The Church teaches that the astonishing petition “forgive us our trespasses” can never be without the equivalent phrase “as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The daunting thought is that an outpouring of God’s mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have hurt us or trespassed against us. Love is not divisible; how can we love God whom we do not see and not love our neighbor whom we do see? The very reason we are able to love at all is because we have been given the grace and the faith to understand the meaning of love in the love of God. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2838-2845)
In refusing to forgive, we close our “hearts:” the place of our innermost being, and make ourselves impervious to the Father’s mercy. Yet, the Father loves us unconditionally as his creatures, his children, even when we do not see fit to recognize the ultimacy and supremacy of love, which is God himself. He remains with us always, for us to be reconciled with one another. Jesus looked down from the cross and asked the Father to forgave his murderers, “for they do not know what they are doing.” When we blind ourselves to the need of forgiveness, we deny that we are made in the “image of God,” and resign ourselves only to confusion and anxiety where the Spirit of God within us is ignored, and compassion is understood only in regard to ourselves. To feel sorry for ourselves for having been hurt, or having hurt another, either inadvertently or purposively, and to return hurt with more hurt, or a brooding silence, clearly misses the point.
It is most worldly to despise those who despise us, or to return injury for having been injured, immediately or over prolonged periods. “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” died with the resurrection of Jesus Christ! To live one’s life suffering the consequences of debilitating un-forgiveness, more or less crowds out peace. No one can be content being ill-at-ease without hurting one’s self. Hurt is painful from where ever or for what ever purpose or reason it comes, especially if we are unaware of a cause. Only the Spirit by whom we live can put us in the same mind of Jesus. Forgiveness then comes from the source of all forgiveness as God in Christ, for those who have trespassed and those who are willing to trespass in return. Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation of the children of God with their Father, and of human beings with one another. Without forgiveness peace is hardly possible. To forgive from the heart, in the name of Jesus has it’s reward in a personal peace that only he can give us. The inspiration to forgive, even ones worst enemies, is a notion that comes from the grace of God— that extraordinary power of the Ultimate, Unconditioned Good. It is in the “depths of the heart,” that everything is bound and loosed. It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but a heart that submits itself to the Spirit of God, through Christ, is able to turn injury into compassion and hurtfulness into peace. Injury is transformed by the power of intersession.“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.” “Yes, I am with you always, even to the end of time.”
“Owe no one anything, except to love one another.” Rom. 13:8
This petition is so important that it is the only one to which Jesus returns and which he develops explicitly in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy’…‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’…‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely”… etc. The crucial requirement of the covenant mystery is impossible for humans, but, with God all things are possible. Thus Jesus’ words of forgiveness, the love that loves to the end, become a reality in our lives and satisfies our most ardent desires when we sincerely live by them. How often are we prone to follow Truth as a person?
Not many prayers express in precise language the commitment we are are required to give to others. The one Francis of Assisi gave us, with his saintly humility, does exactly that :
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Every human being, having been born the image and likeness of God, if we have enough grace to believe that, has the promises of Christ open to him or her. “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”