DESPERATION OFFENDS THE MERCY OF GOD
Sermon after the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. 03.03.2023
“The doors of repentance do Thou open unto me, O Giver of life.” The Holy Church sings about repentance, as repentance is the door through which people come into the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ is the door and the Church sings “the doors of repentance” meaning that there is no entrance into the Kingdom and reunion with Christ without repentance.
It seems to be very simple and clear when people do not have repentance because they just do not want to. There are so many people on earth who do not even want to hear about God and they do not want to repent; they simply do not need this. It seems to be simple, you do not want to and you do not have to do it. However, there are many people who want repentance badly. They seek repentance as a change of their lives, as an escape from their vileness and worthlessness. They want to run away from the state which is always bringing heaviness and pain to their hearts and making their conscience ail, as their conscience accuses them of betraying their beloved God.
This part of people wants repentance. They want to but they cannot repent. It happens to many Christians. “I do not simply want it, I want it to tears. But I cannot.” For some reason repentance does not come at once, it stops and stalls, or does not work at all. Sometimes people come to a state when they do not believe in their repentance. They lose faith and hope in their success, and do not believe the Lord will accept them.
I would advise such people to recollect a story from the Old Testament about Saint Jonah the Prophet and the Ninevites. The Ninevites came to the last point of corruption and they called down the wrath of God. There seemed to be no return to the relationship with God and no hope at all. This is why the Lord sent Jonah to the Ninevites not even to bring them to their senses, but to announce, “That’s enough. The Lord’s patience has exhausted itself. It is over. Ninevites, the wrath of God is waiting for you.” The Prophet did not go to teach them, but to inform them they had crossed the terminal line and would have nothing more.
Having heard this horrible sentence, these Ninevites do not suddenly fall into despair, nor do they break bad and enjoy their last days, as everything is lost all the same. All of a sudden, some sober change takes place in their minds and hearts. The whole city comes to a state of repentance and they all repent before God. And the Lord lays His mercy on them. This is unexpected even for Jonah the Prophet. “How is this? You sent me to announce to them that the cup is full and Your wrath will fall on them. I came here on Your behalf to tell them all this and now I even look awkward as a prophet. I am turning into a false prophet now.”
At this moment, he comes to desperation. Do you remember? He leaves the city in this state, sits exhausted, partly defamed as a prophet, and sad in the heat of the sun. Remember one more moment? We will read it on Great Saturday. There was a pumpkin growing nearby. It covers him with its leaves and protects from the scorching sunny rays, relieving Jonah from external and internal sufferings in a way. But even the pumpkin dries out suddenly. What does the Lord say to him then? “You have pity for the pumpkin you did not plant. How will I not have pity for the people I created and led through their lives. Don’t you think I will not have mercy on them even after they crossed the terminal line, the point of no return?”
People have such a notion as “the point of no return,” but God ruins this notion. He breaks it, goes there, pities them, and restores everything as it was.
Desperation offends the mercy of God. Desperation and loss of faith humiliates the unlimited love and mercy of God. There is no point of no return in God’s love, if only a human sighs somehow in the direction of God. Not even make a move, but sigh at least.
When you fall into despair, when nothing works, remember the Ninevites. Remember the festive sermon of Saint John Chrysostom on the Great Feast of Pascha, “Come, the first and the last ones. The Lord wants to take pity on everyone.” If nothing else, you might have sincerity. Give Him your sincerity at least. “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” will be enough.
Glory to our God, always, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages!