5 October OS 2016 – Tuesday of the Third Week of St. Luke; Holy Martyr Charitina
The reading today for the Holy Gospel, according to the daily cycle, is Luke 6:37-45
The Lord said to His disciples: Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye. For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
Forgiveness and non-condemnation have been called the “easy way to salvation.” On the one hand, it seems easy, does it not? Do this one thing, and regardless of all your sins, you will find salvation. On the other hand, we know that it is not easy, that it is perhaps the hardest thing of all.
Before I go on, I want to make clear that I am not talking about “forgiving” or “not judging” people afar off: Disgusting politicians, serial murderers, lying journalists, outrageous perverts, etc. Too often we rivet our attention on people unrelated to us and events beyond our control, as if ghost-like figures on a screen were more real than the person next to us. Let us for awhile tear ourselves away from the demonically orchestrated circus of unreality, the “virtual” version of what used to be the public square, and look at how we respond to the people with whom we live.
When dealing with our relatives, fellow Church members, fellow workers, and neighbors who offend us in any way, great or small, it is essential to remember that God does not ask us to excuse them but to forgive them. If we can excuse them plausibly (which is more often the case than we would like to think), this is all to the better – it makes forgiveness much easier, when we realize that they really did not mean it, or cannot help it, and so forth. But, admittedly, there are cases when the other person, as far as any finite intelligence can discern, is just dead wrong, and only God Himself can see deeply enough into his heart to discover if in fact there is some mitigating factor. This makes it harder to forgive, but remember, we are not being asked to excuse but to forgive, and since forgiveness is the gift of grace, it is not beyond our power if God so wills, for where God so wills, the order of nature is overruled.
St. Gregory the Theologian, in his commentary on the Our Father, when speaking of the words, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” points out that we are never more like God than when we forgive. Judgment and forgiveness are both divine prerogatives; judgment God has reserved for Himself, but the power to forgive He has bestowed also upon us. Let us then be like God!
This grace of forgiveness, so definite a proof of the Church’s divine origin, is seen pre-eminently in the tribunal of confession, where, having accused ourselves, we receive from God neither an excuse nor a condemnation, but forgiveness. We are the servants who have been forgiven the ten thousand talents; let us forgive our brethren the one hundred denarii.
We will never have peace in this life as long as we predicate our happiness on others’ behaving justly and rationally towards us. Yet St. Seraphim of Sarov said that if we acquire the spirit of peace, a thousand souls around us will be saved. I propose that we take him seriously and acquire the spirit of peace, through forgiveness.