked truth – warts and all –
That’s the naked truth – a little lumpy these days , but
She’s the naked truth – you can tell her coming or going –
That’s the naked truth – Yeah, that’s the naked truth –
You know I wouldn’t lie – I wouldn’t lie to you.

The Paralytic: A Light to the Nations

Sunday of The Paralytic   (John 5:1-15)  Sermon Notes  2008

Jerusalem!  God’s chosen and holy City!   Despite this designation,  Jerusalem had like any other city of the ancient world a collection of handicapped and disabled people.    This certainly had to be embarrassing for the people of God – how can one explain the existence of such piteous suffering in the city of the Great and Merciful God?   Sin was the obvious answer.  People violating the Torah – failing to keep the Sabbath laws:  Like the man carrying his bed claiming he was just healed of his life long paralysis and like that man who told him to carry his bed on the Sabbath.  Sinners!  What else could one call them?  They were the very reason for and cause of all those disabled people hanging out by the gate of the city.

“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy. …  And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away”   (Isaiah 35:5-10 RSV) .  

In their narrow focus on keeping the Torah and not violating the Sabbath because they feared God (God promised death and conflagration for violating the Sabbath law) the religious leaders lost sight of the promises of God and exalted the Law of God above all else.   The Torah was given to help the Jews realize the Kingdom of God, but in their zeal to keep Torah, they sometimes lost sight of the Kingdom.  The result was that when Christ came giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, mobility to the lame, they could not recognize the signs of the coming Kingdom of God as promised by Isaiah the Prophet.  It is not unlike the man who buried the talent because he feared his master who he knew was demanding.

“Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:2-5 RSV)

If our focus in the spiritual life becomes too narrow, we forget that the entire universe was created by God and that God acts in and through the entire universe not just in His Scriptures and not just in the past.  We end up even ignoring other scriptures because they aren’t part of our narrow focus.  

The antagonists of Jesus  forgot they existed to be the salt of the earth and a light to the nations.  They became concerned only about their own salvation.  They forgot they were on earth as witnesses to God’s mighty presence and His saving activities.   So totally had they forgotten their role as witnesses, that they couldn’t even see what God was doing right before their own eyes – raising a paralyzed man who had been handicapped for 38 years.

With the paralytic they clearly identified the laws from the Torah which were being violated – this is easily done through a literal reading of the Torah.  What they could not see was the breaking into their world of God’s Messianic Kingdom – the healed paralytic carrying his bed on the Sabbath could be seen as a violator of the Torah, or a sign of God’s Kingdom breaking into the world.  One needed only the eyes to see.     

Jesus established Himself as Lord of the Sabbath, and so the laws of the Torah were to submit themselves to His judgment.  And obviously Christ saw the need to challenge the narrow minded and overly legal reading of the Torah.  He tried to lift the minds and eyes of the religious leaders to see what God was now doing in salvation rather than simply to fear what God might do in judgment.  Christ tries to draw the people out of their narrow focus and their narrow and limited reading of the scriptures (though it was an accurate reading as all those words and concerns are actually there).    He tries to connect the reading of the Scriptures with seeing the world around them.  

“I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them;  he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away'”   (Revelation 21:3-4  RSV).


Having Eyes to See

Here is a clever ad – though the product is not important to what I think the short video has to offer us.  Many of us get stuck in life – in ruts and routines – and cannot see a solution to our problems.  Sometimes we get so narrowly focused in our way of seeing the world that we are blind to the obvious.  One old adage says, “if the only tool you have is a hammer than every problem looks like a nail.”   And if we are thinking, “I’m on an escalator …” then sometimes we cannot see what else is true about where we are in life.

The Limits of Biblical Literalism

When Jesus Christ criticized the religious people of his day with these words: “You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40), He was saying it is possible to so bury one’s head in Scriptures as to miss the very thing to which Scripture is bearing witness – the things which God is doing in the world at that moment. Prophecy in the Old Testament means not just “future telling” but “forth telling” – it sets forth what God is doing and what God plans to do. Christ says the Old Testament Scriptures were written not to keep people’s focus on the past but to help them recognize God’s present saving activity in the world, including the arrival of the Messiah and the Kingdom of God. This is why Orthodoxy reads the Old and New Testament Scriptures Christocentrically, meaning we read them as a revelation of Christ. The book of Genesis and the creation story can be read literally or historically or scientifically even by Jews and atheists. It is only read Christocentrically by believing Christians.

