Monday, February 19, 2018

Met Siluan (Muci)'s Message for Lent 2018

Spanish original here.

The Pastoral Letter for Great Lent by Metropolitan Siluan of Buenos Aires

The Yoke of Forgiveness and the Burden of Repentance

"Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men." (Matthew 12:31)

On the path of preparation for Great Lent, the readings from the Gospel for the four Sundays that precede it show us successively that the Lord is our only justification and teach us how we must live in accordance with this justification.

As a matter of fact, the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14) shows us how the Lord justified the publican but not the Pharisee as soon as both finished their prayer and left the temple. By condemning himself as a sinner and seeking the Lord's forgiveness with contrition, the publican was justified by the Lord, but the Pharisee who wrapped himself in the justification of his own virtue as compared to the sinfulness of others found himself deprived of the eternal justification that only God offers.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) shows us how the prodigal son discovers his father, not for what he has or for what he can give, but for who he is and for his paternal love, and how he in turn discovers himself as a person who does not deserve this love or this filial relationship. When he returns home, is he surprised by how his father justifies him and restores him to the dignity and authority of a son who is no longer prodigal or dead, but who has been found and is alive.

In the Parable of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46), the "sheep"who justified themselves as not having done anything for Christ were justified and blessed by the Father because they served Him through the needy, while the "goats", who justified themselves as not having seen Christ to serve Him personally, were condemned and cursed by the Father for not having served Him through the needy.

On the fourth Sunday of the Triodion, Forgiveness Sunday, which inaugurates the beginning of the fast of Great Lent, we hear the Lord Himself, who asks us to go out and justify our neighbor by practicing forgiveness, since if we do not justify and forgive our neighbor, we cannot be justified or pardoned by God. If God indeed justifies us gratuitously, this nevertheless requires us to live and practice this gratuitousness in our daily life.

In daily life, many people are in the habit of justifying themselves with regard to themselves, their neighbor and God. They hurt themselves and they hurt others by not discovering the gratuitousness of the justification that God offers, by not accepting it as a gift from the Lord, and by not living in accordance with it in their daily lives. By holding on to self-justification, they remain locked in the earthly sphere and fail to see the transcendence of their lives in the love of God and in the justification that Jesus Christ offers by His love and His sacrifice on the cross.

In order to escape this vicious circle of self-justification, the Lord exhorts us to accept His "yoke", which is to say the practice of forgiveness, and His "burden", which is to say the life of repentance, inspiring us in the motto of our archdiocese: "Learn from Me... for My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:29-30). On the one hand, forgiveness seems to be a yoke of Christ because as Christians, we cannot escape practicing it, since it is the basis of our prayer, the Our Father, when we ask God to forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors (Matthew 6:12). On the other hand, repentance seems to be a burden because we have to constantly watch and correct ourselves without justifying ourselves, but rather seeking the justification that comes from the Father.

Accepting this yoke that is forgiveness and this burden that is repentance, with the practice of love and hope that each one respectively entails, is possible and necessary through the love that the Lord has for us and the hope that we place in the Lord and His mercy. Living in accordance with this lesson, that is, practicing forgiveness and repentance, allows us to live in its fullness the justification that we receive from the Lord every time we celebrate the Divine Liturgy. This is how the procession with the holy gifts is understood, in what is called the "Great Entrance", in their subsequent consecration as the body and blood of Christ, and finally in our partaking of the Holy Chalice with the feeling of the publican, the prodigal son and the sheep at the right hand of the Father. Otherwise, we will be rejecting our own salvation and denying the work of the Holy Spirit and thus we will come under the categorical sentence of the Lord: "Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men" (Matthew 12:31).

God wants us to dedicate ourselves during Great Lent to working decisively for the sanctification of our will, of our intellect and of our heart by duly celebrating the justification that Christ offers us and by participating in it, through the persistent practice of forgiveness and repentance. Amen.

Metropolitan of Buenos Aires and All Argentina

No comments: