The Gospel according to Matthew (6:7-15)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“This is how you are to pray:
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
“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.”
Opening Prayer: Loving Father, thank You for always having me in Your mind and Your thoughts. Help me to recognize You more as my Father, and all humanity here on earth as my brothers and sisters. Let me shine with Your love, that all may come closer to You, who are Love. Amen.
The Our Father, also called The Lord’s Prayer, is likely the first prayer that most Christians learn. Jesus teaches it to His disciples as the prototype of how we are to pray. Indeed, it comprises all that prayer should contain: recognition of who God is and giving Him worship for His greatness, and offering our own needs to Him. It would be easy to spend many, many pages writing about every aspect of the Our Father. However, especially during this season of Lent, I will focus on just one line in the prayer: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Lent is a season of forgiveness. We are encouraged during this season to seek reconciliation with God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession. But, forgiveness is not just a gift that we seek. No, it is also a gift that we should give away freely to those who seek our forgiveness. How willing are we to forgive those who have hurt us? Are we willing to forgive the other person, even when he or she has hurt us multiple times, perhaps even for the same thing? That is the kind of forgiveness that we are called to give, for it is the exact forgiveness that God gives to each of us.
It is very hard to do that, for sure. I mean, why doesn’t the other person simply learn and stop hurting me? Elsewhere in the Gospel, Peter asks Jesus how many times we have to forgive and poses that even seven times is the limit. What does Jesus say to Peter? “Not seven times but seventy times seven times.” That’s a LOT of forgiveness that we are called to give!
It comes down to recognizing that none of us is perfect. Each of us, you, me, everyone, has hurt others in their lives. Each of us stands before our God, asking for His forgiveness. The amazing thing is that no matter how many times we ask, God delivers! His requirement for us to forgive seems lofty, but His forgiveness to us is literally a well that will never run dry.
To help me to visualize this need we have to always have forgiving hearts, I recall a story I once heard. A little girl was learning the Our Father, and she had some difficulty with the word “trespasses”. Here’s how she said that line of the prayer: “Forgive us the trash we put in other people’s baskets, as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.” That’s really what forgiveness is about. Recognizing that the times we fail to love is that “trash” that we put into others’ “baskets”. This little girl had it exactly right. We ask God to forgive us for how we hurt others, just as we are called to forgive those who hurt us.
It’s not easy, but that is the call of a follower of Jesus. Can each of us during this Lenten season try to deepen our forgiving heart? Can we forgive those “who put trash in our baskets”, even as God forgives us? That’s the challenge of Lent.
Closing Prayer: Jesus, help me to be one who forgives and never keeps score. I know that I “put trash in others baskets” much more than I imagine. Help me to love and shine the light of that love especially to those whom I have hurt the most. Amen.
Action for the Day: That image of the trash baskets makes me think of “spring cleaning”! For today, let us reach out to someone whom we have hurt and ask for forgiveness, and so begin the act of clearing out those baskets.