Love Is Enough

I have developed an on-line acquaintance with someone who works full-time with homeless people in a large city in Canada.  She sometimes asks me theological questions.  Sometimes she tells me a sad story and asks for my prayers.  She says of herself that she is Protestant on the outside and Orthodox on the inside.

I get that.  Lot’s of people feed from the crumbs that fall from the Orthodox table.  I like to spread the crumbs about as much as I can.  (I wonder if that makes me a crumby priest?)  I have several people in my parish who have converted or are in the process of converting from Charismatic Protestantism to Holy Orthodoxy.  Many of these have been referred to me by my Charismatic Protestant teacher/prophet friend (yes, I said prophet—this fellow has an amazing ability to read people.  He calls it prophetic gifting, while I call it pastoral sensitivity).  It’s a long story (so please don’t judge), but he had a vision of the Mother of God and looked me up in the phone book and called me about five years ago saying, “Do you guys know anything about Mary, Jesus’ Mother?  I think she appeared to me. Can you tell me anything about Her?”  Since then we’ve been having lunch every week—where I share whatever crumbs that happen to be lying about on my spiritual table.  He is still a Charismatic Protestant on the outside, but on the inside—only God knows.   He has certainly played an important part in helping several others become Orthodox on both the inside and outside.

My friend who works with homeless people sent me an email this morning asking me to pray for someone whom she has known closely for 16 years who died recently of a fentanyl overdose.  May the Lord have mercy on his soul. Loving broken people is, I think, the hardest thing we learn to do as Christians.  It’s in many ways an evidence of deification, a fundamental manifestation of Christ-likeness.  All of the other virtues are really just aspects of love.

Because I got this email today, the Monday of the week of the Myrrh Bearing women, my response was influenced by some of my reflections on the Myrrh Bearing women: the crumbs that are on my table today.  I thought some of you might be encouraged by what I wrote her, so I copied it here.  It’s not long.

When Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus and the Myrrh Bearing Women went to anoint Jesus after the Resurrection, they were not motivated by faith or hope.  They were motivated by love.  Jesus had told them three times before His Passion that he would rise on the third day.  Yet here it is, the third day, and they are coming to anoint his dead body.  Love motivated them, not faith, not hope, love.  St. Paul tells us that all spiritual gifts are partial and do not remain forever, but faith, hope and love abide forever.  Of these three, love is the greatest.  Love caused the Myrrh Bearers to see the empty tomb before even the Apostles and to become (as the Church calls them—especially Mary Magdalen) “Apostles to the Apostles.”  Love caused them to see angels and to hear the angelic proclamation: “He is not here.  He is risen!”  Love (not faith, not even hope) was all the human race had to offer at this point. And it was enough, enough for humanity to learn the Mystery kept hidden from the beginning of creation: “The Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).

I think in our ministry to others, love is sufficient for the miraculous, for God to take care of the the rest, to raise the dead.  When we lack faith and hope, when those we try to help lack faith and hope, when the stone is sealed and there seems to be nothing but death inside, love is enough.  It’s the offering of the Myrrh Bearers, the widow’s mite, the extra mile, the turned cheek, the mustard seed, the bit of extra oil for our lamps.  Love is enough for God to reveal His resurrectional power, to raise the dead.  Even when we can’t believe, love enough.  God does the rest.


  1. Welcome back Fr. Gillis!
    I’ve been looking everyday at your blog, hoping to receive a beneficial word….thank you so much for this post. It was very timely for me, especially because i’m struggling to remain hopeful when I see the “inconsistencies” (as you have mentioned in another article…..:-)…… in my parish and church community……..yes, you are right, when it is difficult to believe or be hopeful, love is enough…..may the Lord grant me to have more love.
    Your prayers Father and God bless you.

  2. Thank you very much for your compassionate blog article, Fr. Michael. I have a few very good Charismatic friends, and my initial conversion to Christianity was mostly nondenominational, though I grew up in an Orthodox parish (later on, I was baptized as a young adult). One particular friend in the Assemblies of God, whom I met (while talking with my parish’s catechist) spontaneously in a coffee bar (where she distributed Christian materials), later invited me to their annual Sunday service with a famous, very talented Russian pastor (I speak Russian fluently). I was very glad to see their Temple and meet him and his wife, because they revealed a sad fact – Russia is a difficult place to be a non-Orthodox Christian and lead construction of a new church. Pastor Vladimir’s sermon was a sort of theological pep talk, about how God has great things in store for us, so we have to get ready by obeying him and working out our salvation. It’s like a Pentecostal version of theosis!

    As for the main subject of your article, grieving (and thus struggling to prevent) drug overdoses, I was just thinking about one of my closest friends from high school, who told me in 2018 that she has lost many friends to premature deaths and dislikes these funerals (so I found your article just on time, while reading other articles of yours!). As I unusually enjoy funerals and struggled to remember what grief about death is like, I have kept her lament on my heart since then. And finally, this weekend, I started to feel the grief of death – I read an Ancient Faith booklet about grief by Fr. Gordon Walker that I try to review every couple of months, and realized the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting my heart more than I had noticed. I realized I should be more mindful about grief, to handle these feelings responsibly, so I discussed it with my Christian psychotherapist and made some big changes to my lifestyle. It turns out that grief is a key emotion to experience God’s comfort and joy – denying or ignoring grief is dishonest and damaging to one’s soul and health.

    Your article reminds me of the major counter-narcotics operation recently started in the ocean around the USA and our neighbors to the south, with cooperation from many Latin American countries. This was not covered by news outlets, but President Trump dedicated the beginning of his press conference to it sometime in April (if anyone is curious, I have the conference’s URL link in the email I sent about it). So I have been quietly praying for peace, safety, and especially for God to protect and guide the military, law enforcement, and intelligence workers and warriors involved in this effort, but forgot what exactly the issue is, as it is difficult to be sober about matters of substance abuse. And your amazing article’s picture and writing reminded me of what my closest Muslim-American friend, a fellow alumnus of my high school, told me last year – fentanyl is a major threat to all people’s lives, whether we want to admit our vulnerability or not. So I feel very blessed to read your article – it reminds me of what millions of people in my country and around the world are struggling with, and why it is so important for me to stay sober from my own historical vices. I also feel renewed motivation to donate to nonprofits that support recovery (most of all my parish!), as some prosecutors focus on “reducing demand” for illegal, sinful things as a relatively peaceful method of law enforcement. But demand for vice comes from pain and despair, so people need love to heal. I am slowly remembering how much I can do to serve others and express grief with love, to help prevent or at least reduce further tragedy. I think ‘harm reduction’ can be a Christian concept and practice.

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