The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 2 years ago

The Asceticism of Forgiveness - Cheesefare Sunday 2020

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Now available at patristic nectar dot Org. patristic nectar publications is pleased to present a new sixpart lecture series by Father Maximus Constas, entitled the life and Teaching of Saint Basil the Great. Saint Basil of Cesarea, one of the three holy hierarchs, is a foundational figure in the life of the Christian Church. His Life and works have inspired and guided the faithful for almost eighteen centuries. In these lectures, the highly esteemed petrologist, Father Maximos leads his students into a deep dive into the life and thought of this holy father, first by unveiling the contours of Saint Basil's life and then by surveying the major aspects of his teaching and ministry. The lecture titles are as follows. Lecture one, the life of Saint Basil the Great. Lecture two, the ascetic writings. Lecture three, the Trinitarian controversy. Lecture four, scripture preaching Liturgy. Lecture Five, social and philanthropic works. Lecture six, Saint Basil as the paradigm of the priesthood. Summary and conclusions for these and other available titles, please visit our website at patristic Hector Dot Org and now the arena with Father Josiah Trenne, in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Our world is falling, isn't it? Brothers and sisters, this last week, tell me if you haven't had, at least once or twice, a strange feeling on the inside as you listen to shocking things.

You heard stories about this virus and the consequences of its spread. You perhaps saw the impact on your retirement account. The whole world is falling and it will fall. Everything that we think is stable in this world is in fact not stable. Our health can be dissolved in the matter of days by an invisible virus that we know little about. We have no idea where it came from. We have no idea how it's really spreading. It's appearing in play, says that evidently are untraceable, just popping up. Those who have worked hard to save an exercide virtue not to spend their assets, can find their assets evaporated in the blink of an eye. The whole world is falling. That which can be shaken will be shaken. The scripture say there's only one thing that cannot be shaken God's kingdom. One thing, the only thing that matters, brothers and sisters, is the treasure that you have chosen to put above where moth and rust and viruses and tanking stock markets cannot touch it. This is the message of the Gospel Lesson today. Store up your treasure in heaven. Put Your heart there. Don't look from the world for something the world cannot give, like stability. Cannot offer that to us. This Gospel...

Text, this Marvelous Gospel text, is found right in the middle of our Lord's most famous sermon. The Gospel today is from the eleven, the sixth chapter of Matthew, right in the middle of the sermon on the Mount. I want to remind you why we love that sermon so much. Our savior began that marvelous sermon with the words that you just heard song by the choir, the be attitudes Jesus became, began his most influential teaching with an articulation of the character of his disciples. Why would he start there? Why would he thought start about naming the blessed life as a matter of character? To show that what salvation is about, what the Kingdom of God is here to do, if to change people into something, to turn them into what they were meant to be from the beginning, the image and likeness of God himself. This is why he started there. It's the most important thing. It's what he accomplishes us in our lives, to make us blessed by becoming someone, his disciples, his father's children, manifesting God's disposition. Merciful, thirsty for Righteousness, compassionate, Meek, mourning, pure and heart this is why he started there. He moved after he articulated the character of what his disciples ought be. He moved then to talk about our influence in the world and what our relationship to this falling world should be. We're aren't planting our stakes...

...here thinking that this is our home. We're not using God to make our earthly lives easier. Now we have a task to light up this world. Where the light of this world? Our task is to invade darkness and to eradicate darkness, mostly in ourselves, because we can't eradicate any darkness elsewhere if we're consumed with darkness ourselves. He wants us to have an aggressive power to retard the advance of corruption. Were salt he says, salt of the Earth. We're supposed to go in to a falling world and slow all the corruption down. That's what we're supposed to do. Slow it down, not go along with it and speed it up. Turn on the flashlight in the dark places. Let the truth be known, especially the truth about ourselves and ourselves needing God. After he taught that, he moved on, in the of chapter five to explain what a life of love for God looks like with regards to the Commandments. And remember who he was. Speaking this to many who had very, very limited understanding of the intention of God's Commandments. Jesus constantly rework that in his disciple's minds. He said, if you love me, if you love me, keep my words. Don't think about the commandments outside of the framework of love for God, because that's what they're about. The commandments do not exist so that we can fulfill them and feel good about ourself. That is not why the commandments exist. The commandments exist as an expression of fidelity and love for God. This is if we're asking the question,...

