On the last day before Holy and Great Lent, the Sunday of Forgiveness, Saint Paul reminds us, “Salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” His urgent message for us should remind us that the time is now for us to get ready for the kingdom of heaven. Our Lord says, “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Don’t put it off any longer. The time is NOW.
TRANSCRIPT Sponsor a Transcript
Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Be Transfigured, where we invite you to live a new life in Christ. We pray that this episode is a blessing to you and will inspire you to rededicate your life to Jesus Christ. We invite you to join us for worship, or study, at the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Florida where visitors are always welcome. We'll be back in a few moments to share some more information about our ministry.
So, today is the last day of the Pre-Lenten period what we call the Triodion period. Tonight begins Great Lent. Tomorrow is the day that we call Clean Monday, Καθερά Δευτέρα. And St. Paul opens up his message to us with words of urgency.
"Our salvation is nearer than when we first believed." There is a dear sense of urgency in St. Paul's words. It is nearer today than when we first believed. Now, obviously that is true because we're one day older. But the ancient church really believed that Christ was going to return in their lifetime. And they lived accordingly. They truly lived and St. Paul truly lived and encouraged others to live as if at any moment Christ is going to return. We seem to have forgotten that urgency in our life. We seem to have forgotten that Christ himself before he went up to the cross said, "No one knows the time or the hour, but as the thief in the middle of the night."
Now in a few weeks when we get into holy week we're going to hear that wonderful hymn, behold the bridegroom comes in the middle of the night, and blessed he whom the Lord finds being vigilant. But why are we waiting? Why would we wait for holy week to live that real essence of Christ's return? What if he comes back tonight and we have put off, and put off, and put off all the important truths that we need to accomplish for our salvation?
And that ultimate truth my brothers, given to us by Christ himself in this morning's gospel, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." If you forgive men their trespasses. "But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." What are we waiting for? Is it worth eternal torture to hold onto few grudges from the past? Is it worth risking the pressure of regret?
Think about this for a moment. Think about there's this person out there who has done us some wrong. Whether or not they were justified, forget about all of the self righteous justification we might throw out there. I this, they this. Let's just say there's somebody out there that we have not yet forgiven. I'll do that somebody, I'll get around to it. And then tonight Christ comes. Our eternity is going to be filled with regret.
"Oh if only I had forgiven that person." Would you want to spend your entire eternity in regret? Because that's the risk that we've got. It isn't that God is going to turn the screws personally on our hands and our feet. It's that our own hearts realizing that we put our own comforts ahead of God's commandments. That eternal realization, "How could I have been so stupid?" And that won't go away.
Our salvation is nearer than when we first believed, my brothers and sisters. The time is now to make everything right. And this is why this Sunday of forgiveness, this opportunity for each of us to gather in the church this evening to offer and to receive forgiveness from each other. Because tomorrow we're going to start Great Lent. And notice both the epistle and the gospel talks about fasting after forgiveness. Christ gives us the commandment to forgive and then he says, "Moreover when you fast." As if to say, if we are not going to bother forgiving this year, don't bother fasting because it won't do us any good.
And as St. Paul said, "Some people want to eat, some people don't want to eat. Don't judge them." As we go through our Lenten journey, don't fly the flag, "I'm fasting, yes." Or I really should say, "Oh I'm sorry I can't eat anything, I'm fasting today." The scripture says we will have received our reward because everyone will feel sorry for us. But that comes after forgiveness. The time is urgent. But we still have to fast. Because fasting my brothers and sisters is how we can train ourselves, that it's not what we always want that matters.
And so I offer you this little bit of advice. If there is something that the church asks you to do, if there is something that God has asked you to do, something so great like forgiveness, and you are struggling wrapping your heart around that truth, I invite you to fast, to learn to put your own desires second to God. And then your heart will be re-opened to understand God's love and God's commandments. Fasting is a great opportunity for us. It is not self torture. It is a spiritual self discipline that we use in order to train our hearts, to love something other than ourselves, to love someone other than ourselves, God and our brothers and sisters.
And then Christ finishes this morning's gospel talking about money. "Don't store up for yourselves treasures on Earth where moth and rust consume. Store your treasures in heaven." And in the gospel it says, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be." If your treasure my brothers and sisters is in the bank, that is where your heart is going to be. St. John Chrysostom tells us to take our treasure and give it to the poor. And then our heart will be with the poor. Our heart will follow our treasure.
Time is of the essence. Salvation is nearer than when we first believed. Forgive, be charitable. And then when it comes to our own disciplines in life, our own prayers, our own fasting, our own regiment during this Lent, let's keep that part to ourselves. Because God knows what we're doing. But it all begins with forgiveness.
Have a blessed and fruitful Great Lent. Good strength, Καλή Δύναμη. And we'll see everybody at the other side, when we so gloriously proclaim the resurrection of Christ. Good strength, the time is now. Glory to God for all things.
Be Transfigured is a production of Be Transfigured Ministries in cooperation with Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Florida. We depend upon your generosity to maintain our ministry. You can make a safe online donation when you visit our website, liveanewlifeinchrist.org.