Today, the Holy Church has brought to our attention the Gospel reading with the parable of the Kingdom of heaven. Our Lord Jesus Christ says that the Kingdom of heaven is like a king who forgave a man who owed him a large sum of money, but this man, after leaving the king, did not forgive his debtor, who owed him a very small amount of money. And not only did he not forgive him, but he put him in prison until he repaid the debt.
But the king found out about it and summoned this merciless man to himself, and asked him: why did you not do to another as I did to you, because I forgave all your debt, shouldn’t you have done the same? And then the king gave this man to the torturers to torment him until he paid back his huge debt. So will My heavenly Father do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother his trespasses from the bottom of his heart — Christ concludes the parable (MT. 18:35).
The Kingdom of heaven is built on such principles, says the Lord. And He also gives us a sample of the prayer, which contains the words “and forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors”, that is, forgive our trespasses and sins before You, Lord, in the same measure that we forgive the trespasses and sins before us to other people. The Lord lets us know that he will forgive us just as easily as we were able to forgive ourselves.
Most often, those people cannot forgive owe us very little indeed. Most likely, they hurt our self-esteem, touched our vanity, self-conceit, and pride. That is, by and large, it is not they who owe us anything, but we owe ourselves.
The larger the object, the more likely it is to be hit by an arrow, even from a distance. The greater a person’s vanity and self-conceit, the more arrows that hurt resentment hit him. And when we let go of this pain, leave debts to our debtors, then the wounds gradually heal, and our painful passions, losing their fuel, gradually decrease and dry up.
But we can say: Yes, all this is true in relation to those who affect our self-esteem. But what about those who cause real, even physical, pain? If we call ourselves Christians, we must act as Christ did. And Christ, being inhumanly beaten and tortured, bleeding, experiencing the heat of the sun on his sores, wanting to quench his thirst and receiving vinegar at the request of water, prayed thus:”Father, forgive them, they simply do not understand what they are doing.” He forgives the tormentors and prays to the Father, justifying those who inflict terrible torments on Him by saying that they simply do not understand, they do not realize what they are doing.
But there is another meaning in this gospel parable. After all, if you think about it, when we sin — we do not borrow from God, and therefore do not become his debtors in this sense. And if for us the debts of other people are their insults in our direction, or rather our insults in relation to others, can we think that God, seeing our sins, is offended at us? You obviously don’t. Then what debts do we ask for forgiveness of when we pray the Lord’s prayer every day?
The point of this request is rather that when someone insults us, it slightly spoils the image of that person in our eyes. It becomes difficult for us to communicate with this person, perhaps we stop communicating with them for a long time or forever. But when we sin ourselves, we significantly harm our own relationship with God. And they can also be interrupted. Not because God wants to interrupt them because we are doing something wrong. But because we cease to see His love, we cease to be his image in this world, and therefore we lose sight of him, from the sight of the soul’s eyes. Communication is interrupted by our initiative. And just like in a human relationship, it can be interrupted for a long time, and, God forbid, forever. And this is far more terrible than all human grievances, so this debt is much greater.
It is easy for us to correct our sins against each other, we can forgive each other and embrace each other. But it is so difficult to correct your own spiritual vision, which has lost the thread of communication with God and has lost sight of the Creator. After all, in order to return us, the lost sheep, our Lord went to voluntary suffering and death. This is the price that corrects what has corrupted, soiled and destroyed humanity.
This means that when we ask God to leave us our debts, we ask Him not just to forgive us: He holds no grudges or grudges against us. We ask to be revived, renewed, and cleansed of our spiritual sight so that we can see Him again and be his image and likeness. That is why He compares our debts to Him with a huge debt from taking a loan from the king, and the debts of our neighbors in front of us — small and light-duty took this unmerciful man in the parable.
In order for God to leave us our debts, restore His image in us, we must treat each other very carefully, without inflicting wounds and forgiving those who hurt us. There are no bad people, we all carry the image and likeness of the Creator. We are like his icons, but most often they are tarnished and damaged. But neither one of us won’t relate to the icon is bad just because it is damaged, blackened, or dirty. On the contrary, we will treat the damaged icon with even greater trepidation and tenderness.
This is how we should treat each other.
Sermon by Archbishop Ambrose