Today’s theme is forgiveness. To be truly forgiven requires two things: 1) Repentance on the part of the one seeking forgiveness; 2) a willingness to truly forgive on the part of the one being approached for it.
Inside of Paradise, there is no need for either of these. For within Paradise there is no sin. Without sin repentance has no meaning, nor does forgiveness.
Outside of Paradise sin is ubiquitous, as is the essential need for repentance. But outside of Paradise we also find the human condition where those who FEEL as if they’ve been slighted (sinned against) are unwilling to forgive. It’s the human condition of seeking revenge.
The concept of revenge is perhaps the single largest cause of war in the world. “Your grandfather killed mine, and I must now avenge ‘his memory’,” whatever that means. The same holds true even in the streets of our own country, where one gang member slays the brother of someone, and to prove that they won’t tolerate such violence, they return to murder one from the side of the first offender. And, it never ends.
In today’s Gospel, our Lord (as He so often does) gives us a Divine view of forgiving and repenting. He personalizes it for us. If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Note the absoluteness of His words. Jesus does not say the Father may forgive you. It is truly the ultimate quid pro quo! Do this, the Father does that!
The word translated as trespass is the Greek word paraptoma. Trespass is an appropriate translation, but it also carries the meanings of offence, sin, fault, and either intentional or unintentional error on the part of the offender.
About this phrase from Holy Scripture, St. Theophan writes the following:
What a simple and handy means of salvation! Your trespasses are forgiven under the condition that you forgive your neighbor’s trespasses against you. This means that you (your salvation) are in your own hands. Force yourself to pass from agitated feelings toward your brother to truly peaceful feelings—and that is all. The day of forgiveness—what a great, heavenly day of God this is! If all of us used it as we ought, this day would make Christian societies into heavenly societies, and the earth would merge with heaven.
The earth would merge with heaven. Heaven on earth. Back inside of Paradise!
It IS possible, but our human hearts must be conformed to the Lord’s instruction and His will for us in our own lives.
On this day, within the upcoming Forgiveness Sunday Vespers, we’ll pray together the following:
Your grace has shown forth, O Lord, giving light to our souls. Now is the acceptable time, now is the season of repentance. Let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, that having sailed across the great sea of the Fast, we may reach the third-day Resurrection of Christ our Lord, the Savior of our souls.
Let us live in the Light that is our Lord, freely granting forgiveness to all who seek it, and in the greatest humility offering sincere repentance to all for the many sins—known and unknown—that we have committed.
Forgive me, my brothers and sisters in Christ!