In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Terrorism in New York and in Bali. A man almost crucified in Northern Ireland. We hear voices saying: religion again. Yes, indeed, these events carried out by Muslims or by Protestants and Catholics are carried out in the name of religion. And in history we even hear of ‘religious wars’ which often lasted for many years.
In reality of course a ‘religious’ war is an impossibility. In reality all these events simply signify that there are people who are willing to use the name of religion as a pretext to achieve some private and evil purpose. Religion has always been exploited by all manner of dictator, criminal and murderer to justify the basest of aims. Such people use religion as a noble flag and banner behind which they try to conceal their ignoble goals and selves.
History teaches us that all the greatest monuments in civilisation are religious. Be it the pyramids in Egypt or Mexico, the temples of India, Cambodia, China and Japan or the cathedrals of Europe. Therefore rogues and tyrants all use religion to justify and excuse their corrupt aims. They would not take a corrupt or ignoble ideology to justify themselves, no, they always take noble religion and attempt to twist it. Thus the name above all names that tyrants try to abuse is the name of Christ.
The Faith of Christ has been abused to justify all manner of hatred, political, ethnic or personal.
Such hatred is at the basis of all divisions and splits away from the Church, from the very first, that of Judas, to the very last. All divisions from the Church have their roots in the spiritual disease of hatred that comes from pride, from an illusory superiority, from a lack of humility, from hard-heartedness.
The cure for this spiritual disease is in forgiveness. For forgiveness comes from mercy and mercy comes from love, which is one of the names of God. Today’s Gospel, though short, is all about this. Today’s Gospel says that we are to love our enemies. This was and still is the greatest revelation to mankind. It distinguishes the Faith of Christ from all other religions, it defines what it is to be a Christian. A Christian is one who loves his enemies, be they real enemies or imaginary enemies. The Apostle John the Divine writes in his Gospel that one who claims that he loves God the Father but hates his brother is a liar. And at every Liturgy we sing the words of Christ: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’.
What then is mercy?
Both in Russian and Old English, the word for mercy is the same: ‘mildheartedness’. To be merciful is to have a mild heart, to have the spirit of compassion, the ability to sympathise and empathise with others. The spirit of mercy, of a mild heart, is grown and cultivated with prayer. To be constantly merciful is to be constantly in prayer. Only prayer softens the heart and makes it compassionate. To be merciful, to have a mild heart, is the opposite of being hard-hearted.
We shall avoid being judged and condemned at the Last Judgement only through acts of mercy. You may forget this sermon, but do not forget these words:
We shall be saved only by acts of mercy. If we show no mercy, we shall receive no salvation.