“If you forgive men their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” (Mt 6:14-15)
In today’s Gospel, the Apostles ask Jesus to teach them to pray. At first glance, one might think that was a rather absurd request. Teach them to pray? Haven’t they prayed their entire lives? What makes you think they’re going to start now?
That is not the dynamic of the request, however.
Jesus had become an established teacher. He had gathered a group of followers around Him. Those followers knew that other teachers had taught their followers certain things so that they could remain true to their teacher.
The Apostles were asking Jesus to give them identity as much as they were asking Him to teach them to pray.
However, Jesus gave them more than they bargained for. He gave them the “dangerous prayer.” I say that because, if we truly pray the Our Father as Jesus gave it, we open ourselves up to judgment.
The prayer begins nice and simple. We acknowledge God as our Father. We pray for His Kingdom and will to be established, not our own. We ask that same Father to give us all that we need this day.
Then it gets dicey: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Let’s try that again, but, in English that we can understand: Heavenly Father, I am asking you to forgive me in exactly the same manner that I forgive other people. If I am a person who forgives freely, forgive me freely. If I am a person who refuses to forgive, then, by all means, refuse to forgive me.
That is what we are saying each time we pray the Our Father.
And so you do not think that is my interpretation, Jesus goes on to clarify after He teaches the Our Father to His followers. He tells His followers that if they do not forgive, neither will they be forgiven.
It is difficult being a Christian. It is difficult because we are called to rise about this world which would encourage us not only to refuse forgiveness but to seek revenge.
It cannot be like that with us, however. We must be a people of forgiveness, especially if we hope to be forgiven ourselves.
FAITH ACTION: Are you holding a grudge against anyone? Do all that you can to reconcile yourself to that person to whom you withhold forgiveness.