Saint Mary of Egypt

As the Canon [the canon of St. Andrew of Crete] approaches its conclusion, St. Andrew brings together all the Scriptures he has been contemplating in a symphony. It is hard to repent, because we find it hard to trust God to be merciful; because we shield ourselves from recognizing our own sinfulness; and because the murky realm of our sins is something we don’t even understand very well. But St. Andrew holds up as examples multitudes who have gone before us, in order to show us what heartfelt repentance looks like and how God responds to it.

Peter betrayed Christ; when servants of the high priest questioned him casually around the courtyard fire, he backed away in confusion, swearing by an oath and invoking a curse on himself, “I do not know the man!” (Matthew 26:72, 74).

Judas also betrayed Christ. When he realized that Jesus had been hauled off for execution, he was stricken. He went back to the temple and tried to return the money he’d received. He told the priests, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood’… And throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:4-5).

Both apostles, who sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to Him every day, who received the bread and wine from Jesus’ own hands at the Last Supper, betrayed Him mere hours later. But one of them repented. Peter “wept bitterly” and returned to Christ, and now is a pillar in the house of God. Judas was consumed with bitterness, self-reproaches, and misery, and cast himself into Hades. The kind of despair that causes a person to give up on God is a particular kind of deadly sin, often translated (misleadingly) “sloth”. It’s not laziness that’s the problem, but the conclusion that no matter what you do it will make no difference, so why try? Healthy repentance, on the other hand, ends in hope.

The lesson of Judas and St. Peter is that the nature of the sin does not matter. Any sin can be forgiven. The only thing preventing salvation is a person’s willingness to repent and come back to God in humility. Don’t be afraid to bring God your very “worst” sins; you probably don’t even know yet what your worst sin is. God knows, and already forgives; it is up to you to come for reconciliation.

Excerpt taken from the book: First Fruits of Prayer, By: Frederica Mathewes-Green

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