Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

This is the prayer of self examine. One universal truth about us sinners is that we tolerate our own sin while being particularly sensitive to the sins of others. In fact, it takes a tremendous amount of reflection, prayer, patience, and overall grace to see ourselves as we really are. Deep down below our surfaces lie all sorts of scary things that we are hardly aware of. When we do manage to catch a glimpse of it, we tend to be very self forgiving and forgetting while at the same time unforgiving and not forgetting when other people’s “stuff” offends us. True, in some cases we are not so self forgiving, and out of our own pride (we tend to think that we are above many sinful thoughts or acts) take a sort of perverse joy in condemning ourselves. This is where patience, gentleness, and humility are needed so that we recognize our sin and failure, and take it to the Lord and seek His forgiveness.

It is a strange thing about us; whether we are quick to self-forgive or self-condemn, we tend to be very slow in forgiving of others. This reflects a deep ignorance of ourselves. When we truly see ourselves as we are, then it is an easy, even joyful, thing to forgive those who do us wrong. When we don’t understand ourselves, when we do not see that our own offensiveness is as offensive as the world around us, then it is the hardest thing in the world to forgive others.

The few short words that make up this phrase are so compact and exacting, so penetrating in the knowledge of human nature. Unless we are hardened and proud beyond measure, we do long to be forgiven. Our Lord tells us that if we cannot forgive, then we possess a willful, twisted heart that cannot abide God’s purity. How is God to forgive us then? Can we take refuge behind a self-serving and shallow understanding of justification by faith, that our slate is once and for all swiped clean, and still live with an unforgiving heart? What is Jesus telling us “good Christians” who believe with our whole heart that we are forgiven and experienced in God’s saving grace and yet cannot forgive others?

But what of those who commit unspeakable, willful, and vicious crimes against us or our loved ones? The only answer Jesus gives humanity is this phrase; “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It is the constant praying and exploration of this phrase where we find Christ and freedom in this world of shadows and bondage.

Any thoughts on this?

2 Responses to “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

  1. Michael Trollo Says:

    Fr. John, This is a topic that resembles the “iceberg”. We see plainly that which is visible to us and that which could be visible to others, but it is often that which lies beneath the waters that is able to sink us! I have been musing over sin and sinfulness recently as I have initiated my first “sacremental confession”. It has been challenging to bring myself to face my myriad sins and begin to agree with the Lord as to His estimation of them. Whew!! I find myself crying out for mercy!
    Oswald Chambers said something like this, that true saints were unconsciouly holy and consciously repentent. A good look at ourselves will do much to enable us to forgive most everyone!

  2. Mike, welcome to the blog! I love your Chambers quote: true saints are unconsciously holy but consciously repentant. In the context of the Lord’s prayer and our phrase, “forgive us our … as we forgive…” we find that how we interact with and “rub up” against others provides a window into our own soul, exposing stuff down there not easy for us to see. This should not lead us to despair, but to self knowledge and to prayer and repentance. From one perspective, prayer is repentance, continual repentance. A holy person is always repenting, and therefore utterly unaware of his/her holiness. If one is busy repenting, how can one be conscious of how “spiritual” they are? As our Lord said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Thanks, Mike!

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