Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Forgive Us Our Trespasses

The Sunday before Lent starts in the Eastern Church is known as Forgiveness Sunday.  The homilies for these liturgies focus on the need to forgive so that we can be forgiven.  Father told us that when we refuse to forgive that we are creating an obstacle to God's mercy and forgiveness and grace.  There is also a beautiful rite that begins with the parish clergy kneeling, and asking forgiveness of anyone of the parish that they may have offended during the year.  They then go through the church asking individuals for forgiveness, and the parishioners do the same as the Spirit moves them, or the gifts of humility and fortitude sustain them.

After all no one wants an obstacle to God's mercy, forgiveness, and grace -- right?

Father also said there are times when we do try to forgive, but the resentment, or hurt runs so deep that it is only by praying for God's help to forgive that we can forgive.

Of course I also remember another good way of getting the humility necessary to forgive is to stare at a crucifix and ask the questions:
- Who is suffering and dying on that cross?  
- Why is He dying?  
- Who is He dying for?

I do believe that the purgation we receive either in temporal punishments in this life, or in Purgatory are to bring us to a place of more perfect, more Christ-like love.  A dear priest said in a homily, "You must know that you will not get into heaven until you forgive and love everyone."

It's all there in the Gospels, especially the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant who was forgiven the equivalent of billions and wouldn't forgive a hundred (Matthew 18:21-35).  The teaching from Fr. Bartunek in The Better Part on this is that if we refuse to forgive the little offenses others cause us, we "handcuff God's mercy and put ourselves under strict justice."  

Who wants that?  

Lord please give light, eyes that they may see, and ears that they may hear.  Please let all that don't understand that it is your will for them to be forgiving and merciful as you have been to them, absorb the light of the Gospel and Your teaching on forgiveness.

It's right there in the Our Father, for Pete's sake:  "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."


  1. When I first tried to forgive my abuser, I had such a hard time. I went to confession and the priest told me that sometimes we need to ask God to forgive someone for us. So that is what I did. Soon after that, I was able to forgive him myself. God is good.
    Great post.

  2. Colleen, what a powerful comment. It is hard to absorb the tremendous work of God's grace in your life that you were able to forgive following the recommendation of your confessor (in the place of Christ) and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I just got socked in the brain that this is exactly the example of Jesus that was portrayed so well in the Passion of the Christ. Repeatedly they showed him saying, "Forgive them Father," even as the torture and pain upon pain mounted and even after at the end, after Jesus suffered our hell in his soul, during the three hours of darkness that led to him crying out, "My God my God why have you forsaken me!"
    Hope you don't mind, but I did use your finding the grace to forgive as example when one of my family members described an action by another family member as "unforgiveable", so as to show that it was really not unforgiveable.
    It is frustrating when the Parable of the Sower plays out in real life and you see evidence of the birds carrying off the seed that falls on the path, and "good people" lose some of the essentials of Christ's teaching. Sometimes a real life example of the grace and reality of God's healing and love in a life such as yours, returns them and fertilizes the ground, so the next sprinkling of the Word takes root and bears 100 fold. That is my prayer!