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Love and Forgiveness

By Fr. George Shalhoub
Pastor, The Basilica of St. Mary, Livonia, MI

This Sunday marks what we call in our Holy Orthodox Church Cheese Fare Sunday or Forgiveness Sunday, before we enter into our Great Fast. There are a variety of fasts, but our church subscribes fasting from meat and dairy until Easter Sunday.

This week the nation also celebrates the Feast of Love, Valentine’s Day. Everyone wants to be in love, but does nothing about it. This Sunday’s Gospel of St. Matthew, 6:14 states “If you forgive others for their trespasses, our heavenly Father will also forgive yours.” This is a commandment and not a suggestion, because Great Lent is a period of reflection of how we are loved by God and how we should love God in return.

Love has everything to do with forgiveness, with respect, with loyalty, and commitment through times of sadness and happiness. Therefore, this kind of love is more than a feeling. The love of Christ is unconditional and when we love one another in an unconditional fashion, we are emulating Christ. It is easy to be in love when things are good, but the real test is to be loving when you are down and out.

The greatest definition of love is recorded by St. Paul to the Corinthians as he defines that love without patience, kindness, forgiveness, and self-control, will never bear fruit. There is no rudeness, nor constant arguments in love. This kind of love never fails because love is too busy being concerned about the needs of others. And, love does not freak out if things do not go their way. As St. Paul stated in Philippians, Chapter 2:3, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit…rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”

If you express your love with flowers, candy, a card, or dinner, it is wonderful because we all love to receive gifts. But remember, flowers wither and candy adds pounds. As we enter into this great journey of celebrating love, remember love is flexible, takes everything in stride and can handle whatever comes its way. Love never runs out of patience, even with those who are slow in getting with the program. Love never fails. We fail others, as others can fail us. As human beings, we are frail and fallible and often foolish for thinking we know everything.

As we are to ask each other for forgiveness, I begin by asking all of you to forgive me because of human frailty. Let us love one another as we forgive one another.

Love to you and a blessed Lenten Journey.