The Our Father and Forgiveness

Brother John Raymond

	How many times have we prayed the "Our Father." I would imagine
 most of us have lost count. In this special prayer taught by Jesus
 Himself we find "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who
 trespass against us." It is interesting to note that Jesus, after
 teaching this prayer to His disciples, gives a short commentary only
 on this part of the prayer. He tells us that if we forgive others
 their trespasses our Heavenly Father will forgive ours. But if we do
 not forgive others He will not forgive us. (Mt. 6:14-15) Now for
 Jesus to repeat this part of the prayer in slightly different words
 it must mean that it is very important.
	Television and movies like "justice." But this thirst for
 "justice" sadly takes place in real life. We are so happy that the
 murderer gets what's coming to him - the death sentence or that they
 throw away the key, that a dictator is shot, etc. This kind of
 justice is in quotes because it is incorrect. According to the
 Catechism this virtue disposes us to respect the rights of others.
 Also, it deals with establishing harmony by promoting equity
 regarding persons and the common good. It has nothing to do with
 vengeance or revenge. Further, the virtues are not isolated but have
 to be taken in relation. Therefore in applying justice mercy must
 also be taken into account.
	To exemplify how this justice attitude permeates our society I
 would like to tell a couple of true stories. Two friends of mine,
 named John and Clark, were in a car when they were accidently hit
 from behind by an old beat up car. John's car ended up with a broken
 tail light. He wrote down the name and phone number of the person
 who hit him. Later, John decided to fix the tail light himself since
 this person seemed poor. Clark kept asking John when he was going to
 collect. When he explained why he was not going to Clark just could
 not understand it. Clark insisted that John should collect the
 money. "After all," he said, "it was the other guy's fault!"
	But wait, the second story is better than that. A Catholic woman
 was going to a cloistered convent to get a spiritual bouquet for a
 special intention and would be giving a donation for it. At the
 convent door she tripped over the welcome mat. Well guess what she
 did - maybe you guessed it - she sued the nuns!
	Now I could go on and on about this "justice" at all costs
 attitude that is prevalent today. Some people spend their whole
 lives trying to get "justice" for a wrong done to them by someone
 else. We need to reflect on the forgiveness we profess in the Our
 Father. We need to read and reflect over the servant whose debt is
 forgiven by the king who then goes and exacts a lesser debt in
 "justice" from his fellow servant. (See Mt. 18:23-35) If we have
 committed one sin in our life we have done an injustice to God.
 Jesus unjustly had to pay the price of our sin or sins during His
 Passion. We are now unjustly redeemed and able to enter Heaven. Talk
 about injustice! Jesus, the Son of God, perfectly innocent of all
 sin, is condemned to the most cruel death. His first words from the
 Cross are "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do."
 Now if anybody deserved to execute justice it was Jesus upon the
 Cross. We can never even come close to being so unjustly treated.
 But we can imitate His example of forgiveness. Nobody could possibly
 hurt us as much as we have hurt God by our sins. Yet, God forgives
 us! He not only forgives but He cancels our debt if we are sorry.
 Once we forgive others from the heart, with the help of God's grace,
 we have no need to exact "justice" from them.
	On this Mercy Sunday let us really reflect over these words of
 the Our Father taught to us directly by God. Let us read the Gospels
 to deepen our understanding of forgiveness and its importance to
 God. Finally, let us pray the Our Father when injured by others to
 strengthen ourselves with God's grace to forgive and to forget.