Archive for the ‘forgiveness’ Category

The Sunday of Forgiveness We are going to do violence now.

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.[1]

Today is the Sunday of Forgiveness, and it is also the day we enter Great Lent.  After we pray the Vespers service of Forgiveness early this afternoon, we will then be in the Holy Fast.  Why is it that we fast?  We have a blueprint for our life, and why we fast, in the Gospel today. 

Today is also interesting, because we are also commemorating the Finding of the Head of the Forerunner, and so we have this additional Gospel reading that has much richness in it. I want to quickly focus on one thing that it said:

 

"… the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force."[2]

 

We are going to do violence now.  We are setting out on a path of doing violence to the violent one.  We are casting that which is corrupt within us, and the Church has given us a path to do so. 

 

Our Lord said, first of all, "If ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will forgive you."[3]

 

First and foremost in the Christian life is to forgive.   To forgive is to be like God – because God forgives all.  God loves all, without any respect for persons.  So when we forgive, we are participating in the energy of God.  We are acting like God!  And indeed, that is what we are to do.  In the scripture it says, "Ye are gods"[4].  We are to act like gods.  We are to acquire virtue, compassion, holiness, yea, even perfection, because the scriptures also say, "Be ye perfect, as my heavenly Father is perfect"[5].

 

So one must become like unto God, and the first step is to forgive.

 

And He says, "But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."[6]

 

This is actually a promise and a threat, but the promise is so much more powerful than the threat.  Oh, yes, if you do not forgive, you won't be saved.  If you hold grudges, even though someone has harmed you greatly in this life, you won’t be saved, because, over and over, the Church says, the Holy Scripture says, the saints say, the Holy Spirit says: forgive, forgive, forgive.

 

And if you do forgive, what will happen?   You will see Christ.  You won’t be corrupt anymore.  You'll have peace, you'll have rest.  The promise is greater than the threat.  Absolutely.

 

And then He gives us some counsel about fasting. 

 

"Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward."[7]

 

These are among the most terrible words in all of scripture: "They have their reward."  This life, this life of corruption, and foul odors, and difficulties, and sadness and strife, and tempests – that is where they have their reward.  These are terrible words.  So if you want your reward now, God will give it to you.  You can be as a hypocrite, you can make it appear that you are holy, and some people will say, "Isn't that remarkable what he is doing.  I could not do that.  He must be filled with the Holy Spirit."  But if you have the reward only now, your life is a total waste.

 

Then He tells us, in a figure through the glass darkly, as it were, what our reward will be.  He says,

 

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: {20} But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: {21} For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."[8] 

 

Do you know what we have been promised?  The entire world tells us a story of death, dying, difficulties, passions and sadness – all the world.  No matter how rich a man becomes, the world is a difficult place because within, there is a pitched battle.  And a man with a conscience is not at peace with who he is.  He wants to become better.  The whole world is corrupt, all we ever see. 

 

But what does He say?  "If you lay up treasures for yourselves in heaven, they do not corrupt.  They will last forever."  These are amazing thoughts here: Forever.  No corruption. Full of satisfaction, peace, rest. 

 

I do not have a day that I am at rest.  There is not a day that I do not endure sadness.  There is not a day that I do not sin.  But there will be a day, in the eighth day, if I struggle now, and also, if you struggle, that we will be in the presence of God.  The mind cannot conceive and understand what this means, because all we see is corruption, and everything changes.  It is so hard to stay good.  Things change all the time, and so often, it seems, for the worse.  But our Lord and Savior is telling us, If we lay up treasures for ourselves now, in heaven they will not corrupt.  We won't corrupt!"

 

In the other reading, John, a great man, greatest born of woman, could not understand.  It was so incomprehensible to him that the Messiah had actually come.  He believed, but he was full of wonderment, so he sent his disciples to Christ, and our Lord said, "Look at the evidence.  The blind see, the lame walk, the dead are raised, the poor have the Gospel preached to them."[9]  That is the greatest miracle. It gives people hope.  It makes people know what they are alive for.  We know what our Lord can do.

 

The evidence is all there, even though the world constantly countermands and slanders that evidence, every single day of our life, but we know the truth!  And this is why we are entering upon the Fast.  Because we want to lay up treasures in heaven, and we want to win the kingdom of Heaven by violence – violence against our passions, violence against that which saddens us – that part of us which is incomplete.  We want to cast it out, so that we can be filled.  That's why we fast.

