Great Lent – Saturday of the First Week

In the passage from the Gospel today, we have heard our Lord Jesus Christ instruct us to pray for our enemies and put up with all manner of injustice and persecution. When there have been terrorist attacks in Egypt, and brothers and sisters in our Coptic Orthodox Church have lost their lives and been martyred, we have been inspired by the many words of forgiveness and and the prayers for the salvation of those who have committed these atrocities which we have seen and heard on the television and the internet from the families of the martyrs.

Perhaps we might hope that if ever we found ourselves in such a situation god would give us the grace that we need to act in a manner which manifests his own mercy. It seems to me that it is in the daily injustices of our lives that we find it hardest to act in a manner in accordance with the nature of God, the Divine life and Grace which he has given us, and the example of mercy which he shows us.

Of course I’m not talking so much about criminal activity, although even in such cases we are called to have mercy and offer forgiveness even while it is also proper that justice be done for the sake of the one committing a criminal offence, as well as for the society to which we belong. We have to make a judgement call ourselves about such things. I am talking rather about the daily injustices which we often experience and which reveal the quality and character of our heart, and to what extent we have been transformed by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

At home or at school or at university or at work or among our friends how will we act and think and feel if someone takes credit for something that we have done? How will we act and think and feel if someone takes something or takes an opportunity that we have been wanting to take for ourselves? If we turn again to the passage from the Gospel, how will we act and think and feel if we lend something to someone and we never get it back or it is broken?

Or to be even more trivial, since it is often in the very smallest things that the weakness within our heart is made known to us. How will we think and act and feel if someone pushes in front of us in a queue in the shop, or takes the parking space just before us, or eats the last biscuit on the plate in the meeting. If we find ourselves moved by anger and jealousy and envy and resentment in such cases then this is a good thing. Not that we are moved in such a way but at least our eyes are open enough for us to see that this is what is happening, and seeing how we respond we are able to seek healing and the Divine medicine to overcome this sickness.

When we are easily moved by such little injustices it is a sign that we are still very much attached to earthly and temporal things. We have not set our mind and our heart on the heavenly and spiritual things. So when it seems that something is taken from us we are moved by the passions and wish to hold on to it for ourselves. But almost all those things which move us to anger and jealousy and envy and resentment will pass away in any case.

When we have set up mind in our hearts on heavenly and spiritual things this doesn’t mean that we are waiting after we die to receive some reward for being good now. On the contrary it means that we have a direct and personal experience of life with God, and the grace and the gifts he pours out upon us so that we are not easily moved by the passing desire for the things that will fade.

The direct and personal encounter with God and the increasing experience of life in the Holy Spirit is found in the frequent reception of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, in the effort towards unceasing prayer, in the discipline of the mind and body, and in the humble service of God and of all.

When we set our hearts in such a way then we are not easily disturbed when someone takes the last biscuit or parks in our space or even takes the credit for our work and even tries to cause us harm. When we are filled with the life and love of God by the indwelling Holy Spirit it slowly becomes possible for us to offer mercy even to those who show no mercy to us and in doing so we become more and more like God, and enter into a closer and closer union with him which is our life and salvation.

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