Sunday of Forgiveness Thoughts

Romans 13:11-14; 14-1-4
Matthew 6:14-21

This past Sunday was the Sunday of Forgiveness the last of the Pre-Lenten Sundays in the Orthodox Church. I began a series of homilies focused on the 10 Commandments that I will continue during the following Sundays. I feel that a thorough knowledge of the Commandments will help us to live our life in a more Christian way.
I have begun to speak only from notes so I cannot completely write everything that I said here and if I become more technological I might try to post pod casts of my homilies. I cannot imagine that anyone would want to listen, other then the ones that are trapped in my church during that period of the service, but maybe I will past some.
So I began the previous week laying the ground work and had to define what we mean when we say sin. In the past I have always defined sin in the classical orthodox understanding of the word. Sin is falling short of the mark. We miss the mark when we sin. We aim for a point but don’t quite get there. This time however I used the definition of the Great Theologian Fr. Alexander Schemmen. Sin is the absence of love, it is a separation and isolation. When Christ returns to judge his world he will use love as his criterion. Christian love entails seeing Christ in other people. We shall be judged on whether or not we have loved our neighbor. We show this Christian love when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit hose who are sick or in prison. If we do this for the least of Christ’s people then we do these things for Christ. If we do not do those things for the least of Christ’s people then we do not do them for Christ. The Christian then is the one who, wherever he or she looks, everywhere sees Christ and rejoices in him.
With that said then I began with a look at the first 2 commandments. I began by speaking of the fact that the commandments can be broken into two groups. The first four deal with our relationship with God and the other six deal with our relationship with one another. You shall have no other gods before me. How we have made things gods. In the time the Commandments were written, the Israelis lived in a world that had many gods. This was saying that God, the God of their fathers, is the only God. But what have we made gods of in our life. Just this past week the second and third stories on the evening news focused on the antics of celebrities. Brittany Spears was in the news because she shaved her head and was getting a tattoo, and Tom Brady was in the news because he has fathered a child with his former girlfriend. (This last one will be the subject of another post) However, the other stories in the news were about the troops in the war. The war story has been replaced by shaved heads and SIN. We have made gods of these people and that is not appropriate for a Christian. But ask yourself these questions: Have I failed to pray to Him faithfully? Have I loved God with all my heart, and all my soul, and my neighbor as myself? Have I remembered to put Him first in my life as a way of loving Him, or is comfort or money or pleasure first in my life? Have I read Holy Scriptures regularly? Have I rejected to receive Holy Communion regularly or without due preparation? These are questions we need to ask our self when we think of the first two commandments of God.
As this is the Sunday of Forgiveness, we always end the service with the asking of forgiveness of each other for things that we have done or not done during the previous year. As the Gospel passage for the day reminds us we are forgiven to the measure that we forgive. As has been tradition in my parish here the faithful come up at the end of the Liturgy for the blessing and I ask forgiveness of them and they as forgiveness of me, and then they stand in line and ask forgiveness of each other. A very blessed way to begin Great Lent.
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