If we read the creation story in Genesis without reference to Christ (as can be done by Jews and creation scientists) we fail to understand the Scriptures as revealed in Jesus Christ. So reading the Old Testament literally does not necessarily bring one to Christ nor to an understanding of the witness of that Scripture. “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). That is how we are to read the creation story in Genesis. It is not about science, it is about Christ! That is how the Lord Himself interpreted them to His disciples.

Let us consider three other stories in the Gospel where the literal understanding is exactly what causes people to fail to understand Christ. First, in John 3:1-15 Jesus speaks to Nicodemus about being born again of water and the Spirit. Poor Nicodemus. He relies on literalism to understand spiritual things, and he simply cannot grasp the teaching of Christ. He hears Christs and asks, “How can a grown man crawl back into his mother’s womb to be born again? ” Jesus soundly rebukes Nicodemus: “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this? … If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? (John 3:10, 12). It is precisely Nicodemus’ literalism which prevents him from understanding Christ. Additionally, Christ is telling him you cannot understand the things of this earth so you will never believe heavenly things. Nicodemus’ literalism prevents him from understanding the obvious so he cannot understand spiritual things!

Second, in Matthew 16:5-12 Jesus speaks to his disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Once again the disciples endeavor to understand him in some literalistic way and think he must be talking about their not having brought enough bread on the journey. Their relying on literalism causes them to totally misunderstand Christ and to get this rebuke from our Lord: “O men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive?” (Matt 16:7-8). Trying to understand Christ or the Scriptures purely literally causes them and us to misunderstand the meaning of Christ’s words.

Third, in John 5:1-15 Jesus heals a paralytic on the Sabbath Day, and the Jewish leaders are incensed that the healed man is carrying his bed. Now if we read the Old Testament purely literally, we will see that the Jews are absolutely correct in their condemnation of the healed man (Deut 5:12-14, Exodus 31:12-17, 35:2-3, Jeremiah 17:19-22, Nehemiah 13:19). But it is precisely this narrow and literalistic reading of these biblical passages which causes the Jews to totally miss the revelation in Christ. They are so worried that if they violate the literal reading of the law that God will be angry, that they fail to see the bigger picture of the world and what God is doing for the salvation of them all. Their focus on the absolute literal reading of and keeping of the Torah, causes them to fail to see right before their eyes what God was doing in their day in fulfillment of the Prophecies of Isaiah 29:18-19, 35:5-6. So worried are they about breaking God’s law that they cannot see how the miracle is a sign of what God is now doing. This is precisely what Christ is trying to show them – you narrowly focus on a literal reading of the scripture because in them you think you will find salvation, but these scriptures bear witness to me and you refuse to come to me (John 5:39-40 quoted above).

In the beginning of the universe, God spoke His Word and all things came into existence. God’s Word in the beginning was active, creating and life giving (Hebrews 4:12). God’s Word was not a book, it could not be understand by absolute literalism. But that beginning revelation of God’s Word turns out not to have been the whole story, for the Word became flesh (John 1:14), and in that incarnation we realize again that the Word of God is not a book nor a written word but rather is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. And we came to realize that the entire written Bible bears witness to the Person of the Word of God whom we know as Jesus Christ. The written word of God exists to bring us to Christ, and more astonishingly the Word became flesh as the man Jesus; so indeed searching the written word should bring us to Him. This is something biblical literalism alone might not do. Biblical literalism may claim that Genesis 1-3 is science, but Christ and the Orthodox Church would say Genesis 1-3 is about Christ. It is to bring us to the knowledge of Christ, not to a knowledge of science. Thus arguments about the literal/scientific truth of Genesis 1-3 can be offered without any regard to Christ, and for our purposes as Christians so limit the message of God as to miss the very importance they have for us.

When the Word became flesh, literalism takes on an entire new meaning, for now we are looking at the incarnation as the interpretive tool through which we are to read all of Scriptures. If we believe the Bible must only be read literally, then we are in fact putting a human limit on God’s eternal Word. Literalism is one human way to read a text, but it is not the only way, nor is it God’s way – for God reveals His Word in and through the incarnation, not through science nor through a scientific reading of the Scriptures. God’s Word – His revelation – speaks to us not only literally, but divinely, poetically, prophetically, prototypically, morally, in wisdom, and Christocentrically. “The law came through Moses, grace and truth come through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

See also my Creation “Ex Nihilo”  Not Interpretation “Ex Nihilo”

