Forgiveness – The Cornerstone of Great Lent

During the past couple of weeks, the Orthodox Church has encouraged her faithful to begin preparing for the journey of Great Lent that begins tomorrow, Monday, March 18. Three weeks ago, we began by exploring prayer and the way it leads us to self-awareness through the reading of the Publican and the Pharisee. We then heard the parable of the Prodigal Son and gained a greater understanding of the never wavering love of God the Father. Last Sunday, we discussed the need to take our faith into action as we explored the Sunday of the Last Judgement.

Today, we see how important it is to begin the Lenten journey with forgiveness. Throughout the past few weeks, we see in the Publican the need to forgive ourselves. He realizes that the renewal of his relationship with God and others is by understanding his own faults and shortcomings. We then see the compassion of God the Father as he welcomes the Prodigal Son with His loving embrace. The son realized his errant ways and chose to seek forgiveness and return to his father as a servant. Thinking about this, we see the need to reflect on this great love through our actions. These actions replace our own ego-centric desires and move us toward salvation.

The movement toward salvation manifests itself when we realize that before we can be forgiven by the Lord, we must forgive each other. This sometimes is a challenging task, but if we desire to find harbor in the Lord’s embrace, then we must emulate Him by forgiving. “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.” (Mt 6:14)

In this one verse we have taken the lessons of the previous weeks and merged them into one important reality. In order to be forgiven by God, we must forgive others. By seeking and offering forgiveness we reflect the image that St. Paul gives to us when he says, “It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)

Entering Great Lent, use these words as a beacon that leads us to Christ knowing that He has offered Himself for us. Through forgiveness we are strengthened and enabled to fast, pray, and do works of charity, the three essential components of Great Lent. May we, as Christ’s faithful, as His community, be strengthened in the days and weeks to come so that with one voice at Pascha, we can proclaim His glorious Resurrection.