In the Gospel of Cheese Fare Sunday, there are three significant signs that we need to develop on the journey of Great Lent that begins on Clean Monday (March 11). These are three proposals from the Homily on the Mount, offered from our Lord Jesus Christ, and mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew. If we develop these three significant signs properly, especially on this journey of Great Lent, then we will surely fulfill the purpose of the journey, which is to realize and experience the Passion, Death and the Joy of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts, minds and lives.
The first significant sign is the discipline of Forgiveness. The Lord says: "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” In our lives, we often fall in mistakes and faults and we have the need and sometimes the demand from others to forgive us, as we also ask forgiveness from God. This will be fulfilled from God, when we treat our fellow men as we want to be treated. We cannot ask the mercy of God, since we, with our behavior, become hardhearted to our fellow men when they have done wrong to us. We cannot say on one hand, that we are “good Christians” and on the other, cannot forgive our fellow men whatever they have done to us. In the Lord’s Prayer, we recite, “…forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us...” It’s substantial criteria, for the forgiveness of God of our own behavior and forgiveness to our fellow men!
The second significant sign is the way that we practice fasting. “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. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 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.” Jesus condemns the hypocrisy and beautification of the external behavior, which is a great sickness to show ourselves off to one another, especially when we are fasting. The reason for fasting is not only to uphold our desires, which would be very egoistic and a false perception. The reason for fasting is also whatever we have refused to eat, which is the best of the food products, and giving alms to those who are in need. In this way we connect and come closer to each other with actions of love. We need to learn sharing with others.
The third significant sign concerns our treasures on earth and heaven. Jesus in the Gospel averts us to collect treasures on earth, “… where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal...”. Jesus urges us to collect spiritual treasures in our lives, which are unalterable. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." These are the last words of Jesus in the gospel reading of Cheese Fare Sunday. It is true that if anyone is basing his life on how he will gain more treasures, and concentrates his whole life on that, then as a result, he is living a life with no true happiness. In the end, he forgets how to live his life, which is without peace and mostly despair and depression because of stress. We should ask and develop spiritual treasure in our lives. When we learn to fast and share through actions of love, like almsgiving, sharing our treasures, being compassionate to our fellow men and humbling ourselves through forgiveness, we will surely fulfill those three significant signs of Cheese Fare Sunday’s gospel of Matthew. We will achieve the goal of the journey of Great Lent, which is to feel and experience that sacrificial love and His peace in our hearts, our minds and our lives at the midnight Pascal Service!
Your parish priest
Fr. Athansios Nenes