Friday, September 9, 2011

Met. Ephrem's Sermon for the Feast of St. Moses the Ethiopian

The Arabic original can be found here. This sermon was given on Sunday, August 28, 2011 in Qalhat el-Koura.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

Beloved, in this first part of the Divine Liturgy we always hear the word of the Gospel. The Gospel does not only speak of events that actually, historically happened. It speaks for the sake of each one of us. This requires us to listen attentively- for this reason we publish our newsletter “The Vineyard” as a companion to your reading of the Epistle and the Gospel. Today you heard this parable that says that the Kingdom of Heaven resembles a king who goes to call his servants into account. Naturally, the king is a symbol for God who will call us into account on the last day, each one of us according to our works. The first servant comes and he has a great debt. What is this debt? According to the interpretation of some of the Fathers, the debt is the sins that we have committed against God through our actions in this life. His debt is great, and so he casts himself at the feet of the king and asks for forgiveness. He pleads so much that the king, that is God, has pity on him—the Bible says that he has pity on him, that his heart was touched and so he forgave him all his debt. Then this first servant goes to his fellow servant who owed him a small debt. That is, he had committed some small sin against his comrade and he asks his forgiveness. But the first servant does not forgive him but rather compels him to pay his debt. The king hears, God hears, of how the servant upon whom he had had mercy and forgiven did not forgive his comrade a small debt. The king came to him on the day of reckoning and said to him, “You wicked servant, were you not obligated to forgive your comrade a small debt just as I forgave you all your debt?” This is what God does with those who do not forgive each other. Peter went and asked the Lord, “How many times must we forgive our brother for sinning against us?” The Lord replied, “Seven times, nay seventy times seven times.” That is, we must always forgive our brothers. The big question that many people ask is, “How will the Lord call us into account on the last day?” We say, and the other religions say as well, that He is merciful, that is forgiving, and that He is just, that is He calls us into account. So how does God harmonize mercy, calling into account, and judgment? This is God’s wisdom. Those who read “The Vineyard” can find there an attempt to explain this divine wisdom, this divine forgiveness, that the Lord forgives us our sins but at the very same time He will call us into account for everything we do in this life.

At the end of the Gospel passage, the Lord punishes this wicked servant and the wicked servant goes off to torment.

Does God punish, does God torment a person who sins? This is a question to which our holy Fathers say that a person through his sin torments himself. On the last day, God will appear to him face to face. His face will be light to those who did good deeds and at the same time it will be a fire burning those who sinned and did not repent of their sin. Beloved, this is the parable from the Gospel on this day when we celebrate this righteous and great one of the Church, so that we will have an example in Saint Moses the Ethiopian, who sinned and had a great debt before God but who despite this repented and became one of the holiest saints. Also, the Holy Fathers explain to us that this divine forgiveness, God’s mercy, is connected to our prayer. This saint spent his life in prayer. One who prays from the heart is easily forgiven, not because he is good but because he draws divine goodness and forgiveness from the Lord. When one prays, God’s mercy comes down upon him and he begins to forgive others easily and have mercy on them. Amen.

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