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Homily for 8/31/08 - P11 - responding to God

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  • Fr David Moser
    Matt 18:23-35 In this parable, we see a clear example of the petition in the Our Father wherein we pray, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”.
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 31, 2008
      Matt 18:23-35

      In this parable, we see a clear example of the petition in the Our
      Father wherein we pray, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our
      debtors”. A servant, who owes a great debt to his master begs for more
      time to repay and the master out of his abundant mercy frankly forgives
      the servant. This servant, upon leaving his master’s presence, now fully
      solvent, comes upon one of his brethren who owes him a small sum. The
      servant demands payment of the small debt but his brother makes the same
      request that he first made of the master – more time to repay. Instead
      of responding in the same manner as the master, with compassion and
      mercy, the servant responds by having his brother thrown into prison
      until he can repay. When news of this lack of mercy reaches the ears of
      the master, then he recalls the servant and rescinds the forgiveness
      given, demanding imprisonment until the debt is paid. The servant is
      judged with the same measure by which he judged others. The master gave
      an example of how to judge with mercy, but the servant did not respond
      to the kindness of the master. As a result of ignoring the example of
      the master, the servant loses all that he thinks he has gained and
      receives another example – that of harsh justice untempered by mercy,
      the same approach he had taken towards others.

      God has given to us so much in this life. He has called us from nonbeing
      into being and having brought us into this life, He provides for us all
      that we need to live; light, warmth, food, clothing, shelter, rain,
      sunshine and so on. He does this in order that we might have an example
      of divine love – love that showers gifts upon us without merit. He also
      has not only forgiven us when we sin, but when mankind fell into
      corruption through sin, God, in His infinite love and compassion came
      Himself into this world and sacrificed Himself to rescue us from the
      imprisonment of sin and to provide for us the means by which we can be
      healed of sin’s effects. He then opens the doors that were once closed
      and shows us the way to return to the paradise of union and communion
      with Him for which we were created. All this and more God gives to us
      out of His love for us. Having received all this from God, we then have
      the opportunity to respond to Him. We have an example of love which to
      which we can now respond. We can love God in response to His love for us
      and in turn express our love of God in love for our neighbors as well,
      imitating in our own lives the love of God for us. Tragically there are
      many who ignore God, choosing not to follow the path that He has shown
      for us but they simply take for granted the gifts of God and choose
      their own path. Some even oppose Jesus Christ, denying that He is the
      incarnate God or denying even that there is a God in the first place.
      For them concern for their neighbor’s well being still exists, but it
      has become a matter of building up the self. They may become
      humanitarians, but in doing so they ignore God and assume all the credit
      and praise for their humanitarian actions. Or they may have an
      underlying principle of simple justice giving only to “worthy causes”
      deeming worthy that which fits either their sense of justice
      (predetermining who is worthy and who is not) or their sense of self
      aggrandizement (giving to those who are lesser than themselves). Perhaps
      by God’s mercy something will occur which will open the eyes and ears of
      those who oppose God but in the end they will have to face God and must
      choose to separate themselves from Him or to surrender to Him and
      embrace His love.

      More tragic than those who deny Christ are those who on the surface do
      not oppose Christ but who take His sacrifice and His provision and who
      twist it to their own ends. These are those who see the great compassion
      that God has given through His incarnation and redemption and who see
      the salvation that is now open to us, but who reject the path of
      humility and self denial, which is the path that our Lord laid out for
      us to enter into that salvation and instead “invent” their own path,
      their own version of Christianity, which excludes those elements (such
      as humility or self denial) which are unappealing. In essence they
      recreate God, and His works, in accordance with their own ideas of who
      God is and how He should behave. Seeing their zeal, no matter how
      misdirected, God will judge them according to the measure with which
      they judge the world. What this judgment will be and how they will end
      up is in the hands of God alone.

      The greatest tragedy, however, are those who are neither against God nor
      who try to recreate God, but those who know God but ignore Him. There
      are many who acknowledge that God exists and that He is merciful and the
      lover of mankind, but God’s provision for them has little or no impact.
      They go on living their lives, “praying” mechanically (when they pray at
      all), taking for granted the many gifts of God and promising themselves
      that they will undertake the spiritual life someday when there is more
      time or when it is more important. They ignore the many blessings in
      their lives that God gives, chalking their “good fortune” up to luck or
      skill or opportunity or even their own hard work. And yet God has given
      these very blessings as an example of His love and invitation to love
      Him in return. But all this falls on deaf ears and there is no response
      to God and these tragic figures continue in their blindness. Seeing this
      apathy and lack of response, God in His infinite mercy and love for all
      mankind may respond as did the master in the parable when he saw that
      his example was ignored by his servant and work to get the attention of
      those who have forgotten Him. Thus “bad things” happen to “good people”
      not as a punishment, but as an attempt by God to wake up those who sleep
      and bring them to an awareness of Himself.

      It would be easy for us all here to say that none of these apply to us.
      After all we are following the path of humility and self denial, we are
      living in union and communion with God. We pray regularly at home
      keeping our morning and evening prayer rule and we come together here in
      the Church to offer our communal prayer to God. We keep the fasts to
      practice self denial. We give some of our money to the Church and to the
      poor. We are not like those others who have forgotten God. Yes it would
      be easy to say that – but even so it would not be true. Very often we
      are the most tragic person of all for we have been given the greatest of
      gifts, the grace filled life of the Church, and yet we only engage this
      life when it is convenient to us or when it makes sense to us. We pray
      only when that prayer does not conflict with our busy schedule and we
      fast only when it suits us. We give of our wealth not out of joy and
      rejoicing offering all that we have to God, but rather we give as a
      matter of duty, assigning the smallest possible portion to God and
      making sure that we have plenty left over for our own pleasure and
      desires. We are the tragic ones who believe God but ignore Him.

      Now is the time, upon hearing this Gospel, to renew our love for God and
      our zeal in following Him. Now is the time to love God in response His
      love for us. Now is the time to become holy as God is holy. Now is the
      time to be merciful and compassionate and to forgive others as God is
      merciful and compassionate and forgiving toward us. Now is the time to
      begin to renew our spiritual lives to enter into a life of union and
      communion with God, offering praise to Him for His goodness and
      following the path of salvation that He has set out for us so that we
      might grow ever nearer to Him and perceive more and more the reality of
      His close and loving presence. God has given to each of us great
      blessings, let us not ignore this call to us by God to love Him, to
      become like Him, to enter into a life of communion with Him. Let us make
      God the center of our lives and respond to His love for us by loving Him
      in return. Let us become like Him, following the examples that He has
      given to us. Let us follow the path of love and compassion and blessing
      which leads to union and communion with Him. Let us now respond to God
      and change our self centered lives and follow instead the path of
      salvation and begin to lead God centered lives. God loved us so that we
      might love Him in return. Let us therefore love God with our whole
      being, all our heart, all our mind, all our soul, and all our strength.
      Now is the time to love God.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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