 

The reason one must forgive is because the task in our life is to become like God, to be filled with Him, and to become like Him morally – to share in the energies of God.  His love for us will transfigure us and make us incorrupt.  And a man cannot become incorrupt, he cannot become like God, if fundamentally he disavows himself from that most fundamental aspect of God: God is love.  Love forgives.  Love forgives seventy times seven times; love forgives infinite times.  No matter how great the transgression, the forgiveness is greater.

 

This is why we begin Great Fast with Forgiveness ceremony.  No, it is not just a ceremony.  Every man who looks into his heart sees that he falls short with every breath he takes, and that he wrongs every man.  If you see one of your brothers or sisters, and they have a difficulty, some conflict in their marriage, or with their children or with some substance or some other such thing – we all fall into difficulties – you should berate yourself and say, "Have I prayed for my brother?  Have I done something to help my brother?  Is it possible that he or she is in peril because of my incompetence?"  That's why we ask forgiveness of one another, even if we have not exactly offended everyone specifically.  But then again there might be grudges that need to be settled today, too, and we must do this if we wish to enter into the Fast.

 

The Apostle says,

"And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. "[10]

 

This is the time.  The church sets aside this time, this tithe, or tenth, of the year, so that we would be able to intensify and remember who we are, and who God is, and change.  The first step is to forgive, and then we proceed with the Fast.  And I tell you it will be difficult.  I have been through seventeen of them, and all of them were difficult.

 

 

We all have our different temptations.  One is tempted to eat meat.  Another is tempted to be angry.  Another is tempted to fall into despondency.  Another is tempted in another way.  As many souls as there are, so many temptations are there.  But we struggle together as a community praying for one another and fasting and believing that there is a reward and that it is permanent. 

 

Nothing in this life – nothing – is permanent, and we are living for permanence.  And when I think of these thoughts, it makes it a bit easier to abstain from this food or that, or to make more prostrations, or to forgive my brother, even when he has harmed me, even when he has hurt me purposefully, because everything in this life is going away, except for how we have lived.  The way we have lived, if it is holy, is going to endure

 

There is something else during this great fast all of you should do.  It is very important for us to pray for one another, and also to pray for Paul, Susan and Seth.  They are going to be made catechumens next week.  We are going to have the service to make them catechumens, and the exorcism part of the service, just before Liturgy next Sunday. I would ask you and admonish you, as ones who love, because He loved us, that you will be here to support them in prayer, and not just on Sunday, but during the whole time of their catechuminate, that they would learn of sweetness, learn about faith, about the sweetness you can never have enough of.  And yet indeed there will come a time when we will have enough, but not in this life; in the next life.  We will be completely filled with Him if we live now according to Who He is.  Amen

 

 

 

Romans 13:11-14 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. {12} The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. {13} Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. {14} But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. {41:1} Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. {2} For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. {3} Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. {4} Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

 

Matthew 6:14-21 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: {15}But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. {16} Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. {17}But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; {18} That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. {19} Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: {20} But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: {21} For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 1999.    

This and other Orthodox materials are available in from:

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

·         Mailing Address: Box 37, McKinney, TX 75070

·         Rectory Phone: 972/529-2754

·         Email: seraphim@orthodox.net

·         Web Page: http://www.orthodox.net

·         Redeeming the Time Blog: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime/

 

This homily is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-05_1999+sunday-of-forgiveness.html

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-05_1999+sunday-of-forgiveness.doc

 

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[1] This homily was transcribed from one given in 1999, on the Sunday of Forgiveness, the last Sunday before Great Lent.  There are some stylistic changes and minor corrections made and several footnotes have been added, but otherwise, it is essentially in a colloquial, “spoken” style.

 

It is hoped that something in these words will help and edify the reader, but a sermon read from a page cannot enlighten a soul as much as attendance and reverent worship at the Vigil service, which prepares the soul for the Holy Liturgy, and the hearing of the scriptures and the preaching of them in the context of the Holy Divine Liturgy.  In such circumstances the soul is enlightened much more than when words are read on a page.

[2] Mat 11:12, partial

[3] Mat 6:14

[4] Psalm 82:6, Isaiah 41:23, John 10:34

[5] (Mat 5:48)  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

[6] Mat 6:15

[7] Mat 6:16

[8] Mat 6:19-21

[9] (Mat 11:5)  "The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them."

