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Homily for 8/23/06 - P11 - reptition and forgveness

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  • Fr David Moser
    Matthew18:23-35 One of he truisms of public speaking is that you tell your audience what you are going to tell them, then you tell them, then you tell them
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 27, 2006

      One of he "truisms" of public speaking is that you tell your audience
      what you are going to tell them, then you tell them, then you tell them
      what you told them. The reason that this is true is that it is
      repetition. We need repetition to learn and internalize new
      information. It is said that the average person only uses about 10% of
      his brain and that of that 10% he only retains about 10% of what he
      reads or hears. Thus the only way to really learn anything is to read
      it or hear it over and over again. Not only reading and hearing but
      also doing requires repetition. When a person is learning a new skill
      he repeats the task over and over again until he has learned the basic
      skill. And then, in order to perfect his knowledge, he continues to
      repeat the task until he has mastered it. Once the skill is mastered
      then he can begin to teach the same skill to someone else -- by having
      the student repeat it over and over again, just as he did.

      In the Church we also have this same repetition. We say the same
      prayers, we sing the same hymns over and over again -- and as we do they
      gradually "sink in". Years ago, when my son was still a boy, one of his
      regular tasks was to chant the 1^st hour in Church. He got pretty
      proficient at chanting this service and even though he never "studied"
      the content, by sheer force of repetition, the meaning of what he was
      reading soaked in. This came out one evening at the table as we were
      discussing old age and illness, suddenly he reminded us that the
      lifespan of a person is bout 70 or 80. I was a bit surprised since we
      know quite a few people older than that and asked him how he knew this.
      His answer was to quote the psalm that is repeated in the first hour,
      Psalm 89, "As for the days of our years, in their span they be
      threescore years and ten, and if we be in strength, mayhap fourscore
      years." All this time, he had been chanting this psalm over and over,
      and not only did he learn how to read the words well, but he also
      learned some of the lessons that the words were teaching. This is the
      power of repetition in our prayers and hymns.

      There is another prayer that we constantly repeat over and over again.
      That is the "Lord's Prayer", the "Our Father..." This great prayer,
      given to us by our Lord Himself, is full of the truth of our spiritual
      life. In it we repeat over and over the words which teach us about God,
      Who He is, what He does, and so on. As we learn about God, we also
      learn how to act like Him -- how conform our lives to his and so to
      become like Him (which is the goal of our salvation). One of the
      petitions that we repeat over and over again speaks of God's
      forgiveness. We ask God to "forgive us our debts as we forgive our
      debtors". From this we learn two things, that we need to be forgiven by
      God and that we also need to forgive others, in the same way that God
      forgives us.

      The parable of the Gospel that we heard today is another lesson in
      forgiveness. It is an illustration of this very petition in the Lord's
      Prayer. In this parable, we are reminded of our need to be forgiven by
      God as we find ourselves in the place of a servant who owes his master
      an unpayable sum of money. When the master calls the debt due, the
      servant, knowing that he is unable to pay, begs for mercy. The master,
      out of his great compassion and love for his servant, forgives the debt
      completely. We have been given a great treasure by God -- our very
      life. But too often we squander this treasure, using it to appease our
      own desires and passions with no regard for or even awareness of how we
      have wasted this precious resource intended for us to prepare for
      eternity -- for us to grow into the image and likeness of God Himself.
      This is our sin, this is the reason that we cannot repay the debt. And
      so when we come before God to show Him what we have gained in our lives,
      we have nothing to show Him, only the scraps of our own self-indulgence.
      Seeing the consequences of our own wasteful actions, we cry out to God
      in repentance, asking forgiveness of Him -- and He, in His love and
      compassion for us, grants us that forgiveness.

      Now we have a fresh opportunity to go out and to begin working out our
      salvation, actualizing the image and likeness of God with which we were
      created. And like the servant in the parable we run into one of our
      fellow servants who has offended us over some trifling matter. Almost
      immediately we have the opportunity to be like our Master, to be like
      God -- and we don't do it. In the parable the servant not only demanded
      that his fellow pay the small debt that he owed, but refused to even
      consider the plea for mercy and leniency. In our lives we too find that
      while we ask, even expect, forgiveness from God, we are very slow to
      give that same forgiveness to others. We may say that we forgive, but
      in our hearts we love to hold onto that grudge, to nurture it, to resent
      the person who has offended us, to indulge in thoughts and fantasies of
      revenge. We have made a choice not to forgive -- we have chosen to hold
      onto the offenses of others while at the same time we expect God to let
      go of our own offenses (as if He owed us that much). See how this
      refusal to forgive has been fed by pride and exploded into something
      even more serious than simply wasting the gift that God has given us.
      Now because of our pride (which found a home in our refusal to forgive)
      we think that we do not owe God, but rather God owes us -- just like our
      fellow men owe us. We have not become like God, but in our own mind we
      have become God and replaced Him with ourselves. Our lack of
      forgiveness has put us into the same sin as that of our first parents
      Adam and Eve, who by disobeying God and eating the fruit of the tree of
      the knowledge of good and evil, sought to be God's equal rather than His

      We were created with the potential, with the calling to become like God,
      to make His image in us manifest in our lives. We are called to become
      vessels of the life of the Holy Trinity and to live in union with God.
      In order to do this, we must empty ourselves of our own lives, of our
      own ideas and ideals, our own wants and desires, and our own passions,
      and nurture instead in ourselves the life of God, living according to
      His will, making His wants and desires our wants and desires, replacing
      our passions with His virtues. We are called to be like Him and so to
      be filled with Him. In order to do this, we must learn to be like Him,
      taking on His characteristics as our own -- usually by sheer repetition,
      unlearning the old habits of our sin and taking on the new habits of
      righteousness. Doing over and over again the things that God does.
      Forgiving our brother not only one time or even seven times, but seventy
      times seven (a Biblical allegory for an infinite amount).

      My brothers and sisters, if you take just this one thing to heart --
      forgiveness -- and practice it over and over again, it will lead you to
      all the other virtues. And so practice forgiveness at every
      opportunity. When someone offends you rejoice -- not in the "payback"
      but in the chance to forgive. Be eager to forgive others, offering
      forgiveness freely, even before they ask. Forgive others as God has
      forgiven you. When forgiveness is perfected in you, then you will be
      filled with all the other virtues and characteristics of God -- you will
      be like Him, sharing in His life, living in union with Him.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Ask Fr David: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/frd_private/

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