"FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES..." HOW?
Jesus commanded us to pray the Our Father [Mt 6:9-13].
"This is how you are to pray: Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and do not test subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one."
How much do we really pay attention to what we are saying? The fifth petition-there are seven-should always cause us to pause and reflect just what it is we are asking God to do.
"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
Jesus, Himself, drew attention to these words specifically when he had concluded the Our Father, "If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions." [Mt 6:14-15].
This is an immensely important consideration. If we have not forgiven those who have offended us, we are literally asking God to condemn us!! God is love. And love is most perfectly exhibited as mercy. And mercy is what Jesus demands of us. He is not saying "If you forgive others, their offenses against you, that would be very nice thing to do." No! He says, "If you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."
And who must we forgive? Jesus tells us: "You have heard it said, 'you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you." [Mt 5:43-44]
Why should we forgive others? Let us read what St. Cyril of Jerusalem, preached in his Catechetical Lectures around the year A.D. 350:
"And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. And we have many sins; for we offend both in word and in thought, and we do much that is worthy of condemnation. And, as John says, 'If we say that we have no sin, we lie.' We make a pact with God, entreating him to forgive us our sins, just as we forgive our neighbors their debts. Considering then, what we receive and in return for what, let us neither delay nor postpone forgiving one another. The offenses committed against us are small and trivial and easily settled. But those which we have committed against God are great and require a loving-kindness such as is His alone. Beware therefore, lest, because of small and trivial sins against yourself, you might close off from yourself God's forgiveness of your most grievous sins."
For a discussion of how grievous our sins are, see the article Why is Sin Such a Big Deal? In Matthew 18:23-35, Jesus relates the parable of the Unforgiving Servant. Take a moment to read it. Read it with the understanding that you owe God a great sum; your neighbor's debt to you is minuscule, by comparison.
Now the hard part...Think of an individual that has offended you more than anyone else. Do you have him in mind? Now make the following promises to God considering each one carefully:
If you cannot do this, you must pray for the grace to forgive.
- If I see this person in trouble, I will come to his aid.
- I will not speak ill of this person.
- At his judgment, I will be his advocate; not his accuser.
- I have canceled his debt to me; have mercy on us both.
Now, be not afraid. Go and pray the Our Father!
"Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."