[10] Romans 13:11

 

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Sunday Of Forgiveness 2009. “Now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.”

Sunday, March 1st, 2009




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Romans 13:11-14:4 11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. 13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. 14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. 1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. 2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. 3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. 4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

Matthew 6:14-21 14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. 16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. 19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

 

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The Sunday Of Forgiveness.We are going to do violence now.

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

 

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.[1]

 

 

 

Today is the Sunday of Forgiveness, and it is also the day we enter Great Lent.  After we pray the Vespers service of Forgiveness early this afternoon, we will then be in the Holy Fast.  Why is it that we fast?  We have a blueprint for our life, and why we fast, in the Gospel today.  Today is also interesting, because we are also commemorating the Finding of the Head of the Forerunner, and so we have this additional Gospel reading that has much richness in it. I want to quickly focus on one thing that it said:

 

 

 

"… the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force."[2]

 

 

 

We are going to do violence now.  We are setting out on a path of doing violence to the violent one.  We are casting that which is corrupt within us, and the Church has given us a path to do so.  Our Lord said, first of all, "If ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will forgive you."[3]  First and foremost in the Christian life is to forgive.   To forgive is to be like God – because God forgives all.  God loves all, without any respect for persons.  So when we forgive, we are participating in the energy of God.  We are acting like God!  And indeed, that is what we are to do.  In the scripture it says, "Ye are gods"[4].  We are to act like gods.  We are to acquire virtue, compassion, holiness, yea, even perfection, because the scriptures also say, "Be ye perfect, as my heavenly Father is perfect"[5]

 

 

 

So one must become like unto God, and the first step is to forgive.

 

 

 

And He says, "But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."[6]

 

 

 

This is actually a promise and a threat, but the promise is so much more powerful than the threat.  Oh, yes, if you do not forgive, you won’t be saved.  If you hold grudges, even though someone has harmed you greatly in this life, you won’t be saved, because, over and over, the Church says, the Holy Scripture says, the saints say, the Holy Spirit says: forgive, forgive, forgive. 

 

 

 

And if you do forgive, what will happen?   You will see Christ.  You won’t be corrupt anymore.  You’ll have peace, you’ll have rest.  The promise is greater than the threat.  Absolutely.

 

 

 

And then He gives us some counsel about fasting.  "Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward."[7] These are among the most terrible words in all of scripture: "They have their reward."  This life, this life of corruption, and foul odors, and difficulties, and sadness and strife, and tempests – that is where they have their reward.  These are terrible words.  So if you want your reward now, God will give it to you.  You can be as a hypocrite, you can make it appear that you are holy, and some people will say, "Isn’t that remarkable what he is doing.  I could not do that.  He must be filled with the Holy Spirit."  But if you have the reward only now, your life is a total waste. 

 

 

 

Then He tells us, in a figure through the glass darkly, as it were, what our reward will be.  He says, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: {20} But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: {21} For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."[8]  Do you know what we have been promised?  All the world tells us a story of death, dying, difficulties, passions and sadness – all the world.  No matter how rich a man becomes, the world is a difficult place because within, there is a pitched battle.  And a man with a conscience is not at peace with whom he is.  He wants to become better.  The whole world is corrupt, all we ever see.  But what does He say?  "If you lay up treasures for yourselves in heaven, they do not corrupt.  They will last forever."  These are amazing thoughts here: Forever.  No corruption. Full of satisfaction, peace, rest.  I do not have a day that I am at rest.  There is not a day that I do not endure sadness.  There is not a day that I do not sin.  But there will be a day, in the eighth day, if I struggle now, and also, if you struggle, that we will be in the presence of God.  The mind cannot conceive and understand what this means, because all we see is corruption, and everything changes.  It is so hard to stay good.  Things change all the time, and so often, it seems, for the worse.  But our Lord and Savior is telling us, If we lay up treasures for ourselves now, in heaven they will not corrupt.  We won’t corrupt!"

 

 

 

In the other reading, John, a great man, greatest born of woman, could not understand.  It was so incomprehensible to him that the Messiah had actually come.  He believed, but he was full of wonderment, so he sent his disciples to Christ, and our Lord said, "Look at the evidence.  The blind see, the lame walk, the dead are raised, the poor have the Gospel preached to them."[9]  That is the greatest miracle. It gives people hope.  It makes people know what they are alive for.  We know what our Lord can do. 

