PART IV: CHRISTIAN PRAYER
Section Two: The Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father”
Article 3, The Seven Petitions (cont’d)
V. “And Forgive Us Our Trespasses, as We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us”
§ 2838 This petition is astonishing. If it consisted only of the first phrase, “And forgive us our trespasses,” it might have been included, implicitly, in the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, since Christ’s Sacrifice is “that sins may be forgiven.” But, according to the second phrase, our petition will not be heard unless we have first met a strict requirement. Our petition looks to the future, but our response must come first, for the two parts are joined by the single word “as.”
And forgive us our trespasses…
§ 2839 With bold confidence, we began praying to our Father. In begging Him that His Name be hallowed, we were in fact asking Him that we ourselves might be always made more holy. But though we are clothed with the baptismal garment, we do not cease to sin, to turn away from God. Now, in this new petition, we return to Him like the prodigal son and, like the tax collector, recognize that we are sinners before Him (cf. Luke 15:11-32; 18:13).
Our petition begins with a “confession” of our wretchedness and His Mercy. Our hope is firm because, in His Son, “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14; Ephesians 1:7). We find the efficacious [effective] and undoubted sign of His forgiveness in the Sacraments of His Church (cf. Matthew 26:28; John 20:23).
§ 2840 Now – and this is daunting – this outpouring of Mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us. Love, like the Body of Christ, is indivisible; we cannot love the God we cannot see if we do not love the brother or sister we do see (cf. 1 Jn 4:20). In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our hearts are closed and their hardness makes them impervious to the Father’s Merciful Love; but in confessing our sins, our hearts are opened to His grace.
§ 2841 This petition is so important that it is the only one to which the Lord returns and which he develops explicitly in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mt 6:14-15; 5:23-24; Mark 11:25). This crucial requirement of the covenant mystery is impossible for man. But “with God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26).
Tomorrow – …as we forgive those who trespass against us
(Part IV, Section 2, Article 3 – to be continued)
[Editor’s Note: The abbreviation in today’s posting is noted below.]
- “cf.” – “confer [compare or refer to]”