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August 28, 2022

Homily Two for the Eleventh Sunday of Matthew - On Hard-Heartedness (St. Luke of Simferopol)

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

What man will not be angry and protest when he hears the parable of the wicked servant for whom the Lord forgave a great debt while he did not want to forgive his neighbor a small one? Our hearts are troubled when we see the worst manifestations of human passions and sinfulness. The Prophet David rightly said: "He has delivered my soul from the midst of lions' whelps: I lay down to sleep, though troubled. As for the sons of men, their teeth are weapons and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword" (Ps. 56:5). And he doesn't say it about murderers and criminals but about us ordinary people. He calls us lions and says that our teeth are weapons and arrows and our tongue is a sharpened sword. The sword is an instrument of murder.

If our tongue is like a sharp sword then we can use it to kill people. And indeed many times we do and we don't think of ourselves as murderers. We wound the heart of our neighbor with slander and lies, we insult his own human dignity, we stir up his heart with malice; is this not spiritual murder?

We hear that one of the famous people is committing adultery and we get angry with him. It is not difficult to be angry with others. It's hard to be angry with yourself. Do we have the right to be angry with others when we ourselves do not have the purity that Christ asks of us? How many of us have never looked at a woman or man with lust? Few, very few.

The Lord Jesus Christ calls every impure look we cast on a woman adultery. And if we still didn't do it with the body, we did it in our hearts.

A great hierarch, Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk, says the following: "The sins we see in others we also have." This is very correct. All the sins that we see in others are also present in us, perhaps to a lesser degree, but we have an equally impure heart whose impurity is manifested by insults of our neighbor and hatred against him. Such impurity exists in the heart of every man. Therefore, we must remember the words of the great Hierarch and always have them in our hearts.

When we see the sinfulness of others we must look at our own heart and ask ourselves: "Am I clean of sin, is there not in me the same passion that I see in my brother?"

We always remember the things that impress us the most. We remember, for example, earthquakes. And the more sympathetic our heart is, the more time we remember misfortunes. Whereas hard-hearted people forget them very quickly.

That's not how seismologists work. They always keep earthquakes in mind and make the corresponding measurements every day. We should take an example from them. Just as seismologists always carefully watch the vibrations in the interior or surface of the earth, so we must tirelessly watch the movements of our own heart and expel from it every impurity. To pay attention to our thoughts, desires, motives and actions. Let's analyze them carefully, examining whether there is something sinful in them.

If we imitate the seismologists and watch carefully the movements of our own hearts, then we will realize our own sinfulness and unworthiness and we will not pay attention to what others do and we will not criticize them for what they do.

The behavior of the wicked servant leaves us with indignation after the merciful master had just forgiven him a great debt of ten thousand talents and he as soon as he saw someone who owed him only a hundred denarii he seized him and began to squeeze him. The poor man begged him and said the same words that just a little while ago the merciless servant said in front of the master: "Have patience with me and I will repay you" (Mt. 18:29). But he does not want to wait and puts his debtor in prison.

What could be more unfair?

It is the ultimate degree of hard-heartedness and mercilessness, it is a complete absence of mercy, the will and the ability to forgive one's neighbor one's debts. It is the forgetting of that request that we address to God every day: "Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors." We do not want to forgive our neighbor his debts, but we expect God to forgive us ours.

This heartless man showed the darkest side of his soul to his neighbor. What was the reason for him to behave so harshly and violate the law? First of all it was his egoism, his selfishness. He only considered himself and did not think of others, only for himself he wanted good. All his thoughts and pursuits were to acquire as much as possible. He was very selfish. It was not enough for him that he took ten thousand talents from the master, he could not forgive the hundred dinars that the poor man owed him.

But let us look at our own heart. Is there no hard-heartedness and avarice in us? How many of us despise money and do not pursue wealth? Few, very few. Avarice is the sin of most people. Resenting the avarice of the good servant, we must humbly admit that we too are guilty of the same sin. In the example of this evil servant we see the worst manifestation of the passion of selfishness and avarice. But don't we also love ourselves more than our neighbor? Do we obey the commandment: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mt. 19:19)?

We love ourselves and care little for others. This means selfishness, it is the passion which manifested itself in such an ugly form in the case of the evil servant. He was a hard-hearted and merciless man. But can we say for ourselves that we obey Christ's commandment: "Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful?" (Lk. 6:36).

Who loves his neighbor as himself? Who takes care of him as he takes care of himself? Only the saints. We are not saints because we all have the same passions that we see in others, as Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk said.

Many times we show no mercy to our debtors. But the apostle James says: "For judgment is merciless to those who do not show mercy" (James 2:13). Let us be afraid listening to these words of the apostle because we will have the same fate as the merciless slave, whom the enraged master handed over to the tormentors, until he paid off all the debt.

At the end of the parable, Christ said: "So will my heavenly Father do to you, if you do not each of you forgive this brother from your hearts of these transgressions" (Mt. 18:35).

Another time Christ said: "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Mt. 6:14-15).

The Lord told us to pray with the prayer he gave to his disciples, which says: "And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors". We repeat these words every day.

You see the requirement is high. We cannot, when we see the vices committed by others, only be indignant; we must remember the word: "Take care of yourself".

Always watch your heart, its every movement, even the most insignificant manifestations of the passions in it. Let us always remember the words of the apostle Paul in the letter to the Ephesians: "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you" (Eph. 4:32). We must forgive others as Christ said at the end of the parable, with all the heart.

Let us learn to do what Christ asks of us: to be merciful, as our heavenly Father is merciful, and with all our hearts to forgive our neighbor his transgressions. Then our heavenly Father will forgive us too. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.