The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 18:23-35
I want to start today with the end of the gospel lesson from Our Lord Jesus Christ. After Our Lord has taught us the whole parable, He tells us what it means, “So also My heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” It is clear that the whole parable is about forgiveness. This is one of the main virtues we have as Christians. We are people that forgive. We don’t simply forgive when it is convenient but we forgive everyone anything that they have done to us. It is a requirement as we pray the Lord’s prayer every day and we say “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespassed against us.” Think about that. The prayer we say everyday assumes that we are forgiving others so that we might also be forgiven. But it’s not simple forgiveness of the lips….it runs deep into the heart.
I happen to think that this gospel reading is providential for us as we prepare for our festival. There is so much to love about a festival but I want you to know that the preparations for a festival can be a playground for Satan. People get offended, others lose their tempers, others feel that they are not being respected or that they are not receiving the treatment they deserve and so on and so forth. In this regard we are asked to learn to forgive quickly as children do. One minute children are calling each other names and completely furious with one another. As a few minutes pass by and you find the two playing together as if nothing has happened. Each one of us needs to be committed to that level of forgiving and purity of heart.
The Lord Jesus did not simply teach forgiveness as a philosophical matter. What makes the Lord greater than all the others is that He lived out His philosophy, His way of life, His love for God and man. He follows His teachings to the cross. During Holy Week we are all witnesses to the heroic act of the Lord as He forgives His accusers and those who mock Him. He doesn’t do that while He is seated at the right hand of God, on His throne. He does it while He is suffering, dying a shameful death upon the cross. When we refuse to forgive others it means that we believe we are more special and deserving of better treatment than the King of kings and Lord of lords.
One of the most important aspects of forgiveness is one that you’ve probably not spent much time thinking about. Your ability to forgive others is directly proportional to whether or not you feel forgiven by God. Yes our relationship with God affects the way that we deal with everyone and everything around us. This is specifically true with forgiveness. When we refuse to forgive someone it is as if we hold them as a prisoner until they pay damages for what they’ve done to us. Thankfully we see that the Lord does no such thing. He is quick to forgive and to heal everyone who asks. No sin is too big that it can’t be forgiven by God. Come and confess these things and the Lord Himself will bless you through the hand of the priest (Whose sins you forgive they are forgiven).
Another common problem that we see often is that people say that they have forgiven or gotten over something in the past but then whenever they are irritated or angry you find them bringing up all these old things again and again. Christians need to beware of that behavior. We each have a tendency towards that, but it is not good. It’s a common thing to see in a marriage. Husbands or wives bringing up very old sins of the past whenever it is convenient. But that is not allowed. If you have a problem you deal with it, you pray together on your knees and afterward you need to completely forgive.
Holding onto the hurt is like feeding a cancer or lighting a bomb with a very long fuse. If you give it enough time the tumor grows out of control or the bomb runs out of fuse and explodes. Our forgiveness must be full and complete and it must come from the sense that God has forgiven us so much and continues to forgive us. Don’t allow yourself to be chained to anger and pain when God gives us freedom by teaching us what it means to be forgiven.
We also have to forgive everyone before God will listen to our prayers as St. Isaac The Syrian says “Someone who bears a grudge while he prays is like a person who sows in the sea and expects to reap a harvest.” We need to be able to stand before God and say from the bottom of our hearts “Lord I have forgiven everyone who has offended me and removed even the slightest feeling of resentment from my heart….It wasn’t easy Lord, but I have done this because you have forgiven me.”
May God allow each of us to feel the gift of forgiveness and to pass this gift on to others. And glory be to God forever AMEN.