- Fr. Athanasius Oweis
Sunday of Forgiveness - 3/6/2022
Link to Gospel Reading: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
The Lord said, "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
both now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen.
Hurt is a real thing.
It is a real emotion, one that etches a wound in your psyche that does not go away easily with time.
It could be caused by anyone, a colleague, a friend, and it becomes even more painful when is caused by a close relative, even our parents or our siblings. Sometimes it is by a complete stranger.
It is also a spectrum of levels. It could be anywhere from passive aggressive behavior all the way to verbal, emotional, and physical abuse.
Forgiveness is one of the hardest topic to discuss because whenever that topic is opened the first thing that you will hear people say: “Well, it’s easy for you to say because you have never been in my place and went through what I had to experience”
So how does the Church, asks us to forgive. Does She Not understand the pain that we go through? And why does She open this sensitive topic and place this gospel right before great and holy lent?
First of all, let us define what forgiveness is, and what forgiveness is not:
Forgiveness is the removal of hatred towards anyone who had hurt you, it is not the disappearance of the pain. Though this would be the first step in the healing of pain.
Forgiveness begins with the ceasing of wishing evil things towards the one who hurt you, it is the complete absence of grudges towards them, and ends when you reach the ability of not only wishing them good things, but actually rejoicing with them when good things happen to them.
Forgiveness is not the brushing off of hurt that we feel. It is the true healing.
So how can we achieve forgiveness, and why does Christ insist that the amount of forgiveness that you receive is the same as the amount of forgiveness that you give, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. since when does Christ deal with us “eye for eye”?
Forgiveness is a direct indicator of your spiritual state. It is the measuring cup of how much love you have in your heart, and how much of Christ is filling your heart. The more hurt you endured and you are still able to forgive the higher your life in Christ is. Where Christ is the ultimate example by forgiving those who crucified Him while he was still on the cross, not after a long time, but during the toughest and highest point of the pain right before He gave His soul.
The way to forgive your neighbor is by realizing that he was fooled by the devil. Whether they hurt you by knowledge or by ignorance, the fact is: They were fooled by the evil one, They were a tool in his hand to accomplish his will. His will is to spread his kingdom of hatred and animosity. The evil one once to fool you as well.
Do not help the Devil to spread his kingdom. Hallow the name of your Heavenly Father by your actions; help Him to spread His Kingdom on earth. ‘For we are laborers together with God.’ St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ
Christ is telling you, don’t be part of this kingdom. Come to me, I will fill your heart with love that no hurt will be able to change it.
The Holy Martyr Tatiana, the Deaconness of Rome, who accepted death for her confession of Jesus Christ during the reign of Emperor Alexander Severus (222-235), bravely endured everything. When the torturers tore her eyes out, she prayed that the Lord would open their spiritual eyes.
The protomartyr Stephen, prayed for his stoners while they were stoning him brutally. The lives of the saints are filled with incredible stories about how they forgave those who tortured them. How did they achieve that?
Forgiveness is not of this earth, it is a heavenly gift. Christ is telling you, bring your cup, the more you fill it from me, nothing will be able to hurt you, not demons themselves. Don’t be a pawn in the evil of the kingdom and spend your life in hurt. Come to me, I will heal you, I will heal all your hurts.
So how does this align with the great lent?
Great lent is the time where we leave ourselves, our hunger, our passions, and we focus on Christ. We focus how much sins we have committed against Christ.
The evil one always wants to play the tape in your head: “Look how much they hurt ME!”,
And the Church tells us, if we focus on how much sins we have committed against Christ, and he still forgives us, we would be filled with His love. Hence, the “ME” “Ego” gets smaller, and “Christ fills our heart, aligning with what St. John the Baptist said :He should increase and I decrease”. The more he fills our hearts, the more our ego gets smaller, the more the hurt that we feel gets minimized, because ultimately the Church is trying to get you to a point when there is no Me, it is all Christ, as saint Paul would say, with Christ I have been crucified, so who lives not I, but Christ in me.
Hence, Christ is the true healing of all our pains, because He willingly felt all these pains to heal us and restore our nature, and when we listen to the sayings of the saints like Saint Kosmas St. Kosmas Aitolos
“If a man insults me, kills my father, my mother, my brother, and then gouges out my eye, as a Christian it is my duty to forgive him. We who are pious Christians ought to love our enemies and forgive them. We ought to offer them food and drink, and entreat God for their souls. And then we should say: ‘My God, I beseech Thee to forgive me, as I have forgiven my enemies.’”
May God grant us the gift of forgiveness and healing of heart., Through the intercessions of the Theotokos, and all the saints whom their lives became light for the whole Church. Amen.