 

 

 

The evidence is all there, even though the world constantly countermands and slanders that evidence, every single day of our life, but we know the truth!  And this is why we are entering upon the Fast.  Because we want to lay up treasures in heaven, and we want to win the kingdom of Heaven by violence.  Violence against our passions, violence against that which saddens us – that part of us which is incomplete.  We want to cast it out, so that we can be filled.  That’s why we fast.  The reason one must forgive is because the task in our life is to become like God, to be filled with Him, and to become like Him morally – to share in the energies of God.  His love for us will transfigure us and make us incorrupt.  And a man cannot become incorrupt, he cannot become like God, if fundamentally he disavows himself from that most fundamental aspect of God: God is love.  Love forgives.  Love forgives seventy times seven times; love forgives infinite times.  No matter how great the transgression, the forgiveness is greater. 

 

 

 

This is why we begin Great Fast with Forgiveness ceremony.  No, it is not just a ceremony.  Every man who looks into his heart sees that he falls short with every breath he takes, and that he wrongs every man.  If you see one of your brothers or sisters, and they have a difficulty, some conflict in their marriage, or with their children or with some substance or some other such thing – we all fall into difficulties – you should berate yourself and say, "Have I prayed for my brother?  Have I done something to help my brother?  Is it possible that he or she is in peril because of my incompetence?"  That’s why we ask forgiveness of one another, even if we have not exactly offended everyone specifically.  But then again there might be grudges that need to be settled today, too, and we must do this if we wish to enter into the Fast. 

 

 

 

The Apostle says, "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. "[10]  This is the time.  The church sets aside this time, this tithe, or tenth, of the year, so that we would be able to intensify and remember who we are, and who God is, and change.  The first step is to forgive, and then we proceed with the Fast.  And I tell you it will be difficult.  I have been through seventeen of them, and all of them were difficult. 

 

 

 

We all have our different temptations.  One is tempted to eat meat.  Another is tempted to be angry.  Another is tempted to fall into despondency.  Another is tempted in another way.  As many souls as there are, so many temptations are there.  But we struggle together as a community praying for one another and fasting and believing that there is a reward and that it is permanent.  Nothing in this life – nothing – is permanent, and we are living for permanence.  And when I think of these thoughts, it makes it a bit easier to abstain from this food or that, or to make more prostrations, or to forgive my brother, even when he has harmed me, even when he has hurt me purposefully, because everything in this life is going away, except for how we have lived.  The way we have lived, if it is holy, is going to endure

 

 

 

 

There is something else during this great fast all of you should do.  It is very important for us to pray for one another, and also to pray for Paul, Susan and Seth.  They are going to be made catechumens next week.  We are going to have the service to make them catechumens, and the exorcism part of the service, just before Liturgy next Sunday. I would ask you and admonish you, as ones who love, because He loved us, that you will be here to support them in prayer, and not just on Sunday, but during the whole time of their catechuminate, that they would learn of sweetness, learn about faith, about the sweetness you can never have enough of.  And yet indeed there will come a time when we will have enough.  But not in this life.   In the next life.  We will be completely filled with Him if we live now according to Who He is.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

This and other Orthodox materials are available in booklet and electronic form from:

 

 

 

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas, Texas

Mailing Address

2102 Summit, McKinney TX 75070

Rectory Phone

972/529-2754

Email

seraphim@orthodox.net

Web Page

http://www.orthodox.net

 

 

This particular text may be found at:

 

 http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/great-lent-sunday-before-great-lent-05_1999+sunday-of-forgiveness.doc

 

All rights reserved.  Please use this material in any way that is edifying to your soul, and copy it for personal use if you so desire.  We ask that you contact St. Nicholas if you wish to distribute it in any way.  We grant permission to post this text, if completely intact only, including this paragraph and the contact information above, to any electronic mailing list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Romans 13:11-14

 

And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. {12} The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. {13} Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. {14} But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. {41:1} Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. {2} For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. {3} Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. {4} Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

 

 

 

Matthew 6:14-21

 

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: {15} But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. {16} Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. {17} But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; {18} That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. {19} Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: {20} But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: {21} For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

[1] This homily was transcribed from one given in 1997, on the Sunday of Forgivensss, the last Sunday before Great Lent.  There are some stylistic changes and minor corrections made and several footnotes have been added, but otherwise, it is essentially in a colloquial, “spoken” style.

