SERMON FOR FORGIVENESS SUNDAY 2021
SERMON FOR FORGIVENESS SUNDAY 2021
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit!
"The Lord took a handful of dust from the earth.
He breathed into it and created me, a living man.
He made me lord and master of everything on earth;
truly I enjoyed the life of the angels.
But Satan the deceiver tempted me in the guise of a serpent;
I ate the forbidden fruit and forfeited the glory of God.
Now I have been delivered to the earth through death.
O my compassionate Lord, call me back to Eden!"
"When the Enemy tempted me, I disobeyed Thy command, O Lord.
I exchanged the glory of my mortal body for shame and nakedness.
Now I must wear garments of skins and fig-leaves;
I am condemned to eat the bread of bitter hardship by the sweat of my brow. The earth is cursed and brings forth thorns and husks for me. O Lord, Who didst take on flesh from the Virgin in the fullness of time; call me back and restore me to Eden!"
These words from last night’s Vespers express Adam’s agony. His heart breaks because of his sin and his expulsion from Paradise. Instead of being a citizen of Eden, Adam finds himself a stranger in a foreign and hostile world. Adam was in exile, and all we, by extension, went into exile with him. Why? Because the blood of Adam and Eve flows in our veins too. From them came the whole human race, and all the peoples of the world.
On Forgiveness Sunday last year, Metropolitan Tikhon said this in his homily, “We have all followed the example of Adam in our own sins. Our sinful actions separate us from God, severing the union He desires and causing us to weep bitterly outside the gates of Eden. Our disobedience to His commandments strip us of the robe of grace and cause us to be naked, with only skins and fig leaves to cover us. We, the children of Adam, are likewise condemned to toil and labor, and ultimately to return to the dust from which we were taken. Our sins have closed the gates of Paradise to us, and we are unable to see its beauty and behold the face of God.”
Adam made a huge mistake that condemned both himself and all of us to this exile from Paradise. Do you know what that was? Adam didn’t repent, and he didn’t ask for what? Forgiveness! That’s right, Adam never asked for forgiveness. In fact, he even deepened his sin by blaming someone else for it; he blamed Eve. Genesis 3:12 in the Septuagint says: “Adam said (to the Lord God,) The woman whom thou gavest to be with me - she gave me of the tree and I ate.” The same was true for Eve too. She never confessed, she never repented, and she never asked for forgiveness. When God asked her what happened, she only said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”
Brothers and Sisters, the key that opens to us the door to Paradise is repentance and forgiveness. Tomorrow evening during the Canon of St Andrew of Crete we will hear these word: “I confess to Thee, O Savior, I have sinned, I have sinned against Thee, but absolve and forgive me in Thy compassion.” There is no sin that God will not forgive, as long as we repent and ask for forgiveness. St. John of Kronstadt writes, “As soon as you say from your whole heart, ‘I repent,’ you will be immediately forgiven.” What joy! What a consolation! God will always forgive us! But today’s Gospel reminds us that this abundance of merciful forgiveness is dependent upon one thing: that we also forgive our neighbor! St. Nikolai Velimirovich says:“Absolutely nothing will help us if we are not lenient toward the weaknesses of men and forgive them. For how can we hope that God will forgive us if we do not forgive others?”
That’s exactly what we heard from our Lord Jesus today: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
St. Tikhon of Voronezh reminds us: ““Do we refuse to forgive? God, too, will refuse to forgive us. As we treat our neighbours, so also does God treat us. The forgiveness or un-forgiveness of your sins, then, and hence also your salvation or destruction, depend entirely on you yourself. For without forgiveness of sins there is no salvation. You can see for yourself how serious it is.”
It IS serious, VERY serious. At Vespers tonight God will as us to make a commitment to our own salvation by asking us to forgive all those who have sinned against us, all who have hurt us, or betrayed us, or offended us, or cheated us, or disappointed us. The results of such a commitment will astonish you! William Blake wrote:“Mutual forgiveness of each vice, such are the gates of paradise!” Yes dear ones, forgiveness will spring open the Gates of Paradise for us, and what will we see there in that brilliant light? The Tree of the Cross now revealed as the Tree of Life, all the saints and angels, all of our dear-ones departed this life in the hope of eternal life, and, most importantly, our Sweetest Lord Jesus Christ on His throne at the right hand of the Father. At His right hand will be standing the Queen of Heaven, arrayed in golden robes all glorious (Ps. 44/45: 9). The Lord will motion to us saying, “Come, sit here on the right, and enter into the joy of your Lord!” May God grant to us all the grace to repent, the grace to ask for forgiveness, and the grace to forgive everyone. Let us be diligent to return again to that ancient paradisaical bliss and glory by means of fasting and obedience to all the divine commands. Amen!