...how can we love God if those are the kinds of people were becoming? The answer is found in the commandments. And that's why he takes all of the commandments and he presses them into a personal framework. It's not about externalism, it's about our relationship to God and other people. The greatest commandment if to love God with your whole soul, your whole mind, your entire heart, and the second is to love your neighbor like you already completely and totally love yourself. These are the two commandments, upon them at everything else holds, and they all start from here. He spent chapter five explaining that the commandments have their root. They can only be kept if they're kept from the inside out, if we actually allow the commandments to start here. And then we get to the chapter from which our Gospel text is drawn today, the very heart of the sermon on the mount after he's described who were, who we are and the necessity of heart life, living from the heart, after he's abolished externalism, he then talks about the great spiritual disciplines, the ascetic life. And I want you to see this, brothers and sisters. The Christian faith is far too often simply accepted as a mind set. It's simply embraced if an ideology. I think this way about God. I said these words to God. Therefore I'm in a good condition. Too often that's how it's understood in our culture, and Jesus, but in the sermon right in the middle, absolutely lays that concept low. Those who are becoming someone,...

...those who are being fashioned into people who image God, work from the heart and they do it through the process of incredible voluntary struggle. This is the message of the chapter six chapter. This is Jesus is called to asceticism. He immediately launches into content, to talking about fasting. There is no Christianity without fasting. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. He doesn't say if you're super spirit spiritual and you want to be a monk, fast like this. He was talking to the crowds on the hills by the lake of Galilee when he gave the sermon. It's a holy spot today in the Holy Land when you go there, the very spot that Jesus gave the sermon. He was talking to men, women, children, old and young. He didn't say if you want to be really spiritual and be a monk, learned to fast. He said when you fast, when you fast, do it like this, do it like this, make it a matter of your heart. Do It between you and God. That's how fasting should be done. And make sure, the way you can make sure that you're doing it for those reasons is that you're actually happy about it. Your head's annoying me with oil. You know, this morning I came into the altar and we were starting to pray and the Altar Boys, you know, they trickle in little by little. I was so blessed this morning by one of our young men who came in as I was going out to hear a confession and we got to bump into each other for a little hug of love and he looked at me said, father, I'm so excited for lent. I said yes, yes, and...

...then I said what priests are supposed to say. So Am I? So, am I? Yes, what a beautiful thing, what a beautiful this is our lives, brothers and sisters. There is no following Jesus without voluntary struggle, without fasting, and then he moves to prayer and then he moves to almsgiving. Those three disciplines are the very core of how we develop our Christian faith. Embracing those things, though they demand from us a lot, embracing those things are the way that we can participate in transformation, we can actually become changed, we can become like him. That's all about seeking first the Kingdom of God. That's how we ends the six chapter, after scribing to us the spiritual efforts we need to make, he calls us to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and says, look, all the rest of the things are going to be taken care of. And we need to hear that today as we start lent, when the church asks us to lay aside concerns for worldly things, to reduce the demands of the world in our life to a minimum. During these holy days, there's a temptation for us to think that something bad might come to us for that. You know, maybe if I don't do this at this will get out of hand, and if I don't spend time, you know, working extra, I might not be able to make the bills. My something bad could happen a rainy day. You know, I won't have my Rady de fund whatever. The Lord knew that. That's why, immediately after calling us to the spiritual disciplines, he said, don't be anxious about your life, just don't worry about it. He's not saying be irresponsible. That's not what he's saying. He's...

...saying don't let anything get in the way of seeking God's kingdom first. Don't let anything stop you from embracing lent, from being serious about committing yourself anew to fasting and to prayer and to almsgiving. That's our traditional asceticism. But I want to say a word to you now about an asceticism that's greater. It's an asceticism that is more important than fasting, more important than prayer and more important than almsgiving. In fact, this asceticism, if we don't have it, mullifies all the work that we do in prayer and fasting in almsgiving. That's how important this asceticism is, and I'll tell you it what it is now. It's a matter of it. I think I really could title my homily this the asceticism of forgiveness. The asceticism of forgiveness, right in the heart of the sermon on the Mount is, Jesus is called to embrace an active struggle, what we call the ascetic life, athleticism, spiritual athleticism. Right in the middle he calls us to that, and right in the middle of chapter six, literally the Dead Center verse is his call to an asceticism of forgiveness, and he says this. If you forgive the sins of others, God will forgive you. If you do not forgive the sins of others, neither will my father in heaven forgive you. Can you imagine? You're you're absolutely engaged in fasting, you're absolutely engaged in prayer, you're absolutely gaged in almsgiving and the service of those who need you, but you're holding on to enmity in your heart. Where will all your efforts get you?...

