Forgiveness Sunday: Personal Work or Performance?

This is from the OCA web page section on Saints for the Sunday of Zaccheus, just past:

“Our lenten journey begins with a recognition of our own sinfulness, just as Zacchaeus recognized his. He promised to make restitution by giving half of his wealth to the poor, and by paying to those he had falsely accused four times as much as they had lost. In this, he went beyond the requirements of the Law (Ex. 22:3-12).  The example of Zacchaeus teaches us that we should turn away from our sins, and atone for them. The real proof of our sorrow and repentance is not just a verbal apology, but when we correct ourselves and try to make amends for the consequences of our evil actions.”

Good to think about as Forgiveness Sunday approaches. I’m afraid that the vespers service may perhaps  allow the possibility of just a verbal apology. The results of hurtful actions done over the last year or maybe more don’t go away just because we bow and scrape and say the words asking forgiveness. If we did harm to someone else we  will be seeing at this service, but have done nothing to repair that harm, expecting them to forgive us is just a self-serving way to hurt the person all over again.

We’ve all seen those mangled apologies that celebrities and politicians give sometimes, after they get caught doing something they shouldn’t. I guess the biggest one recently has been Lance Armstrong, who went on the Oprah Winfrey show to talk about getting caught doping to succeed at his sport. I won’t even try to look at the whole thing here, but suffice to say there wasn’t much about how he was going to make it up to the many people he harmed in the course of his now-disgraced career. There’s a good article about it here:

Particularly look at the part of the story to do with Betsy Andreu.

I came across this hilarious and insightful blog by an AA member. This article is about amends, which is the 9th Step in the program.

Seeing an inaccurate portrayal of the 9th Step on a TV show, this blogger says ““It’s not about apologizing!  It’s about making things right!  It’s about restitution!  It’s not about forcing your amends process onto anyone who doesn’t want it!”

The Jewish philosopher Maimonides talks in detail about the importance of amends:  “Whoever merely verbalizes his confession without consciously deciding to give up his sins is like a person who immerses in a ritual pool (mikveh) in order to cleanse himself, but is holding a dead reptile in his hand. His immersion will not cleanse him as long as the reptile remains in his hand.”

In the New Testament,  St. James says it more succinctly:  “Show me your faith by your works.”

So if you need to make amends to someone,  get to it before the ritual of mutual self-humbling and reconciliation at Forgiveness Sunday. The Lord says “Leave your gift at the altar and FIRST go and be reconciled with your brother.”

As the blogger at the first link says, “Do the personal work before the performance, for heaven’s sake.” 


One response to “Forgiveness Sunday: Personal Work or Performance?

  1. Pingback: Orthodox Collective

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