 

 

 

It is hoped that something in these words will help and edify the reader, but a sermon read from a page cannot enlighten a soul as much as attendance and reverent worship at the Vigil service, which prepares the soul for the Holy Liturgy, and the hearing of the scriptures and the preaching of them in the context of the Holy Divine Liturgy.  In such circumstances the soul is enlightened much more than when words are read on a page.

 

 

 

 

 

[2] Mat 11:12, partial

 

 

 

[3] Mat 6:14

 

 

 

[4] Psalm 82:6, Isaiah 41:23, John 10:34

 

 

 

[5] (Mat 5:48)  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

[6] Mat 6:15

 

 

 

[7] Mat 6:16

 

 

 

[8] Mat 6:19-21

 

 

 

[9] (Mat 11:5)  "The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them."

 

 

 

 

 

[10] Romans 13:11

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11th Sun after Pentecost 2008:Parable of the unmerciful debtor. What defines a Christian?

Monday, September 1st, 2008

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Other Homilies for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost.

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-11_1998+the-unmerciful-debtor-mat-18-23-35.doc
11th Sunday of Pentecost (Word DOC format)
The Unmerciful Debtor Mat 18 23:35
1998

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-11_2000.html
11th Sunday of Pentecost (HTML format)
2000

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-11_2002+parable-of-the-unmerciful-debtor.mp3
11th Sunday of Pentecost (mp3 format)
Parable Of The Unmerciful Debtor
2002

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pentecost-sunday-11_2008-08-31.mp3
11th Sunday of Pentecost (mp3 format)
Parable of the unmerciful debtor.
What defines a Christian?
Matthew 18:23-35
2008

Matthew 18:23-35 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. 29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.



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What did Christ do on the Cross?

Monday, February 11th, 2008

38th Monday after Pentecost, 2088-02-11

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

Here the holy Apostle explains our Lord’s work on the Cross. Jesus Christ voluntarily choose to die on the cross in order to cause our sins to die. The idea that he was sent to the cross by his Father in order to be punished in lieu of our being punished for our sins is a preposterous one, which the humble fisherman refutes magnificently here.

Look closely at what he says: our Lord “bare our sins in his own body”, that is, all of mankind’s weaknesses, and predilection to sin, which made it impossible for us to attain unto the righteousness of God, in his own very human body.

This act of “baring our sins” is also stated in the parable of the good Samaritani. When the man, representing all of humanity was lying half dead on the road, Christ, our good Samaritan, attended to his wounds (all of which were because of our sins and our inability to keep from sinning) with oil and wine, and then put him on his beast and took him to an inn (church) for further recuperation. The beast represents the incarnation of the Son of God, who became man precisely to “bare our sins in his own body” and bring about our healing.

How did he heal us? As a man, he conquered sin; one could say he was “dead to sins”. As the God-man, when he “bare our sins in his own body on the tree”, He passed on to us the ability to also be “dead to sins” and taught us the way, and took care that his successors, the Holy Apostles, innkeepers, would be equipped to continue living and teaching and passing on this way.

His ministry was one of healing, not of forestalling judgment and placating his Father. He and His Father, Who are oneii, were of one mind on His life’s mission, to teach us the way, and empower us to follow it, so that we, “being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness”

How wretched and lamentable we would be if our Lord only forgave our sins on the cross! Even if we are forgiven “seventy times seven”iii times, we would still be sinners, and sin causes great pain to our soul. The Lord came to forgive, and to heal. Forgiveness without healing is clearly not enough, because only the “pure in heart” will see God,iv and a forgiven sinner is still a sinner, and because of his impure nature, unable to be with God. The Lord forgave his disciples, and yet, when they were in the presence of the uncreated light on Mount Taborv, they could not bear it, because they had not become pure in heart. Only the healing of the soul, accomplished by our grace aided attempts to follow the commandments, will allow us to gaze upon the beauty of God without pain.

Our Lord’s work on the cross can be considered to be “central” to His mission in that it demarcated the two portions of his work, His teaching and accomplishment of the way of life before his death, and after his human death, His shattering of the gates of Hell and subsequent ascension into heaven, which completed his healing of our very nature. With the sending of the Holy Spirit, we would have all that we need to be able to live righteously, and be “dead to sins, (and) should live unto righteousness.”