Nowhere, nowhere. That is why the asceticism of forgiveness is so important. It's absolutely capable of langlow. Every other effort that we every other investment, can just be made vacuous if we keep enmity in our heart. So let me say a few words about forgiveness on this forgiveness Sunday. Forgiveness is not an afterthought. It's the very heart of our strength struggle and it is extremely, extremely serious and very dangerous. You do know that the ascetic life is very dangerous. This is why Jesus makes warnings. Right, don't do it like this, don't do it like that, don't do it like this. It's very dangerous. The ascetic life is so dangerous. In fact, it's only bested in danger by not investing in the ascetic life. That's the only thing even more dangerous, because that is certain ruin not to make any spiritual effort at all, not to seek God at all. You we know where word that's going. That's even more dangerous. But especially lack of forgiveness, especially grudges, holding a remembrance of wrongs, is so dangerous. It's placed by Jesus right into the middle of the sermon on the mouth. This is why it's so dangerous, because you yourself ask God for certain things about it every single day. Most of you who pray in the morning, in the evening, you say the Lord's prayer at least twice a day to come to services, maybe three times, maybe you four times Sundays, probably five times. You see it. And what do you say? Right in the middle of the Lord's prayer? Forgive us our trespasses. We like that part. We like that part. Forgive us our trespasses. And here's the danger.

As we forgive those who trespass against us, we ourselves are asking God to be faithful, to use a standard of measure in our forgiveness that we articulate. Every time we say that, which means multiple times a day, to God, we're asking him to hold us to the standard that we give to others. So if you want God constantly to talk about how messed you up are, you are, constantly to remember your sins and hold them in front of you and to beat you up with them, then all you have to do is constantly talk about other people sins, constantly remember what's been done to you and never forgive it, and then you can be certain he's never going to forgive you. Those are hard words and God is not a liar like us. All men are liars. The scriptures say all men. That would me mean that would mean you, but God is not. God is truth. God says we need to forgive or else he will not forgive us. This is the supremacy of the asceticism of forgiveness. This is why it's so important. It's placed at the heart of our spiritual struggle. It's extremely dangerous and very serious because we say that we want God to hold us accountable to that standard which, of course, when flipped over, which will do right now, is such an encouragement. The bad side of that, of saying that, is that if we don't forgive, we're in big trouble. Of course there's a good side, a really good side, that is, if you forgive the sins of others, God is going to forgive you. This is why our father confessors almost universally, our father confessors asked us when we go to confession, they usually ask it as the first question. Have you...

...yourself forgiven everyone who has sinned against you? Sometimes, and I'd think most, it comes from a humble heart. I think usually the person means something else, but sometimes, and it's not that rare, I'll hear these words well, I'm trying, and I almost universally saying not good enough, unless you want God to tell you I'm trying. You know I'm trying to forgive you and not send you to hell. I'll try. Should I try a little harder? Should I try? Come on, that's not the words you want to hear. Right. What's so hard about it? What do you mean? You're trying do it now. Look, there's a lot of a set of systems. I could never say that to you about right. We're about to start at the most intense period of fasting in the whole year, these next three days. I don't even talk about these three days much out loud. I don't want to talk to them about so much because I know how hard they are and I know that a lot of you would collapse. I know that. I love that. We have a lot of zealots, especially the young. I love that. And they can collapse all they want because they can get right pack up, brush off the duff. Then it's not that big a deal. Right, okay, look, this is not like saying I want you to have water and bread a little bit twice in the course of the next seven days. We have a thousand reasons we can't do that, but name me one. Name me one. Why we can't forgive someone who sinned against us? Is there some bodily infirmity that we can appeal to to keep us from forgiving someone? Do we have to climb a mountain? Does it have to go on a pilgrimage to addisted land? Do...

...we need a certain amount of money to be able to say I forgive you? Done, we're reconciled. I'll never think about it again and if I do, I'll cast it into the ocean soon as I do. Nothing is stopping us, brothers and sisters. Nothing, there is no reason. Now we might say with father, you don't know how abused I was by that person, and you're right. Even if I'm pretty to a situation, I couldn't possibly know, and you would. Can't know how abused I've been or how abused your neighbors. Who hasn't been abused? Could you tell me? We're all sinners living together with sinners. Is there anyone in here who hasn't been hurt, anyone in her who hasn't been, you know, drawn through the mud? But I'll just follow up with a question. Have you not done the same? Really, have you not spoken about about people? Have you not been men mean to people? Don't think you haven't. Don't think you have it. There's no comparison what we do to each other. The best solution if to take that great big blanket of love and forgiveness and just throw it on the whole mess cover a multitude of sins. That's what love does. Just throw the blanket on there and then be at peace, because if you throw the blanket on their God is going to throw the blanket on you. If you forgive others, he promises he's going to forgive you everything. Saint John Chrysosten priests an incredible homily on this subject and a very difficult time in his priesthood. He was living in Antiochy was still a priest.

