In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
We remember the Day of the Last Judgment of the Lord today. What is so scary about this judgment? Is that the punishment that we may suffer? No! In a sense, the punishment alleviates the weight of our sin; the punished feels that he has paid his debt and that he can now walk freely. The terrible thing in this judgment is that we will stand before the Living God when it is too late to change anything in our lives, and find out that we have lived in vain, that there is only emptiness and meaninglessness in our lives. The whole meaning of life was to love actively – not sentimentally, not with feelings, but with deeds: to love according to Jesus’s words: he who loves must give his life for those who need love; not for those who are dear to me, but for that neighbor who needs me…. — …suddenly we will find that we have missed all that… We could have loved God, we could have loved our neighbor, we could have loved ourselves, that is, we could have treated ourselves with respect and seen in ourselves the full magnificence of the image of God, all the greatness of our calling to become “partakers of Divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) — and we walked past all of that because it was easier to stay alive than to live; it was easier to live without living.
What would have happened if any of us had come home and seen that his or her most loved person lay dead? That is the moment of horror, that is the moment when one would realize what love really is, and that now it is too late, that one cannot give love to that person anymore because his very life is taken away from him… What would it feel like for us?! When we stand before Christ, won’t we see that we are responsible for His crucifixion because of the way we spent our lives: not worthy of ourselves, of Him, and of our neighbor. We will see that the murderer is not the one who had escaped before we came home but that the murderer is us!
What will it feel like to come and face Christ then? It’s not about punishment, it’s about the terror of yourself. We still have some time; Jesus tells us that there will be no mercy for those who did not show mercy, and that we would say falsely and in vain that we love God if we do not love our neighbor. Today, He tells us what love for our neighbor is, and that it is transferred to Him; because to serve any person, any other person, is to please Him and serve Him!
Let’s think about it! We have repentance, i. e. the return from earth to heaven, the transformation of heart and mind, the reversal; and this reversal depends on our will and our determination. St. Seraphim of Sarov said that there is only one difference between a perishing sinner and a saint who is being saved: it is determination. Do we have it? Are we ready to act with determination?
One more thing: we will gather here next week for the service of forgiveness; we will ask forgiveness and give forgiveness. However, it makes no sense to ask for forgiveness without yielding the fruit of repentance; if we remain as we are today, it makes no sense to ask for forgiveness for being the same as we were yesterday! We need to reconsider our lives and ourselves – what we are guilty of before each and every individual – and to decide to change it. We need to ask for forgiveness not in order to feel that we are now free from the past, but in order to embark on the new way of living; to begin living in a new way, to have a new relationship with those people whom we have humiliated, offended, or robbed spiritually and in every way.
When we forgive, we must do it responsibly, too. Let’s contemplate our lives. Let’s ask what would have happened if we had to stand before God today – and see that we are hollow, that we have lived pointlessly and in vain. What would happen if we stood before God empty-handed now and looked around and saw that our salvation depends on those who are ready to forgive us and on whether we are able to forgive them – and that neither they nor we are able to do that.
Let us reflect on that; because this is not a matter of preaching, nor of reading the Gospel, this is a matter of life and death: let us choose the path of life! Amen.
February 10, 1991
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds