Matthew 6: 14-21
“Where Your Treasure Is, There Will Your Heart Be Also” – Homily for Forgiveness Sunday in the Orthodox Church
If all of your money is in a certain bank or investment, you will be very concerned about that bank or investment. Your treasure is there, and your heart will follow. If you invest your time, energy, and effort in any relationship or any activity, you will value it highly. You give your life to it, and your heart follows.
We are all given a blessed opportunity during Lent to invest our lives in God and our neighbours. For the treasure of our lives is our love, our attention, our time, and our actions. Too often, that treasure is wasted, is squandered, on matters of no importance at all. We use our minds to hold grudges and our lips to condemn others. We use food and drink simply for pleasure in ways that weaken us spiritually and physically. We fixate on money as though it is the measure of our worth and, no matter how much or how little we have, we are never satisfied. Our hearts follow our treasure. So we come to love putting others down and building ourselves up. We come to love pleasing ourselves in whatever way possible. And, of course, we come to love material possessions more than God and neighbour.
As St. Paul wrote to the Romans, it is time to wake up from our slumber. For without acknowledging what we are doing, we have all been stumbling in the dark, spending ourselves on that which cannot satisfy us, wasting life itself on the bad dreams of our passions. Yes, it’s time to wake up, for Lent is like an alarm clock reminding us to stop throwing our lives away and to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”
We need to pay attention to St. Paul’s warning. For too long, we have used our time, energy, and attention to fulfill whatever self-centered desires we have. Instead of focusing on forgiving those who have wronged us, we have remembered the offenses of others and fantasized about how to get even. Instead of using food or other pleasures with self-restraint so that they have their proper place in our lives, we have indulged ourselves and become their slaves. Instead of using our financial resources to help the needy and support the ministries of the Church, we have selfishly loved our money and possessions. In other words, we have learned to love what we treasure: ourselves and the things that help us get what we want.
Jesus Christ calls us to a different kind of life, of course. He calls us to invest ourselves in Him, to offer our time, energy, possessions, relationships, and bodily appetites for the healing, fulfillment, and transformation of the Kingdom. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” If we want to be pure of heart, if we want to love God with every ounce of our being and our neighbours as ourselves, we must learn to treasure the new life that Christ has brought to the world. We do that by taking deliberate, intentional steps to redirect our hearts to Him, by investing the treasure of our lives in the ways of the Kingdom.
If there is anything that takes focused effort, it is forgiveness. How easy and seductive it is to brood over the wrongs other have done us, to judge them again and again in our minds, and to make ourselves feel better by comparing ourselves with those on whom we like to look down. But when we do so, we simply make provision for the flesh and fulfill its lusts. We sink deeper and deeper into a spiral of self-righteous delusion. We end up wasting the treasure of our lives and damaging our hearts.
Fr. Philip LeMasters