So often, forgiveness is mistakenly thought of as a sign of weakness. During this Lenten season, we, as Catholic Christians, should take the time to reflect on the words contained in the Our Father. Particularly, the words “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive others.” Eight words, when put together in a prayer, presents to so many (including me), a true challenge to our Christian faith. Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive others. We pray for God’s forgiveness of our sins, but somehow, to forgive another person’s misdeeds, is just out of our grasp.
Sometimes, forgiveness, at the time of a particularly horrific offense against another human being, just seems impossible. The wounds are too raw. We may even take “comfort” in the biblical passage from Exodus 21:23-24 “But if the woman herself is injured, the punishment shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” Perhaps this excerpt from Exodus may give “validity” to our feelings of revenge.
Often, it is the mundane annoyances in our everyday lives, whether it is petty arguments or misconceptions, which leads to estrangements from family, friends or even the Church.
However, we need to step back, and realize that forgiveness is a process. We must pray, with hope, for the Holy Spirit’s guidance towards healing, not only of ourselves, but to the person or persons who harmed us. We should take comfort in Matthew 5:39 “But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap you on your left cheek too.” As Jesus was nailed to the crucifix, He uttered, “Forgive them, Father! They don’t know what they are doing.” We must pray for the strength to forgive, however long it takes, or risk God’s judgment against us.
We know that without forgiveness, there can be no love, and without reconciliation, there can be no freedom.
It is my hope that during the season of Lent, we truly reflect on these eight words from Our Lord’s Prayer, and realize the gift of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness of us. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we were given the ultimate gift of salvation.