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The Reading is from the Holy Gospel According to St. Luke (6:31-36, II Cor.

6:16-7:1) + In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +

The Lord says, as you would have men do unto you, do likewise unto them. We are to love other as we love our selves. Why?, because it is only in the other that we come to know ourselves. We are persons. What it means to be a person is to be in communion with other persons, just as God is a communion of Three Divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To properly and truly love we must love one another. And to properly know and be ourselves we must love one another. Moreover, we love the other because they are made in the image and likeness of God. Every person has been quickened with the Divine breath. To love others is to love God. In fact, our love for God can be measured by the love we have for others. Especially the love we have for those who anger us, annoy us, who can do nothing for us, and who are even our enemies. If we say we love God and do not love others then we are a liar. i Indeed love is necessary for communion with God. We commune with God, we become one with Him in, through, and by this Divine Liturgy (Eucharist), but not without first loving one another. This is why we say Let us love one another, so that with one accord we may confess, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Trinity one in essence and undivided. How do we understand this love?ii It is understood in the words from todays Gospel, Therefore, be merciful, just as your Father in also merciful. Merciful, mercy, is usually understood as overlooking a fault, having compassion and forgiveness. And these things are good, but mercy and love are much more. In Matthews account of todays Gospel Christ says, Therefore, you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.iii Perfect, telios in the Greek, means to be complete. To be whole. We are to be merciful, and love with perfection; to love completely, totally, perfectly. In other words we are to love the other with entire being. Just like God. 1

Christ said, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved youiv And He has loved us with His whole Self. He held nothing of Himself back. He gave all of Himself. And He gave all of Himself over to death, so that all of us, and all of us, might be given over to life. But we must have a pure heart. v God says, Behold I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and dine with him, and him with Me. vi If we open the door to our heart God will come in and dine with us. He will commune with us and us with Him. We must open the door of our heart, to pour out unto Him our whole heart. The heart: that very part in us where God is and desire to be. And we open that door, we open our heart, with the knob of our pain; our suffering, affliction, the [spiritual] famine and hunger that comes in our separation from God. For in opening the heart with the knob of our pain we in fact call out to God with our being. Then we become like God who poured out all of Himself, and who cried out from the depth of human separation from God, from the depth of pain, saying, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me! So if we plunge the depths of our hearts and call out to God we make ourselves like Christ, so that in the Kingdom we will receive His divine likeness. vii

I Jn. 4:20 This and the following two paragraphs are adapted from and inspired by Fr. Tom Hopkos lecture on Alms giving. iii Matt. 5:48 iv Jn. 13:34 v This and the following paragraph are inspired by and comes from Archimandrite Zacharias The Hidden Man of the Heart: The Cultivation of the Heart in Orthodox Christian Anthropology, ed. Christopher Veniamin, Mount Thabor Publishing, Waymart, PA 2008, p.1-17. vi Rev. 3:20 vii St. Gregory Palamas, Homilies, ed. Christopher Veniamin, Mount Thabor Publishing, Waymart, PA p. 358