And forgive us our trespasses . . .
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 fromGod. 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.
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.”
the efficacious and undoubted sign of his forgiveness in the sacra
ments of his Church.
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.
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.
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
This crucial requirement of the covenant mystery is
impossible for man. But “with God all things are possible.”
. . . as we forgive those who trespass against us
This “as” is not unique in Jesus’ teaching: “You, therefore,
must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”; “Be merciful,
even as your Father is merciful”; “A new commandment I give to
you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you
also love one another.”
It is impossible to keep the Lord’s
commandment by imitating the divine model from outside; there
has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart,
in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the