Lent: Forgiving others as God forgives us
By Sister Margie Lavonis, CSC
There are some common prayers that I pray by heart, such as the Hail Mary, the Lord’s Prayer and the Glory Be. They come to my mind automatically because I have prayed them so many times and I have them memorized. This is probably true for most Catholics.
Recently, at Mass we heard the Gospel account of Jesus teaching the Lord’s Prayer to his disciples and other followers. Because I usually prepare for the liturgy by praying the daily Scripture readings, "Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us," really jumped out at me.
For some of us these words merely flow off our tongues and we often don’t always think about what we are saying. Asking for forgiveness is one thing, but forgiving others is another. Are we forgiving those who have hurt us or do we hold grudges or have resentments against others? Lent is a good time to examine ourselves and reflect on those people in our lives who have hurt us and our ability to forgive them their trespasses.
Really forgiving someone who has betrayed us or hurt us in any way is not easy, but this is a big part of being a follower of Jesus, and we cannot take it lightly. To love is to forgive and to have right relationships with everyone who touches our lives. Many of us hold deep resentments or hurts that need God’s healing. Sometimes we nurse their grudges and anger toward other people for years. Some might not even remember what originally happened to cause the grudge in the first place.
Every time we pray the Our Father we are asking God to forgive us as we forgive others. He didn’t say to forgive only those who ask for pardon but everyone. At times we must initiate the conversation and take the first step toward reconciliation. To ask for pardon or to say, "I forgive you," and really mean it, is difficult. Often our pride gets in the way or we fear the reaction of the other person. Even so, the act of being reconciled with another can free us, and reconciliation makes us a better follower of Christ.
Once I lived with a sister and we became friends, but our friendship didn’t last. I won’t bore you with details, but there was a lot of friction and competition in our jobs. When she got a ministry that I felt called to do, it took me years to be able to face her. I would turn the other way when I saw her coming. Then one year during my annual retreat I wrote her a letter asking her to make peace with me and that I was sorry for anything I did to cause the tension. It was not easy, but it was one of the most freeing exercises in my life. Now we are not best friends, but we do talk with each other.
Reconciliation is needed, not only in our individual lives, but in our countries, churches and other organizations. There can be no lasting peace unless people are willing to seek and to give forgiveness.
I truly believe that if we begin to make right our individual relationships then as time passes there will be less war and violence in our world. As the song says, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me."
God’s forgiveness for us will be measured by how we offer forgiveness in our lives. The next time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, let’s slow down and think about what every line means. We are blessed to have a loving and merciful God, may we bless others by extending them that same love and mercy.