This the city and many people in the city had committed massive sin against the government and the government was sending soldiers to slaughter them. They had already a reft at all the senators that didn't escape to the mountains. All the monks were in fear for the people's lives. So they all had come down from their cells in the mountains of Silpio's just outside the city. They all came down and waited at the gates and on the streets and as the judges that were sent by the emperor into the city walked into the city, all the monks came and grabbed their knees and begged for death. All the monks came and they said kill US instead whatever they've done. All the rebels who did the terrible uprising assume weird them and we volunteered to be put to death in the Public Square, all of us at the same time. It was that context, that kind of fear. You know, it was their own advanced coronavirus time when Chrys systom mounted the M vone and preached. It was lent also, and he preached on this. He preached on the asceticism of forgiveness, the necessity for forgiveness. He said this. What comparison is there between two sinners being cruel to each other compared to what we ourselves have done to God, every one of us? What comparison is there? He says that if God would choose to search out rigorously what we have done against them, not one of us would live for a single day, quote unquote. If...

God would choose to treat us the way we often treat each other, when we don't forgive, when we hold enmity, we wouldn't live for a single day. He says. This is what it means invespers, when we quote the Psalm, if Thou shouldst Mark Iniquity, Oh Lord, oh Lord, who should stand? But with thee there is forgiveness. HMM, he says. It's easy, it costs us nothing. The hard thing is not forgiving, brothers and sisters. The hard thing is not forgiving. How exhausting to constantly replay through our minds. The offense is against us. How tiring to have to kind of always be angry. Is there anything more sad than that? Meant to always be angry because of an offense that we can't let go? It's the shortest route. Besides being easy, it's the shortest route to being forgiven. Chris sistem says these beautiful words and I'll leave them with you. Whatever we have not been able to accomplish by abstaining from sin, and let me not go past that for a second. Whatever we have not been able to accomplish in abstaining from sin. Just think all the things you want out of your life. You wish you weren't like this. You'd like to be more patient, you'd like to have more control of your speech, you like to be more empathetic, you would like to be more devoted. You would like to be more concentrated when you say your prayers and actually mean them and be able to unite your mind and your mouth and maybe your heart some day to your prayers. Whatever we haven't been able to accomplish because of our inability to separate ourselves from sin. He says, let us obtain these things...

...by our quick and gentle forgiveness. We haven't been able to do it by our strong repentance. Fine, forgive everyone and you'll get it. All your sins will be dissolved in the act of your reaching out the olive branch of reconciliation. When people like myself and you sinners living together, have a fence, let's try positively, dear ones, to consider that an opportunity sent from God. Let's try to believe it's arranged by the Lord to give us an opportunity to forgive and wash away our sins. It's an it's to be seized, it's to be embraced, not cursed. We can wash away our own stains this way and we can praise the Lord for his extreme kindness to us. You know, he didn't have to make any promise with this command. He could have just said, right in the middle of the summer the Mount Forgive people or you're dead. He could have said that and he would be perfectly in his right, would he not? Absolutely he could have said that and we should still do it, because that's the right thing to do when you're a sinner, is to forgive other sinners. But he will in his graciousness added this incredible promise, and not a small promise, and incredible promise, forgive people and all, forgive you everything. Yes, yes, praise the Lord for his incredible kindness to us and his great love for mankind. We should also manifest that character free and generous forgiveness. Chry system ends his...

...homily by simply saying nothing is equal to this virtue. Nothing is equal to this virtue. Let us all resolve, brothers and sisters, to have no enemies except the devil himself. Thank you for listening to me. I'd like to end my homily by asking your forgiveness, especially the many that won't be able to come tonight, especially our older folks. I want to ask your forgiveness for my many sins, those that have been obvious to you this last year and those that only eye and God know. I ask your forgiveness for my failure, as your priest, to love God like I should and, in that failure, not manifesting and inspiring character, as priests are supposed to do. I ask your forgiveness for my failure to serve and to shepherd you as I should, so that, in interacting with me, you might more easily know the love of Jesus behind the priests. I ask your forgiveness for that. I ask your forgiveness for obscuring the vision of the Lord because of my sins, and especially for not listening to you as carefully as I should, for not praying for you as faithfully as I should and for not feeding you as abundantly as I should. For All of those and for other sins which you may be remembering, but I'm not for my manifest sins before your...

...faces and those that are only in my own heart and my conscience. I I ask for your forgiveness and we hope that you have enjoyed and have been edified by this presentation offered to you by Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organization committed to nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. If you are interested in other available titles or if you would like more information on patristic nectar publications, please visit our website at www dot patristic nectar dot org. Again, that's www dot patristic nectar dot org.

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