This homily is also archived with many other text and audio homilies at http://www.orthodox.net/sermons

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1 Peter 2:21-3:9 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

iLuke 10:30-37

ii“I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30)

iii“ Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. “ Mat 18:22 This large number represents infinity, that is, to forgive every time.

iv“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” Mat 5:8

vMat 17:2-9; Mark 9:2-10; Luke 9:29-36 2Pe_1:16-18

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36th Friday after Pentecost – James 2:1-13 – The Royal Law

Friday, February 1st, 2008
Christianity is perfection by degrees. It does not abolish the law – it fulfills it. I have spoken many times about the cognitive dissonance produced in our soul by observing the lamentable reality of our lives – our weaknesses, bad habits, tendency to fall into sin again and again – vs. the promise and requirement of our becoming perfected. What we see in our lives does not approach this ideal!
What to do? Even with the help of Christ, how can we change within so completely?

They key to our COMPLETE change is the ROYAL LAW: (if) “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well”. It is NOT POSSIBLE TO BE SAVED if we do not love our neighbor. It is not possible to love our neighbor if we are a “respecter of persons”, that is, if we love some more than others.
These are well known, but little followed words. They are the EASIER way, because as James makes clear, if we transgress part of the law, we are guilty of all, and we certainly transgress more than just a little bit! We have only one chance; we must live according to the law of liberty. “So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty”

The Royal Law, and the Law of liberty are the same. They are both rooted in mercy. Since we have obtained mercy, we must mete it out without regard to persons. This is the key to our regeneration. The EASY way is to love our neighbor, and we know who he is. Let us not mock God by choosing who to love and who we hate, who to treat with deference, and who to ignore – the question of who our neighbor was was answered emphatically by the parable of the Good Samaritan.
As a priest, and a sinful Christian, I have learned that many of us lack confidence that we can ever get completely better – it is that cognitive dissonance thing rearing its ugly head. Since we cannot see the way right now to get better in EVERYTHING, I have proposed a strategy many times – “If you cannot stop sinning, at least be kind!” In order to guard against favoritism, and in the spirit of the words of the brother of the Lord, let me amend that directive: “If you cannot stop sinning, at least be kind TO EVERYONE!”.
Is it really that simple? Can we really be saved by being kind, even though we still sin? What does James say? “ “So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”
Kindness, mercy, non judgment, love – all are fundamentally the same virtues. Our own kindness will save us, if we apply it EQUALLY and liberally to all.
Look carefully at your life. You may think you are kind, but will this belief stand up to careful scrutiny? It is easy to love the lovely; it is easy to be kind to the kind. It is natural to treat well those who we think can help us or hurt us – are we kind to the “little ones” who cannot influence our lives unless we let them? We will hear their voices at the judgment day – what will they be saying? If we have lived according to the law of liberty, we will be judged by it, and be saved.
There is no other way to be saved. If we follow this “Royal Law” (of liberty) carefully, we will see a marvelous thing in our lives – we will get stronger – we will stop sinning. This is for later – for now, let us be no “respecter of persons”: since we cannot stop sinning, let us be kind to everyone.


James 2:1-13 1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? 5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? 6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? 8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

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Thoughts on the Holy Scripture -32nd Week After Pentecost – Wednesday

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008
Oil or wine on the menu today.

Today’s scripture is a perfect example of the “oil and wine” that our Lord mixes in His teachings to us, which I have mentioned many times, and just recently in the blog.

“Oil” is the soothing teachings of Christ, which are meant to console and comfort us, to give us hope and strong faith. “Wine” is the astringent teachings of Jesus: His rebukes and harsh sayings – things that should make us tremble if we are not living as we aught, and wake us up from our slumber.

Today, we have teaching that is the finest, smoothest, warmest and most soothing oil to some, but the most bitter and frightening wine to others:

And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. (Mark 11:26)

Our Lord spoke about forgiveness and the conditions for it many times. When he taught us to pray, He included “and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”. In today’s passage, it is even more clear: we MUST forgive if we are to be forgiven.

For those who hold grudges, have vendettas, remember wrongs, and indulge in the false sweetness of anger towards others, these words are terrible and bitter wine. If a person continues to not forgive others, then God will continue to pour this wine into his wounds, and in other areas of his life, attempt to bring the blind one to his senses. Since lack of forgiveness has as its mother pride, the words of the Brother of the Lord, which we also read today, apply fully to such a one: “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”

These very same words are as oil to the humble, because our Lords words comfort the sinner who forgives other sinners: “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”, and in other place, even more comforting: “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven” (Luke 6:37)

Our ‘Lord gives only ONE condition for our forgiveness; we must forgive others. What a comfort this is to the humble! The humble considers himself incapable of any works of righteousness, and perhaps such a one fails in many ways that a Christian may be measured, but he possessed in abundance that most important and indispensable virtue: he forgives others!

