Caressing the Head of a Murderer: a Story of True Love

‘New Martyr’ by Elena Cherkasova

We live in two different worlds at the same time.  When we come to the Church to work and worship our Lord, we enter into the Kingdom of God which is full of love, harmony, and beauty.  When we come to this place, we endeavor to lay aside all earthly cares, put aside our individuality, our biases, our prejudices, our political leanings, and come together as one in order to enter into that Love that goes beyond our human comprehension. 

There is however, another world which we find ourselves apart of.  Whenever we find ourselves outside of Church and outside of prayer, we go from the holiness of heaven to the vulgarity of a sinful life.  Love and beauty seem to subside as we make our way from the doors of prayer and into the lion’s den of the Kingdom of Man.  

The Kingdom of God…and the Kingdom of Man.  Both places are strikingly different!  This is illustrated for us quite beautifully in the parable of the talents, where we hear about the love of a master, who forgave an unmerciful servant a debt of 10,000 talents.  And after receiving this wonderful gift of love, that same servant went out and choked a fellow servant who only owed him a few pennies!  Like so many parables that Jesus used in his teaching, this one is an easy one to understand.  How hypocritical do we have to be to accept Love and forgiveness from the Father, only to turn around and cast judgment and hate on the rest of mankind?  

We all have our faults. We all have the scars of sin which desecrate our skin, yet when we point the finger at others in the world, our focus so easy shifts from the ugliness of our own finger, to the ugliness found on our target.  In the parable of the talents, our Lord reminds us of just how dangerous it is to not incorporate the love that we receive in the Kingdom of God into the way we act towards each other in the Kingdom of Man.  

There is an incredibly popular story of love that I wish to share with you all, because it is an incredible example of what happens when we are able to transfer this unending love of the Kingdom of God to the rest of the world.

Several years ago, during the communist era in Romania, there was a priest-monk who was thrown into prison because of his Orthodox Faith.  He was beaten by the communist prison guard and tortured almost to the point of death.  And as the priest was lying on his bed, recuperating from these beatings, the prison guard was responsible for his beatings was betrayed by his fellow communists, and was also thrown into prison…into the same cell that the priestmonk found himself in. 

One night, the communist guard, after receiving a particularly harsh beating, was wailing in agony.  With tears in his eyes, he turned to the priest-monk whom he had tortured and said: “Father, please pray for me.  I cannot die…as I have committed such terrible crimes”.

 To this plea for help, the monk, who was himself in great physical pain, called two other prisoners over to help him off of his bed.  He leaned on their shoulders, and slowly, he walked over the bedside of his own murderer, and caressed his head.  

“You are young…and you truly did not know what you were doing.  I love you with all my heart.  If I who am a sinner can love you, imagine Christ, who is truly Love incarnate…imagine how much He loves you.  And all of the Christians whom you have tortured and gone to their eternal rest…know that they forgive you, and they love you, as Christ loves you…You wonder if your sins can be forgiven?  He wishes to forgive your sins more than you wish your sins to be forgiven.  He desires for you to be with Him in the Kingdom, much more than you wish to be in heaven with Him.  God IS Love…and you need only to turn to him…and ask mercy.” 

This glorious priest monk, in the moments that followed, heard the confession and gave absolution to the very man that tortured, beat, and murdered him.  They prayed together, embraced each other, and the priest-monk went back to his own bed.  Both men died that same night…which happened to be Christmas Eve…the day that God came to show us all ultimate love, by coming to forgive the sins of all men.

This is an incredibly beautiful and powerful story which we should all use to tell others about the transformative power of Love.  The priest-monk was able to do what so many of us fail to do in this life.  We so often fall into the trap of the man in the parable today, and in the Kingdom of Man, we are quick to forget about the Love of our Father, as we seize each other by the throat.  This world is unforgiving, it is self-righteous, it is violent, it is judgmental…and we find ourselves torn between these two places.  

In the Father’s house, we experience forgiveness and love.  Out in the world, we choke each other every day by magnifying the sins of others.  We need only to open this morning’s paper, or peruse Facebook for 5 minutes, to see stories of individuals who have fallen away into sin.  Their transgressions are magnified and put on a pedal stoolfor all to see, as if each one of us who reads that garbage is perfect in the way that we live our lives!  

When we gossip, when we condemn, and when we put the sins of others ahead of our own, we ignore the love of the Father, and we grab the throats of others.  

Two Kingdoms:  One of Judgement, intolerance, and bitterness…and one of Love and Unending Mercy.  

We must be careful, brothers and sisters, and pay close attention to the hypocrisy that we find in our own lives.  This is why prayer and vigilance to our soul is so important.  Each and every time we light our candles in our icon corners at home and begin our daily prayers, we take a step out of the Kingdom of Man…and enter into the Kingdom of God.  We remember the scars of our own sins, and we forget about the transgressions of others. We escape from bitterness, and we surround ourselves with understanding.  We turn our backs to hate and enter into a state of love.  

The Kingdom of Man has such great potential.  We sometimes forget, that each and every one of it’s inhabitants is made with the image and likeness of God.  Creation, by it’s very nature, is good…but only if we as human beings allow it to be.

May our Lord strengthen us all in our journey towards bringing the glories of the Kingdom of God to the rest of the World!

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