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Repentance with Purpose

Recently elected Metropolitan Jonah of the OCA (Orthodox Church in America) offers deep and meaningful teaching on repentance and Great Lent in this message to the OCA.  Great Lent, that period leading up to Pashca, is the Orthodox Church’s “season” of repentance (though repentance is not reserved for a particular season) and Met. Jonah uses the onset of Great Lent to call for repentance and healing within the OCA.  His entire message may be viewed here.

…. Unless we forgive others from our hearts, we cannot accept God’s forgiveness for our own sins.

Every time we criticize, judge, condemn or despise another person, no matter how gravely he or she may have sinned, we sin equally ourselves. All our self-righteous indignation is all hypocrisy that blinds us to our own sins. The resentment we allow to fester in our hearts gives us over to corruption and evil. We allow ourselves to gossip, and talk about other people, and forget that we condemn ourselves by doing so. It does not matter what another person has done; that is his or her sin. Why do I need to make his sin my own, by my judgment and criticism, and destroy my own life by resentment of someone else?

If I fast from foods, St John Chrysostom said, how can I devour my brother by gossip and slander? If we don’t eat things that have been slaughtered, why do I murder my brother by character assassination? If I abstain from wine, how can I allow myself to be drunk on my passions of resentment and bitterness? It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but rather what comes out of the mouth and the heart. It is these things, judgment and criticism, which reveal our piety to be a hypocritical sham. All our self-righteousness is as filthy rags before God, and we only condemn ourselves.

The only way of life for us, as Christians, is repentance and forgiveness. We must be “transformed in the renewal of our minds,” (the real meaning of “repentance”) and forgive those who have offended and sinned against us. Only then can we be free from our resentments, and our souls and livesand our Churchcan be healed. …

I’m not sure there is anything particularly new in his message (although being new to Orthodoxy gives it a newness), so why is it deep and meaningful?  I suppose it is deep and meaningful because I so need to hear this message.  Again and again.

Luke 9:23 Jesus said to all, “Anyone who desires to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for my sake will save it.

When I read the above passage, do I think the challenge to “deny myself” is primarily about wondering if I am ready to part with some of my things?  My house, my car, my livelihood, some portion of my wealth or income, some creature comfort I can really do without, a vacation or a cruise?  If it were “only” that easy.   No, I’m afraid that isn’t the full scope of it.

Or is it that I am to give up my “rights”, whatever those may be in whatever societal, political, and/or economic system God in His providence has placed me in.  That I am to follow Him whatever the circumstance?

Yes.  But more than that, it means what it says: to deny my very self.  All of those things that I cling to, depend upon, thrive upon, live for, am driven by – “righteous” indignation, “righteous” anger, vengeance, justice, vindication, you name it.  All those things that, surely, I am entitled to.

Yes, even all those, my entitlements, I must let go of.

Yes, especially all those.  That is, if I desire to be a disciple of Christ.

In reality, those “entitlements” of mine are not entitlements at all. They are blinders to the Truth, deceivers and death-dealers at their core. They are entanglements, chains, task masters.

They are sin.

BUT GOD in His great mercy will forgive. BUT GOD in His great Love and great Mercy gives His Grace – to seek repentance. To seek repentance, to amend my way of life, and to sin no more. To walk in the way of the righteous and offer praise and glory to the NAME – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

To repent. To turn to Him. To find Him. Again. And again.

Lord have mercy!

Extreme Humility

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