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February 26, 2023

Homily Three for the Vespers of Forgiveness (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 By St. Luke, Archbishop of of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered in 1959 - Cheesefare Sunday)

Every year on this holy evening of Forgiveness Sunday there is great joy for all good Christians and for us, your shepherds, for you come in great numbers to breathe in the divine fragrance of the most important and at the same time the simplest words of Christ: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15).

When a certain scribe asked the Lord Jesus Christ which commandment is the greatest in the Law, He answered him: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind: this is the first and greatest commandment; the second is similar to it: love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-39).

Therefore, the commandments of complete love for God and our loved for others are the essence of the entire Law of Christ, and if we do not fulfill them, if we do not forgive people for their sins against us, then we do not deserve the name of Christians and are like pagans who only love those who love them, but those who sin against us are hated.

All of you, my brothers and sisters, want to be close to our Savior Jesus Christ and realize the immeasurable importance of the law of love and mutual forgiveness of each other, and on the holy evening of Forgiveness Sunday, come to the churches of God, so that by the visible rite of asking for forgiveness from each other, we fulfill the basic law of Christ about mutual love. May God bless you for this good and pure aspiration of your souls and hearts.

But shouldn't I remind you that good Christians, in addition to forgiving people of their sins against us, have other duties that the Apostle Paul tells us about in his epistles to the Romans and Galatians.

In the first of them we read: “We who are strong must endure the infirmities of the weak and not please ourselves” (Romans 15:1).

There are many infirmities among our neighbors, causing us troubles and difficulties. Many among them are very annoying, importunate and talkative; many have unpleasant and even disgusting illnesses; there are many liars and slanderers, and it is upon us, as strong in spirit and heart, by the grace of God, the duty to endure their infirmities.

And in the epistle to the Galatians we read the holy words of the Apostle Paul: "Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2).

You all know how great and heavy are the burdens and hardships of so many of our neighbors. Let us not only forgive people for their sins against us, but also endure the infirmities of the powerless, and not please ourselves, trying to get rid of them.

Let us also help our neighbors in any way we can in bearing the often heavy burden of their lives - and thus let us fulfill the law of Christ.

Let us perform the holy and saving ceremony of mutually asking for forgiveness from each other. And the first thing I ask of you, my flock given to me by God:

Bless me, holy fathers and brethren, and forgive me the sinner, who have sinned this day and all the days of my life: in word, deed, thought and all my feelings.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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