Forgiveness Sunday

Matthew 6:14-21


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14  For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you;


15  but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.


16  "And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.


17  But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,


18  that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.


19  "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal,


20  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.


21  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.


14 Ἐὰν γὰρ ἀφῆτε τοῖς ἀνθρώποις τὰ παραπτώματα αὐτῶν, ἀφήσει καὶ ὑμῖν ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος·

15 ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀφῆτε τοῖς ἀνθρώποις τὰ παραπτώματα αὐτῶν, οὐδὲ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ἀφήσει τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν.


16 Ὅταν δὲ νηστεύητε, μὴ γίνεσθε ὥσπερ οἱ ὑποκριταὶ σκυθρωποί· ἀφανίζουσι γὰρ τὰ πρόσωπα αὐτῶν ὅπως φανῶσι τοῖς ἀνθρώποις νηστεύοντες· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ἀπέχουσι τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν.


17 σὺ δὲ νηστεύων ἄλειψαί σου τὴν κεφαλὴν καὶ τὸ πρόσωπόν σου νίψαι,


18 ὅπως μὴ φανῇς τοῖς ἀνθρώποις νηστεύων, ἀλλὰ τῷ πατρί σου τῷ ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ, καὶ ὁ πατήρ σου ὁ βλέπων ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ ἀποδώσει σοι ἐν τῷ φανερῷ.


 19 Μὴ θησαυρίζετε ὑμῖν θησαυροὺς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, ὅπου σὴς καὶ βρῶσις ἀφανίζει, καὶ ὅπου κλέπται διαρύσσουσι καὶ κλέπτουσι·


 20 θησαυρίζετε δὲ ὑμῖν θησαυροὺς ἐν οὐρανῷ, ὅπου οὔτε σὴς οὔτε βρῶσις ἀφανίζει, καὶ ὅπου κλέπται οὐ διορύσσουσιν οὐδὲ κλέπτουσιν·


 21 ὅπου γάρ ἐστιν ὁ θησαυρὸς ὑμῶν, ἐκεῖ ἔσται καὶ ἡ καρδία ὑμῶν.


Larger Thought Unit

Today’s reading comes from the heart of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:1-7:29) which forms the larger thought unit for our pericope.  The setting is introduced in Matthew 5.1-2:  “And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples come to him.  Then he opened his mouth and taught them, saying…” It goes without saying that Matthew is presenting Jesus in a fashion similar to Moses but on a higher level as a new redeemer and a new law-giver. But there are significant differences if one takes the time to compare the two figures and the “events” on the mountain.  Christ is presented here as authoritative, sitting on his seat and delivering the definitive teaching of God’s will and commandments: “the law of Christ” (Gal 6.2) or “the law of the spirit of life” (Rom 8.2).  So the titles of ‘sermon on the mount’ and ‘beatitudes’ do not give justice to this section of Matthew, which is the definitive law of God delivered by God’s prophet and Son, the Lord Christ!



The gospel reading starts with vv.14-15, which form the concluding remarks to the Lord’s prayer, stressing the necessity of doing God’s will. Fasting in the Old Testament is an expression of mourning for one’s sin. Here one must repent from the sin par excellence, namely the lack of love for the neighbor.  The ultimate expression of this is refusing to forgive a neighbor’s debts (Mt 18:21-35 ends with “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”)


The mention of treasure on earth versus the treasure in heaven is brought into this picture because treasure brings to mind the temple. Indeed, the Jerusalem temple, as all temples of that time, functioned as a treasury (e.g. the didrachma that every adult Jew was required to pay to the temple, referred to in Mt 17:24-27). So, it is not the fast prescribed by the Jerusalem temple authorities that will secure our righteousness, since the temple, as any building, is destructible and indeed was destroyed in 70 A.D. and all donations to preserve it were wasted. The truly righteous repents before the heavenly Father, who abides the heavenly Jerusalem and not in the temple made-by-the-hand-of-man.  This heavenly Father sees and judges the ‘secret’ thoughts of our hearts, and requires a change in attitude, and not fasting, as an expression of true repentance.  This is tantamount to storing our treasure in his heavenly temple.

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