What does one say about the prayer that Jesus himself taught that has lasted and been learned universally since? I don’t even remember learning the Lord’s Prayer – the Our Father. It has just always been a part of me, albeit not always followed to the letter. It seems sometimes that the most difficult part is the line that says, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive…”
I noticed this morning that the gospel didn’t end with the hope of being delivered from evil. There was an addendum of sorts (MT 5:15) that puts a fine point on the forgiveness issue, as if Jesus is saying, “Did you get that? Did you hear what I said? Let me be really clear about this.” It seems that if we don’t forgive others, God will perhaps withhold forgiveness from us. (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.) That was rather astonishing to me, given my perception of God’s love and grace. It struck me this morning as a deeper way to live the gospel – a sure way to share in bringing light to the world.
I had decided that most likely everyone who reads what I write would find those thoughts rather overstated, like something that we already knew and wouldn’t find it necessary to be reminded of…so I picked up John Philip Newell’s book, Praying with the Earth, in search of something more thought provoking. I found the prayer for Thursday morning (today) to say the following:
We wake to the forgiveness of a new day. We wake to the freedom to begin again. We wake to the mercy of the sun’s redeeming light, always new, always gift, always blessing. We wake to the forgiveness this new day. (p. 34)
Why am I not surprised? From the shock of thinking that I won’t be forgiven if I fail to forgive sometimes, I find myself reassured that I can always start over – every day – to try again. That doesn’t let me off the hook but it certainly helps me to forgive myself for my failure – which then gives the impetus to try again. So God is still the God who forgives me but that forgiveness is not a free pass to heaven. I am responsible to live always from a heart steeped in forgiveness of others as my very own self. Really and truly…every time.