His Eminence, Metropolitan JOSEPH's
Pastoral Message for Forgiveness Sunday
“If you forgive other people few things, few of your own will be forgiven. If you forgive many things, many of your own will be forgiven. If you forgive them with sincerity and with your whole heart, God will forgive yours in the same manner. If after forgiving you make your enemy into your friend, thus will God also be disposed towards you”.(St. John Chrysostom on Genuine Forgiveness)
We greet you on this holy day of Forgiveness Sunday as we stand on the threshold of the Great Fast and ask one another for forgiveness of our sins.
The beautiful quote above from St. John Chrysostom is a powerful reminder of the importance of forgiveness which helps us to understand why we recite in the Lord’s Prayer “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” There can be no forgiveness from God for our sins unless we willingly and sincerely forgive those who have sinned against us. This is why the Orthodox Church retains the tradition, as part of the Vesper Service for Forgiveness Sunday, to have each person in the church ask for forgiveness from every other person in the church. This is also why the clergy who celebrate the Divine Liturgy, immediately before they receive communion, whether it is the Patriarch, Metropolitan, bishop or priest, bows to the people and asks for forgiveness of his sins.
It is possible to misunderstand the act of forgiveness as somehow being a weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth. A sincere and humble act of forgiving another person for an offense that they have committed against us is a very powerful action. The lack of forgiveness gives Satan many tools which he can use against us, including hatred, resentment, and desire for revenge. The act of forgiveness leaves Satan with nothing to hold against us. This is why our Lord Jesus Christ forgave those who had nailed Him to the Cross. His action shattered the devil and left him bewildered and confused.
On this Holy Day of Forgiveness Sunday, I bow to all of you and ask you to forgive me for my sinfulness. I pray that your journey through the Great Fast will bring you spiritual joy.
Your Father in Christ,
+ J O S E P H
Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America