Technology has not increased communications

A few years ago, my mother was complaining about how her grandchildren rarely called her.   She knew in the modern age it was too much to expect them to write to her, though she would have gladly been a pen pal with them.  My kids told her that no one talks on the phone anymore and that if  grandma wanted to communicate with them she should get on the Internet and they would “email her every day”  (even with the short term memory loss that comes with aging, she remembers that promise of theirs).  She surprised everyone with her adaptability – she joined a class at her local library to teach seniors how to do emails.   And she was ready to communicate.  Despite her efforts, the promised emails quickly tapered off and became rare events.  For while Grandma was moving into the email age, the kids moved on to instant messaging, and before she could even attempt to try IMing they had leapt over to text messaging on their cell phones.   While the kids were Face Booking and My Spacing with their friends, Grandma and her circle of friends took to emailing each other like ducks take to the water –  sitting at their desk tops with their huge monitors and laboring away at forwarding endlessly recycled email humor, electronically doctored photos,  and urban legend.  But as for communicating with the grandkids, she may as well have learned how to chisel messages into stone for they certainly see emailing as belonging to that age when messages were carved into stone – and the so called “desk top” computers certainly were as cumbersome as granite monuments.  Now the kids blog, vlog and twitter, which if Grandma even had heard of, she would have assumed is some new kind of crazy dance, like the twist.   Occasionally the kids do descend from their high-tech heaven and send grandma an email, something they consider quaint, a nice way occasionally to keep in touch with the past.  There are no lap tops or cell phones in her world.  She recently upgraded her rotary dial phone to a touch tone with the same twisted and tangled cord.   She too, however, ever adapts to the changing technological world, and even now has a portable phone in her house.  And she waits for my call so she can complain about how the grandkids don’t email her.

Apokatastasis: the Salvation of All

The Scriptures are clear that the day will come when God will bring an end to the world as we know it, and in that day God will judge each and every person on earth.  There is no doubt that the notion of an impending Judgment Day is as clear in the New Testament as it is in the Old Testament.

And yet there are glimpses in the Bible that in the end, God will show Himself to be the ultimate power in the universe through His love which will triumph over all things, including death and evil itself.   Some have expressed this in terms which downplay notions of a physical and/or geographic heaven and hell and instead see everyone experiencing the same reality in the end – the omnipresence of God Himself.  For those who hate God this will be hell, but for those who love God it will be heaven; same experience of God for both, the difference will only be in how they experience God.  Others have speculated that the Love of God will be so powerful that in the end even the evil ones will be won over to God’s love.   This notion of everyone in the end being transformed and transfigured and thus saved by God’s love is called Apokatastasis.   It has been the theological opinion of some Christians, including some saints through history, but has never been embraced as official doctrine by the Church which has always acknowledged that the Scriptures speak of a judgment day which separates saints from sinners.

Apokatastasis however does have certain appeal for those who take literal certain of Christ’s teachings.  It has an appeal for those who believe God is love.   It is appealing to those who fervently pray, “Lord have mercy.”  It is appealing to those who know that if God’s justice demands that even one sinner is punished for sin, then it will demand that all sinners be punished; whereas, if God’s mercy can forgive even one sinner then there is a chance that even I can be forgiven by God.

So is it wrong to HOPE that all will be forgiven and saved by God in the end?  St. Paul held that the salvation of all is the very hope of God Himself:  “God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).  Our Lord Jesus expressed His own thought that He will never turn away anyone that comes to Him:  “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37).   And it is true that all  kinds of people of all kinds of persuasions and lifestyles come to Him – just think about the crowds who pressed around Him – not just disciples, but enemies, the curiosity seekers, self-justifiers, the self righteous, those wanting power, those wanting a miracle, those who only wanted to be healed, those needing forgiveness, the awed, the betrayer, the denier, the mockers, the sinners, the magi, the hopeless, the believers, the blind, children, women, outcasts, the poor, the hypocrites, the hated, the rich, the rulers, the beggars, the annoying, the judgmental, the teachers, the super Orthodox.

And the Lord Jesus Himself said:  “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. … If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”   (Luke 6:27-36).

Praying for and hoping for the salvation of all, is to embrace the entirety of the New Testament.  It is to hope for what God desires.   If we are to love our enemies and pray for them, is it wrong to believe or hope that in the end they too will be saved?  Or is that Apokatastasic belief the very thing which is proper to the children of the Most High, and the very way we can be merciful as God our Father is merciful?