Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
And when Jesus had said this, He breathed on them (the disciples) and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they retained.” John 20:22-23
Good morning Prayer Team!
We all know the math formula, “If A equals B, and B equals C, then A equals C.” It’s basic logic.
There is some basic logic in Christianity as well. If God is greater than us, and God who is greater than us can forgive us, then we must forgive ourselves.
Sometimes people struggle to forgive themselves-They reconcile with others, they reconcile with God, they must reconcile with themselves. This is VERY important.
Let’s look back at the sins of Judas. He betrayed the Lord. That was bad. But Peter had denied the Lord, and later asked for forgiveness, accepted forgiveness and was restored to his place among the Apostles. Judas also repented-this detail in the story is oftentimes forgotten. In Matthew 27: 2-5, we read,
When Judas, His betrayer, saw that He was condemned, he REPENTED and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” They said “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed and he went and hanged himself.
Judas confessed that he had done wrong. He repented in returning the thirty pieces of silver. Some paintings of this scene have Jesus nearby (Judas SAW that He was condemned), looking at Judas with compassion and mercy as he repents. The biggest mistake of Judas was not betraying the Lord, who was condemned to death because of Judas’ betrayal. His biggest mistake was his condemnation of himself. He lost trust in the Lord to forgive him. He forgot the “seventy times seven” forgiveness the Lord would have given him. He forgot that the angels in heaven are joyful over one sinner who repents.
Thankfully in the Orthodox Church, there is the sacrament of confession, where one can come, confess sins, and receive permission from the priest for the sin to be loosed. This isn’t some magical power of the priest, but rather a gift that he has been given. Jesus gave this gift to His Apostles when He told them that if they forgave the sins of any, they were forgiven. In the sacrament of confession, once the confession has been made and the priest is satisfied that there is genuine repentance, then he offers a prayer which concludes “Have no further anxiety about the sins you have confessed. Depart in peace. The grace of the Holy Spirit, through my unworthy person, looses and forgives your sins.” This is not a suggestion, but an ORDER, to have no anxiety about what you’ve confessed. It is an order to accept God’s forgiveness. It is an order to forgive yourself as well. What a great gift!
So, when you’ve made a mistake, and we all make them, the key is forgiveness. Reconcile with God by asking God for forgiveness. Reconcile with your neighbor by asking his forgiveness. Reconcile with yourself by forgiving yourself.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of forgiveness. Thank You for creating a means by which I can be reconciled to You, to my neighbor, and in my own soul. Help me to manage sinful thoughts and actions. Help me to learn from my mistakes. Lead me to reconciliation with You. Lead me to reconciliation with my neighbor. Help me learn how to forgive myself. Assure me that You still love me, even when I’ve done something wrong. Help me to trust in Your will that my sins should be forgiven when I come to You with a repentant heart. Lord, forgive me for whatever I have done. Help me to make a new start today! Amen.
Have a great day!
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The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. OCN offers videos, podcasts, blogs and music, to enhance Orthodox Christian life. The Prayer Team is a daily devotion written by Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, the parish priest at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, Florida. Devotions include a verse from scripture, a commentary from Fr. Stavros, and a short prayer that he writes to match the topic.
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