Reflections by Father Jeremiah on the subject of forgiveness.


This year, Forgiveness Sunday was celebrated on the 17th of March.

On this day, we Orthodox Christians ask each pardon of everyone we know. We ask forgiveness not only for the wrongs we know we have committed against them but also for the ways we have wronged them without realizing that we have done so. What a wonderful part of our Holy Tradition it is! We ask forgiveness of them, and they, of course, ask forgiveness of us.

And we, as Christians, must forgive. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ tells us that we must. His disciples once asked how many times we should forgive – suggesting that seven times might be a reasonable limit. Jesus, in response, said, no, we must forgive seventy times seven. And just in case anyone is thinking that Jesus, while setting a higher limit, was still setting a limit, think again. The Fathers are agreed that the Lord meant, by His words, that there are no limits to how many times we must forgive. We must forgive everyone, and we must forgive all offenses – always.

There is more to forgiving than just being nice or humble or holy. Jesus mentions forgiveness elsewhere in His teaching, in His answer when His disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray. His response was in words that are, or should be, engraved on the hearts of all Christians, the Lord’s prayer. He tells us to ask our Father to ‘forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”.

Sobering words. We must forgive others their offenses against us if we wish God to forgive us our offenses against Him. In other words, our salvation depends upon us forgiving others. Everyone. Everything. Always.

What a different world we would live in if we all lived that way or, at least, did our very best to do so. If we all focused on healing te wounds of the past rather than using them as an excuse to create further wounds in the future.

During Great and Holy Lent, please pray that this should come to be. Pray especially that God will give you the grace to forgive and that the example of your life will lead others to forgive also.

Fr. Jeremiah Burke

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