We are approaching the 6th Sunday after Pentecost and the gospel we read is a continuation from the 5th Sunday. Namely, after Jesus had driven the demons out of the Gergesene demoniacs He was kindly asked to leave. So He “got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His city…” (Matt. 9:1). In fact, that verse is read both last Sunday and this coming Sunday. Last Sunday the gospel reading ended there and this coming Sunday that’s where the reading begins. Another healing is heard at the beginning of this chapter, this time in Capernaum and at the end of this gospel episode we hear a similar thing as last Sunday: “And he arose and departed to his house…” (Matt. 9:7). Unlike in the region of the Gergesene in Capernaum His healing was praised, except from the Pharisees. Another aspect is different: the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus says, “But that you might know that the Son of God has power on earth to forgive sins…” and then He forgives the sins of the paralytic. The Lord gives this same power to His Disciples, that is, He gives it to His Church. This is a very important thing to remember. We’re not going to face Jesus at the Judgement Seat in the afterlife so that we can prove to Him what good people we were so that He might forgive us our sins. In fact, we don’t have to prove to anyone we’re good at all. Good people don’t go to heaven, Saints do, was a saying a priest friend liked to repeat.
The point is this: forgiveness of sins happens on earth and not in heaven. Subsequently, while we are in this world we are to repent. Always. We say in our morning prayers, “Suddenly the Judge shall come, and the deeds of each shall be revealed: but with fear we cry out in the middle of the night: Holy, holy, holy art thou, O God. Through the Theotokos have mercy on us”.
It is a human tendency and weakness to put things off. It’s laziness. Like everything else, however, we tend to rationalize it and so we fall in the temptation of putting off the remission of our sins. It’s something between us and God and God will surely do as soon as He sees us face to face in the afterlife.
What we ignore is that God has revealed Himself to us and promised us “Lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). This is what we refer to in Orthodoxy as the sacramental life. This is our salvation.