Forgive sins

jesus_in-a-boat

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.

Why so much fear?

FullSizeRender.jpgSt. Justin Popovic says in a homily for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost – which will be   this coming Sunday, “You’re a Christian but be careful that you are not a heathen according to your worries….”. For in that Sunday’s gospel we hear the Lord’s words: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on it. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?…For after all these things the Gentiles seek..” (Matt. 6:25,32).

Even when things are going good we worry that something bad is going to happen. There’s a story about how death was on it’s way to a city and a man it on it’s way there. Death told the man that it’s on its way to the city to take the lives of 100 people. The man was horrified and rushed to the city to inform the people. That evening the man met death again asked, You said you’d only take 100 lives, why did 1,000 die? Death replied, I kept my word. I only took 1oo. Worry took the rest.

Concern is not the same as worry. For that matter neither is to act responsibly. But often times those who act responsibly and want to take responsibility worry about everything. This worrying turns into fear which eventually cause us to lose all hope and, in the end, we lose our faith in God.

The opposite of not  worrying is to have peace. It’s worth nothing that the Divine Liturgy begins with this very prayer for peace: In peace let us pray to the Lord. But peace doesn’t necessarily mean that we all get along and we’re friendly with another. On the contrary, I’m praying for peace for myself so that in the midst of everything I have peace: I’m positive, I have healthy outlook on life, etc. If we spend all our time praying that peace finally come to the world that’s exactly what’s going to happen – we’re going to spend all our time – our whole life – praying for that. It’s not going to happen, there will always be things we need to take responsibility for and be concerned about, things that will make it difficult for us to be at peace. But peace doesn’t come from outside but from within.

In Psalm 23 David writes, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thou art with me….”. Ironically, many people don’t pray to the Lord “in peace” but when they’re in trouble, when they’re sick, when something bad has either happened to them or someone they love. How can such a person pray? How can such a person fear no evil when it’s not “in peace” that they are praying but in fear?

Christ doesn’t tell us not to worry because all we need to do is believe in Him and he’ll take care of our finances, our employment and everything else. He’s telling us something else, He’s saying: I am with you! Through our worries, however, we’re telling Him: Yeah, but I’m not with you.