The marvelous grace that we are able to retain from forgiving others will eventually positively affect every area of our soul; from this virtue, which is grounded in love for others, self-awareness and humility, will flow all the other virtues.

If you cannot stop sinning, then cultivate in yourself the virtue of forgiving others. This is truly the east way to salvation! If you have trouble forgiving, pray to be able to forgive! An absolute must is that you MUST pray for those you have trouble forgiving. At least say “Lord have mercy upon the soul of ____” everyday. You cannot make ANY progress in the spiritual life without forgiving (or, at least, attempting to forgive with all your might) others. Any supposed progress is a sham, since our Lord’s words, above, guarantee us that if we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven.

My parish has heard many times this admonition: “If you cannot stop sinning, at least be kind!” The kind think of others, and minimize themselves. The kind forgive others. Therefore, “IF YOU CANNOT STOP SINNING, AT LEAST FORGIVE OTHERS!”


James 3:11-4:6 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

Mark 11:23-26 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.


Gleanings from the Fathers about forgiveness.

Did you see that brother who was negligent and lazy, who did not go down to the all-night vigils and did not do his duties, whom the brothers knew and held to be a negligent brother? When, therefore, he became sick and the hour of his death drew near, the brothers gathered to hear something beneficial, or to comfort him, or in case he wanted to say something to them, but they saw him rejoicing, cheerful.

One brother was scandalized and said, But what do we see in you, brother? We see you rejoicing, while you approach death? But our thought says to us that you were not a violent man and how do you have this courage and this rejoicing face? On what do you base this thing?

Yes, brothers, he said, really I was a negligent person and I did not fulfill my duties. But I achieved one good thing, by the grace of God — not to criticize any brother and not to scandalize anyone; and never did I allow my heart to have something against my brother of the monastery when the sun set. And inasmuch as I did not judge my brother, I believe that God will not judge me, even me, for He said, Judge not, that you not be judged (Mt. 7:1); and as long as I did not judge, I will not be judged.

The brothers marveled and said, Brother, very easily you found the way of salvation. And the brother died with much joy. Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, “Counsels from the Holy Mountain”. Quoted from http://www.orthodox.net/gleanings/judging_others.html


‘And forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors.’ For we have many sins. For we offend both in word and in thought, and very many things we do worthy of condemnation; and ‘if we say that we have no sin’ (I Jn. 1:8), we lie, as John says…The offenses committed against us are slight and trivial, and easily settled; but those which we have committed against God are great, and need such mercy as His only is. Take heed, therefore, lest for the slight and trivial sins against you, you shut out for yourself forgiveness from God for your very grievous sins. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures: Lecture 23 no. 16) Quoted from http://www.orthodox.net/gleanings/forgiveness.html


Do we forgive our neighbors their trespasses? God also forgives us in His mercy. Do we refuse to forgive? God, too, will refuse to forgive us. As we treat our neighbors, so also does God treat us. The forgiveness, then, of your sins or unforgiveness, and hence also your salvation or destruction, depend on you yourself, man. For without forgiveness of sins there is no salvation. You can see for yourself how terrible it is. St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, Journey to Heaven Quoted from http://www.orthodox.net/gleanings/forgiveness.html


If you want cure your soul, you need four things. The first is to forgive your enemies. The second is to confess thoroughly. The third is to blame yourself. The fourth is to resolve to sin no more. If we wish to be saved, we must always blame ourselves and not attribute our wrong acts to others. And God, Who is most compassionate, will forgive us. Modern Orthodox Saints I, St. Cosmas Aitolos).Dr. Constantine Cavarnos., INSTITUTE FOR BYZANTINE AND MODERN GREEK STUDIES., Belmont, Massachusetts., pp.81-94. Quoted from http://www.orthodox.net/gleanings/forgiveness.html

