Is there someone in your life, past or present, whom you know in your heart that you have not fully forgiven? Perhaps it is an old boyfriend or girlfriend whom you deeply loved but either could not or would not return that love. Maybe it is a beloved child that you are trying to show “a better and more excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31) but he or she simply responds with open rebellion. Or it could be a spouse who, for some reason hidden to you, stubbornly refuses to see what the Lord has so clearly shown you about a situation that you are dealing with. Could it be a parent who seemingly continues to do the stupidest stuff possible, despite your best efforts to “educate” them? It may be that you are hard on yourself because you have set high expectations and consistently fail to reach them. Maybe you are angry at life in general because of the really bad hand of cards that it dealt to you. Or did you pour out your heart and being into your job, only to find your employer stabbed you in the back? Perhaps you prayed with your whole being for someone dear to you who was sick and he or she died, and now you cannot forgive God. Or maybe you are angry at His Church because it refuses to bend to your “”enlightened” wisdom regarding some matter.
If any of these situations strikes a chord within your heart, that is a good sign that there may still be unforgiveness somewhere deep inside. Well, let me firmly warn you, that is not a good thing to carry around with you. During the homily in a recent Holy Week service, our pastor made a point that really struck me, and has stuck with me since. We are all very familiar with the Lord’s Prayer, especially the line that says “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” The pastor stated that a better and more accurate translation from the original of one line of this beloved prayer would be “forgive us our trespasses insofar or inasmuch as we forgive those…” This change puts a subtle yet huge twist on this prayer. In other words, the Lord is trying to tell us that His forgiveness is predicated upon our own willingness to forgive others. In the plainest language possible, He is reminding us that if we do not fully forgive the transgressions of others, whether they or in fact real or perceived, then He is unable to fully forgive us.
Now don’t go and get mad at the Lord for this. This is a natural law that is built into the very core of our existence by the Creator Himself. Simply put, unforgiveness at any degree blocks or negates the grace of forgiveness in us. The enemy of our souls might try hard to convince us otherwise, but this law cannot be broken without negative consequences. Now do you see why Jesus put this into the prayer that He taught His disciples? He knows it is of utmost importance in our growth toward holiness, and wants to remind us of it every time we recite this divine prayer. And our Church understands the importance of forgiveness, which is why it has elevated the act of penance to the level of a sacrament.
✝ Oh my loving Lord Jesus, please forgive me for the unforgiveness that is still lurking in my heart. I do not want anything to get in the way of your grace of forgiveness in my life. Just the mere possibility of Your inability to fully forgive me because of my own unforgiveness is enough to strike trembling fear inside of me. Lord, with your endless grace and mercy, help me to truly forgive each and every person whom I perceived has slighted me any any way. Help me to release any claims for retaliation or retribution into you loving hands, and give me the grace to love and pray for them as you desire me to do. I thank you Lord, and pray this in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen, amen and AMEN! ✝
Matt. 6:14-15 (NAB)
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.
1 Corinthians 12:31 (NAB)
But I shall show you a still more excellent way.
Matthew 6:9-13 (NAB)
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.