Archpastoral Reflection on Forgiveness Sunday
Tomorrow, known in Greek as Kathara Deftera or Clean Monday, Orthodox Christians begin a spiritual journey called the Great Lent. It is a time of promise, of expectancy and of renewal. Tomorrow, we begin fasting, we attend colorful worship services and keep customs honored for many centuries by Orthodox Christian families. All these aim at the renewal of our spiritual life, our catharsis, our repentance and return to God. The Great Lent is a unique opportunity for serious recollection. It is a time for the reordering of our minds and hearts. Humanity more than ever before in history needs such a spiritual and moral reorientation. There are three major topics in the gospel text read this morning on Forgiveness Sunday.
The world today is separated by many walls. One still separates races in America. Yet another wall exists in human relationships between husband and wife, between parent and child, between friends, between God and man. Only forgiveness breaks down these walls of conceit, egotism, and sin which keep us estranged from one another and from God. "If you forgive others their trespasses your Father in Heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses neither will your Father in Heaven will not forgive your trespasses. (Mat. 6:14 &15).
The second topic in the gospel text deals with fasting. The prophet Isaiah wrote centuries ago: "Is not this the fast I choose....ls it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house...when you see the naked to clothe them? (58, 6-7). Fasting helps us to gain control over ourselves; to enable Christian ethics to prevail over the habits of the flesh. More than abstinence from certain foods, fasting is deliverance from evil, the renunciation of anger and falsehood. A good taste of hunger would remind all of us well-fed Americans of the many bounties with which we have been blessed and remind us of the desperate plight of brethren in Greece and throughout the world, even in our own neighborhoods in America.
The third and final message concems our treasures. All earthly treasures wind up in the junkyard called the grave. They are stolen from us by death. The greatest human treasure is love and the ability to share the richness of love with our fellow human beings. There is a treasure in forgiving; in strengthening our relationships with our neighbor and with our God. Our greatest treasure is spelled GOD not GOLD. With these three spiritual messages from the Gospel text we begin a journey of search into our souls. We begin our 40 day joumey conscientiously in humility and repentance. We ask strength from God to renew ourselves in prayer and meditation. We strain to hear the voice of our conscience which whispers to us the need to repent, to restore our spiritual bond with God. We set our eyes upon the crucifixion of our Savior and His Holy Resurrection to find direction, dignity and beauty in our life.