Sermon from Sunday March 6, 2022, Forgiveness Sunday
Matthew 6:1-13 The Sermon on the Mount
by Fr Nicholas Karipoff
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Today is Forgiveness Sunday. Today the church remembers how Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise, because they did not seek forgiveness from God. The Gospel reading that we just heard is from the Sermon on the Mount and in this passage we hear about three things. First of all, the need to forgive our neighbour as a condition of forgiveness from God to us, which of course reverberates even in the Lord’s Prayer. Secondly it talks about the true spiritual life, which doesn’t need to parade itself. Thirdly, the Lord talks about our heart and where our treasure is. The spirit of forgiveness shows up who is a real follower of Christ. We have it, or we don’t have it. We’re Christ’s or we’re not Christ’s. The Lord’s last words and deeds from His cross were about forgiveness; his prayer to the Father, Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing, and his forgiveness of the repentant bandit, the Good Thief. Surely these words and deeds are a testament to what is really important for Christ. When a person does not have the spirit of forgiveness, their heart has chosen another treasure, a treasure other than God. And that treasure, of course, can be summed up as their ego and pride. They are deluded and they may even think that they are serving God and praying to God, but in fact they are serving themselves and even in their prayer they address their ego. They parade their virtues, and the result is that they create a hell for themselves. As Dostoevsky wrote, Hell is the inability to love. Let me illustrate this with a passage written in the last few days by a young parishioner of ours.
I feel terror and grief every day, as the news gets worse, and levels of hatred and fear escalate. While the immediate loss of life and the destruction of ways of living occupy my thoughts, I worry about the future. The burning lava of aggressive speech is gaining traction through media and public discourse. At a point where the pandemic should have brought us closer together and more appreciative of the preciousness of the time with our loved ones, and the importance of international cooperation and support, ties have been severed. I feel like it is now the time to come together and pray for peace to end all corrosive conflicts globally. I feel it is also time to examine the hatred and aggression in ourselves towards our fellow human brothers and sisters. Are we starting a war in our daily lives with angry thoughts, burning words or actions, that seek to destroy? More than ever, I feel we need to extend compassion, patience, and kindness, each being a candle of peace in our surrounds.
That’s a touching and beautiful little passage from a young parishioner.
In entering Great Lent, we must commit ourselves to a merciless honesty about our inner life. What is our real treasure? It’s a big question. Are we serving God or ourselves in a multi-faceted way? Do we have the spirit of forgiveness? Are we going to become real followers of Christ? Today’s theme of forgiveness translates into transformation of life. The Gospel calls this repentance, and that’s what the next seven weeks is about as we prepare to greet the Risen Lord.