The Sunday of Forgiveness
The Sunday of Forgiveness is a sublime day, a day of joy, compassion, compunction and healing. It comes from the words of our Lord Jesus Christ heard on this day: If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
So simple. So beautiful. So tender. If anyone wants to be forgiven let him forgive! Anyone who is even remotely aware of his sinfulness desires to be forgiven. Sin is a terrible burden. It is heavy. It blinds the eye of the heart. It is a terrible sickness with only one outcome: death, but not just the first death which we all must past, but also the second death, eternal death, the lake of fire.
But let us beware. Should we fail to forgive we shall not receive forgiveness, for how can anyone in need of forgiveness receive it and yet deny it to another? Let us not forget the parable:
Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 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. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 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. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 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: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
Forgiveness is powerful because it heals not only those who are forgiven but also those who forgive. Sin is essentially a transgression of love. When we sin against God we transgress against His love for us. When we sin against one another we transgress against the love we are to have amongst ourselves. God forgives us because He loves us. We are to ask forgiveness as well as forgive one another out of love. Forgiveness heals the heart and bridges the chasm between us and God as well as between one another allowing us to abide in love, with God and with one another. For this is why we are created: to abide with God and one another in love.
There is a beautiful custom of asking one another for forgiveness on this day. Members of entire parishes ask one another for forgiveness. This is good, yet not enough. We really should ask literally everyone for forgiveness, whether we know them or not. Let us consider:
Adam dwelt with God in paradise. Everything was good. There was no evil, no decay or corruption, no death. Yet Adam transgressed against God’s only command and thereby broke this communion in love, and this breach has consequences which are felt to this day. It is by Adam that sin entered the world, and with sin death. This is why God warned Adam that if he disobeyed God he would die. God did not threaten Adam with death, He warned him, for as St. Paul says: the wages of sin is death.
So by Adam sin entered into the world, and by sin, death, decay, corruption. All of creation had been submitted to him, but now it rebelled for the natural order was broken. The ground was cursed, weeds, thorns and thistles sprouted up; the animals, which had been tame, became wild out of fear of man. That this is true can be seen in the lives of the saints. We see that by their prayers water flows in the desert. Animals become tame. St. Gerasim was friends with a lion and St. Seraphim with a bear, just to name a few. St. Herman of Alaska was able to grow vegetables, which are otherwise impossible to grow in Alaska (this feat has been attempted by others and repeatedly failed) to feed himself and his visitors. This is what St. Paul means when he writes: For the earnest expectation of creation waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. All of creation waits for man to repent, forgive and everything to be restored as God created it to be.
Now if this one sin of Adam had such drastic consequences, does not every sin have such drastic consequences? Does not my sin effect not only myself but all of creation and all that live in it? Indeed it does. How often have I sinned! How great is my need for repentance! How great is my need for forgiveness! Do I not need to ask, not only God, but my family, friends and neighbors, even enemies and those whom I have never even met, for forgiveness? If I am in need of such great a gift, how then can I deny the same to another when it is in my power to grant it, wretched as I am?
Adam did not receive forgiveness because he did not confess his sin. He did not repent. He blamed another (Eve). Sin is an act of aggression requiring pride, arrogance and the will to transgress against God and each other. The Devil is so proud he will not repent. Let it not be so with us! Lord, grant me the knowledge of my sins, contrition, a humble heart and the great gift of repentance! Forgive me!
I ask of all of you your prayers and forgiveness, even as I pray for (in as much I am able) and forgive everyone. May our Lord our God remember us in His Kingdom.