There are some common prayers that I pray by heart, such as the Hail Mary, the Our Father 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.
The last part of the sentence is something to check ourselves on. For some of us these words merely flow off our tongues, and we often don’t think about what we are saying. Can we forgive 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 may be in that category.
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 have right relationships with everyone who touches our lives. We all know people (maybe ourselves) who hold deep resentments or hurts that need God’s healing. Sometimes people nurse their grudges and anger toward someone else for years. Some might not even remember what originally happened to cause the problem.
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.
Reconciliation is needed, not only in our individual lives, but also in our countries, churches and other organizations. There can be no lasting peace unless people are willing to ask for and to give forgiveness.
I truly believe that if we can make right our individual relationships that there will be less war and violence in our world. God’s forgiveness for us will be measured by how we offer forgiveness in our lives. The next time you pray the Our Father slow down and think about what you are really saying. As followers of Christ we must take those words seriously.
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