Forgiveness Sunday - Cheesefare Sunday

Gospel: Matthew 6:14-21

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. Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

FYI (For further information and resources visit family.goarch.org.)

This lesson on forgiveness comes the day before Clean Monday, the first day of Great Lent. As Christians, we must forgive others and seek their forgiveness. We reaffirm this every time we pray in the Lord's Prayer, "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." In His ministry, Jesus makes it clear that God forgives us only if we forgive others. This Gospel passage additionally draws our attention to how we should approach the Lenten period and where our focus should be - on laying up treasures in heaven. On this Sunday, we also commemorate all the saints who excelled in ascetic living (living a spiritually disciplined life). We look to these holy ascetics as examples to inspire us toward fasting, praying, and doing acts of mercy. Today is the last day dairy products are permitted before the fast.

For Consideration

  • What happens if we do not forgive people who do us wrong?
  • How should we fast? What are ways we can "lay up" for ourselves treasures in heaven?
  • What does this Gospel passage mean to our lives?

To Do Together

  • Agape Canister - This Sunday has been designated Orthodox Christian Mission Center(OCMC) Sunday. Take some time to learn about this ministry and ways you can support it. Consider participating in the Agape Canister program by collecting spare change during the Lenten period to further missionary activities. Visit www.ocmc.org for more information.
  • Fast as a Family - Take some time to talk about fasting as a family. Consider having a family cooking night where everyone helps to plan and prepare the Lenten meal. Consider making extra and donating it to a shelter or someone in need. This may be more work for the adults initially, but the fruit will be worth the effort.
  • Forgiveness Vespers - As tomorrow is Clean Monday, today we seek forgiveness not only from our family members and friends but from our parish family. Make plans to attend Forgiveness Vespers as a family. In addition, ask your priest for prayers from the service to read at home as a family. After reading these prayers, have each family member ask for forgiveness with a prostration and kiss of peace.

Final Thought

There once lived a holy archbishop who was sought out by pilgrims because of his great spiritual insight. As his popularity and the demands on his time grew, he wished to retreat into a life of noetic prayer - ceaseless prayer of the mind and the heart. He was granted permission to move back to his native island where he lived more fully a monastic life. One day, a man desperately knocked at the monastery door; he had committed a murder and was trying to flee from the villagers seeking revenge. The man confessed his sins to the holy archbishop, now the abbot of the monastery. As he listened, the abbot realized that the person who the man had murdered was the abbot's own brother. God helped the abbot see into the heart of this man and see how sorry he was. He forgave the man who murdered his brother and read the confessional prayer of absolution. The abbot then helped the man to escape the authorities so that he could live the rest of his life in prayer and repentance at a monastery. This holy abbot is St. Dionysios of Zakynthos. He exemplifies true forgiveness.

A Closing Prayer

Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever. Amen.

The season of the virtues now has come, and the Judge is at the door. Let us not hold back with darkened face, but let us keep the fast, offering tears, repentance, and almsgiving; and let us cry: our sins are more in number than the sands of the sea; Deliverer of all, forgive each one of us, that we may receive an incorruptible crown.

- from the Vespers of Forgiveness Sunday

For Further Information

  • The Lenten Spring by Thomas Hopko - The forty inspirational meditations offered in this book are taken from the cycle of worship and scriptural passages used during the Lenten period. Published by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press.
  • Daily Lenten Meditations for Orthodox Christians by Presbytera Emily Harakas - This wonderful book can help all ages along in their Lenten journey. Each day's reading has a hymn from the Lenten services of the church, quote from the fathers, prayer, scripture, and meditation. Published by Light and Life Publishing.
  • Ionian Village - This summer camp program for teenagers is run by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Participants travel to Greece to visit sites of religious and cultural significance. During their travels, they visit the island of Zakynthos and venerate the relics of St. Dionysios. For more information about the camp and St. Dionysios, visit www.ionianvillage.org.

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