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 in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread;
and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors;
and do not subject us to the final test,
but deliver us from the evil one.
If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions. Matthew 6:7–15
“Forgive us our debts …”
Much of Matthew’s version of the Our Father and its surrounding context is devoted to forgiveness. After concluding the prayer, Jesus tells us that if we forgive we will be forgiven. A few verses earlier in this Gospel, he states that his Father makes the sun shine on the bad and good, the rain fall on the just and unjust—with no distinction. And he calls us to be merciful, as his Father is merciful.
Throughout the Gospels, we see God’s mercy active in the person of Jesus, who forgives sins, delivers people from their afflictions, and socializes with the marginalized. In recent times—thanks to Saint Faustina and Pope John Paul II—the Church has grown in its appreciation of the depth of God’s mercy. In fact, the Church sees mercy as the core of the Christian message.
Forgiveness can be heroic, as was Jesus’ forgiveness of everyone responsible for his death. Many of Christ’s followers have likewise forgiven great wrongs. Just one example from our own times is Immaculée Ilibagiza, a Rwandan woman who forgave the neighbors who had massacred her parents and siblings. You and I may not be called to such heroism, but the Lord may be inviting us to accept acquaintances and even relatives whose values seem contrary to our own and thus foreign to the Gospel. That’s often hard to do. But who knows what graces we may draw if we make a real effort to accept them as persons loved by God?
Then there are the wrongs done to us personally, such as slander, gossip, digs, slights.… These might actually seem easier to forgive, since we could take pride in our “virtue.” Perhaps real virtue is cultivated by putting up with the little grievances that are not sins, yet get on our nerves. A spouse, friend, colleague, or sibling may persist in an irritating habit that we’ve called to their attention. What if we were to focus on that person’s good qualities and forget about the irritation?
Jesus, help me to recognize that we’re all children of your heavenly Father—one human family in need of mercy. Help me try to see where my companions are coming from and what they’re going through. May I forgive as you did, who ate and drank with sinners, and as your Father does, who showers sunshine and rain on all alike. Make me blind to irritating faults. Let me see something of your own goodness in each person I live with, work with, or meet.
“… as we forgive our debtors.”