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.