Sermon ~ The Miracle of Forgiveness

A boy one went out of his home to do something his parents felt was wrong.  He was involved in an accident and lost both of his legs.  When his parents saw him, he said to them, “Will you forgive me?” Running up to him, they both hugged him and said, “Of course, we have already forgiven you.” And he answered, “Then I can live without my legs.”

The entirety of the Gospel message is about reconciliation.  Reconciliation with God, and reconciliation with our fellow human beings.

Obviously this is an essential part of our Christian life because it is mentioned so often in Scripture, the Liturgy, and the other prayers and writing of our Church.  Reconciliation is not something that is optional it is essential.

Few of us can live without forgiveness. Jesus spoke often about forgiveness.  Today we read the parable of the Unmerciful Servant.  This parable is a commentary on two things Jesus taught, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) and “Forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

We heard in this story today about a man who owed a debt of 10,000 talents.  Ten thousand talents would have been an impossible sum to repay.  It was more than a laborer could earn in several life times. Think of this as  billion or more dollars. It is not known how or why the man owes this money, maybe he fell victim to the mortgage scheme of his day, but it is not applicable to the story.  Just know that this debt was impossible to repay.

In the ancient of days, like today, a person could be thrown in jail or made to become a servant of the person owed the money until the debt was paid.  In some circumstances, the person’s family was also sold into slavery until the debt was paid if ever, and in extreme cases, the descendants of the person who owed the debt were also born into slavery.  Owing money was a serious position and was dealt with extremely hard.

The debtor falls on his knees and begs this lord to take pity on him, and if he only would be given time he would pay off the amount owed.  Then the most remarkable thing happens, the man forgives him, not only of the offence of not repaying, but he forgives him the whole debt.  Imagine, the banks that hold your mortgage calling you up one day and saying we are taking pity on you, and we have forgiven your entire mortgage. Your deed is in the mail!  That would be phenomenal.  But that is exactly what happened in this story we heard today.

But it does not end there.

Next we see the man who was forgiven his debt goes out and runs into a man who owes him 100 denari, this was about three months wages.  The man who had just been forgiven says to the one who owes him, actually he takes him by the throat, and tells him he has to pay.  The man falls on his knees and begs for mercy and asks for a little time to pay off the debt.  The man will hear none of this and throws him into prison.  When the lord heard of this, he became angry, calls the man in before him, and chastises him for not showing mercy on the one who owed him and as a penalty throws him into prison.

Today, what we have heard from the lips of Jesus, is a foretaste of what is to come for all of us.  You see we have to forgive, why, because we have already been forgiven by God for whatever it is that we have done.  Before we can even muster the courage to utter the words He has already forgiven us.

The parable is not just about some guy who owed some other guy money. It is about us and how we ask forgiveness from God when we come to Confession.  We fall on our knees if we can get down there anyway, and we ask God to forgive what we have done or what we have failed to do, and without blinking an eye, He forgives us.

But it does not stop there.

Just as we see in this parable if we do not forgive we are not forgiven.  I have preached on this before, we have no other option but to forgive everyone whatever it is that they have done.  We are commanded to do it time and time again, it is essential to our life as Christians, and it is crucial to our journey towards Theosis.

The passage from the Beatitudes I mentioned earlier, Blessed are those who show mercy, we hear this each and every Liturgy just before the Word of God is brought out into the Congregation.  The small entrance we make in the Liturgy is the symbolic way of showing the very word of God, coming from the Holy Place, to the people, then we break open that Word and we share it. We do not keep it to ourselves, but we share it with all present.  I also mentioned the passage from the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer that Jesus Himself taught to His apostles and to us, forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors!  We have no other choice but to forgive.

If you have been following the news the last few weeks you know that a group of women stood in the Cathedral in Moscow, and performed a song aimed at the Russian President, it was a kind of political protest, and they chose the Cathedral in part because of the role the Russian Orthodox Church has been playing in politics in Russia these last few years.

The women stood in front of the Holy Doors, right where I am standing, with masks over their heads, and they mocked the Church.  Right in the middle of the most sacred places they mocked God!  They were arrested and thrown into prison.  On Friday, they were convicted of Hooliganism and given a sentence of two years in prison.

Keeping in mind that this was done in the middle of the day when many faithful had come to the Cathedral to pray, and keeping in mind that they stood at the Holy Place and mocked God, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church asked the court to show mercy on them and suspend their sentence.  You see he showed significant mercy and forgiveness on what they had done to the Church, and I will add he had no other choice!

If we preach Christ Crucified, as we have too, then we have no other alternative to but to ask for forgiveness and mercy.  Jesus hanging on that cross, with the nails in his flesh, asked God to forgive those who had done this to Him.  He asked God to forgive those who killed him, but not just those that were present at the crucifixion but everyone who had come before and everyone who would come after.  With those sacred words, Jesus Himself was asking God to forgive you and to forgive me!  More than 2,000 years ago Jesus was asking His Father to forgive us!  How can we not forgive?

If we are holding a grudge against another, we are blocking the prayer line to God.  St. Paul said to the Ephesians, “Let all bitterness and wrath and clamor and anger and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31)

How many lawsuits would be dropped if we forgave? How many ulcers and heart attacks would be prevented? How many marriages saved? How many parent-child rifts spared if we were kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God in Christ forgave us?

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