In yesterday’s gospel passage (see blog) Jesus gave us The Lord’s Prayer. As well as being a prayer, it should also be seen as a mini-creed. Each of its articles express our belief and faith as well as being petitions addressed to Our Heavenly Father. After Jesus was finished, he picked one of the 7 articles and expanded upon it: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Today’s Office of Readings has a commentary by St Cyprian further developing this point. Doing our best to forgive and not bear grudges against those who hurt us is an essential aspect of Christianity. The good news however is that God does not hold us accountable for angry thoughts which arise of their own accord. Just don’t nurse them! Praying for those who hurt us – as Jesus did on the Cross – is one way to bring healing to the troubled relationship.
Christ has clearly added a law here, binding us to a definite condition, that we should ask for our debts to be forgiven us only as much as we ourselves forgive our debtors – knowing that we cannot obtain what we seek in respect of our own sins unless we ourselves have acted in exactly the same way to those who have sinned against us. This is why he says in another place: By whatever standard you measure, by that standard will you too be measured. And the servant who had all his debt forgiven him by his master but would not forgive his fellow-servant was cast into prison: because he would not forgive his fellow-servant, he lost the indulgence that his master had granted him.
And Christ makes this point even more strongly in his teaching: When you stand up to pray, he says, if you have anything against anyone, forgive it, so that your Father who is in heaven may forgive your sins. But if you do not forgive, nor will your Father in heaven forgive you. On the day of judgement there are no possible excuses: you will be judged according to your own sentence, and whatever you have inflicted, that is what you will suffer.
For God commands us to be peacemakers, and to agree, and to be of one mind in his house. What he has made us by the second birth [baptism] he wishes us to continue during our infancy, that we who have begun to be children of God may abide in his peace, and that having one spirit we should also have one heart and one mind. Thus God does not accept the sacrifice of one who is in disagreement but commands him to go back from the altar and first be reconciled with his brother, so that God may be placated by the prayers of a peacemaker. Our peace and concord are the greatest possible sacrifice to God – a people united in the unity of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.