My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!
Today we celebrate the Sunday of Forgiveness, and the forty days of Lent are set to begin. Let us gladly enter into the Great Fast with joy and in good spirits. For as we retire from the cares of the body, it is as if we have fled from a storm, and have arrived at a safe harbor, one which is quiet and untroubled, conducive to salvation.
Therefore, let us greet this beautiful day with gladness. If we so desire, we can put away the dark deeds of sin, casting them off like a garment, and we can be clothed in a garment of light, of purity, and of sanctity. Let us put on our Lord Jesus Christ, since Christ’s presence purges all the passions and spurs us on to spiritual works.
Let us not pander to our own flesh, fulfilling its unhealthy and unbalanced desires. Of course, it must always be noted that to take care of the genuine needs of the flesh is not forbidden or sinful by any means. What is wrong and sinful is to provide for the improper and disordered desires of the flesh.
Let us forgive the transgressions of those brethren who sin against us. For if we forgive men their trespasses, our heavenly Father will also forgive us our trespasses.
We hear it recounted in today’s Gospel that the Lord said: if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
The Lord Who loves mankind ever desires the salvation of all; He has shown us the paths to penance and salvation.
Therefore, let us forgive the transgressions of our brethren, and let us cast all malice and wickedness out of our hearts. Let us walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called, bearing the name of Christ.
Let us flee from the evil passion of remembering wrongs, because it will hinder our freedom of access before God. No one who has the sickness of bearing grudges can approach God boldly and stand before Him in pure prayer; such a thing is forbidden by the Lord Himself.1
In today’s Gospel Our Lord also enjoins us not to fast in order to win praise from men. Those who do so, the Lord calls hypocrites. Such are they who fast out of vainglory, or who do not fast but pretend they are fasting.
The Lord says, “When thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, bat unto thy Father Which is in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”
Anointing one’s head is a sign of rejoicing. We, too, ought to rejoice, for we are washed and cleansed in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Our Lord says, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.”
Our Lord teaches us about non-possessiveness, since the disease of avarice is grave and pernicious; it is impossible to live a godly life if one is possessed by one’s possessions. You can not give yourself to God, if you are not in possession of yourself.
”For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Not only does the Lord teach us to disdain everything earthly and to pursue heavenly things, but He exhorts us to peace, to unity, and – above all – to charity, which is supernatural love, which is the action of the heart.
Where are our hearts today, my friends? Are they on things of the earth or on things of heaven? He who sows in the flesh reaps his harvest on the earth, and thus he perishes. But he who sows in the spirit, he who bears an image of the heavenly and whose life is in heaven, stores up treasure in heaven and rejoices eternally.
My friends, we have learned from our Lord to forgive the transgressions of our brethren. We have heard his injunction not to practice fasting so as to be seen by men, to do all things to please God, and to lay up treasure not on earth, but in heaven.
Let us strive not only to receive His commandments with our ears, but also to write them in our hearts and to carry them out in our deeds. Let us take up the fast not to win praise from men, but in order to please God. Let us put an end to all enmity amongst ourselves. Let us forgive each other in anything whereby we have offended each other. Let us store up treasures not on earth, but in heaven, that we also may inherit incorruptible blessings, in Christ Jesus our Lord.