Not only is it wonderful that He forgives us our sins, but also that He neither uncovers them nor does He make them stand forth clearly revealed. Nor does He force us to come forward and publicly proclaim our misdeeds, but He bids us to make our defense to Him alone and to confess our shins to Him. And yet, if any judge of a worldly tribunal were to tell some captured highwayman or grave robber to confess his crime and be excused from paying the penalty, this prisoner would with all alacrity admit the truth and scorn the disgrace in his desire to go free. But this is not the case in baptism. God forgives our sins and does not force us to make a parade of them in the presence of others. He seeks one thing only: that he who benefits by the forgiveness make learn the greatness of the gift. St. John Chrysostom, Baptismal Instructions. Quoted from http://www.orthodox.net/gleanings/forgiveness.html

Abba Zeno said, ‘If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that he asks.’ The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Trans. by Benedicta Ward. Quoted from http://www.orthodox.net/gleanings/forgiveness.html

Do you not see, brethren, that we toil for nothing when we pray, if we have enmity against someone? And again the Lord says, ‘If you offer your gift at the altar, and there you remember that someone has something against you, leave your gift before the altar, and go first and be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift’. Therefore, it is clear that if you do not do this first, all that you offer will be unacceptable, but if you do the Master’s bidding, then implore the Lord with boldness, saying, ‘Forgive me my debts, Master, as I have forgiven my brother, so fulfilling your commandment. I, weak though I am, have forgiven’. For the Lover of mankind will answer, ‘If you have forgiven, I too will forgive. If you have pardoned, I too will pardon your sins. For I have authority on earth to forgive sins. Forgive and you will be forgiven’. St Ephrem the Syrian, ‘Three Short Discourses’, from ‘http://web.ukonline.co.uk/ephrem/3disc.htm’
Quoted from http://www.orthodox.net/gleanings/forgiving_others.html


Rightly did the Lord say, ‘My burden is light’. For what sort of weight is it, what sort of toil is it to forgive one’s brother his offences, which are light and of no importance, and to be pardoned for one’s own, and immediately justified?

He did not say, ‘Bring me money, or calves, or goats, or fasting, or vigils’, so that you could say, ‘I have none, I cannot’, but he ordered you to bring what is light and easy and immediate, saying, ‘Pardon your brother his offences, and I will pardon yours. You pardon small faults, a few halfpennies, or three pennies, while I give you the ten thousand talents. You only pardon without giving anything, I nevertheless both grant you pardon and give you healing and the Kingdom.

And I accept your gift, when you are reconciled to the one who is your enemy, when you have enmity against no one, when the sun does not go down on your anger.

When you have peace and love for all, then your prayer is acceptable, and your offering well-pleasing, and your house blessed and you blessed. But if you are not reconciled with your brother, how can you seek pardon from me? You trample on my words, and do you demand pardon? I, your Master, demand, and you pay no attention, and do you, a slave, dare to offer me prayer, or sacrifice, or first fruits, while you have enmity against someone? Just as you turn your face from your brother, so I too turn my eyes from your gift and your prayer.’ St Ephrem the Syrian, ‘Three Short Discourses’, from ‘http://web.ukonline.co.uk/ephrem/3disc.htm’. Quoted from http://www.orthodox.net/gleanings/forgiving_others.html


Antioch had another Patriarch who was compassionate and merciful; his name was Alexander. One of his secretaries once stole some gold from him, fled in fear and came to the Thebaid in Egypt. He was found wandering around by the bloodthirsty barbarians of Egypt and of the Thebaid; they took him to the remotest corner of their land. When the godly Alexander heard about this, he ransomed him from captivity at the cost of eighty-five pieces of gold. When the captive returned, the bishop was so loving and gentle with him that one of the inhabitants of the city once said: ‘There is nothing more profitable or advantageous for me than to sin against Alexander.” THE SPIRITUAL MEADOW of John Moscos. Quoted from http://www.orthodox.net/gleanings/forgiving_others.html


Keep your mind from malicious thoughts of your neighbors, knowing that such thoughts are hurled by diabolical power, to keep your mind from your own sins and from seeking God. Our Holy Father Elias of Egypt, November 3, Prologue Quoted from http://www.orthodox.net/gleanings/judging_others.html

When we judge our brother, we censure ourselves in a great sin. When therefore, we shield our brother, God will also shield us from great sins. When we uncover our brother, we drive off the grace of God from over us and we are given over to fall into the same things, so that we learn that we are all weak and the grace of God carries us. Whoever guards his tongue, that one guards his soul from great sins and falls. Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, “Counsels from the Holy Mountain”. Quoted from http://www.orthodox.net/gleanings/judging_others.html

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