|Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos|
your Kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.”
It should be impossible to pray the Our Father and hold resentments against anyone.
The prayer appears in different forms in the gospels of Saint Luke and Saint Matthew, but both versions plead for forgiveness with the understanding that we forgive others. In Matthew’s gospel the worse sin of all, as typified by King Herod, is hypocrisy. You’ll recall the tyrant told the magi he would go and pay homage to the new born king of the Jews. He didn’t say, “I’ll pay homage by killing the little brat;” but, fortunately, the wise men were wise to him.
So the Christian’s favorite-bar-none prayer has that ironic trap built right into it; when we pray The Lord’s Prayer we either forgive others their sins and transgression or we invite God’s wrath upon us for hypocrisy, for failing to forgive “everyone in debt to us.”
Is it any wonder so many born- and raised-Christians refuse to pray with us? Or that these former enthusiasts accuse churchgoing Christians of hypocrisy?
But the Church holds us to it. We cannot simply skip over the prayer. It’s there in every daily Mass, and repeated twice during our Morning and Evening Liturgy of the Hours. Not to mention its repetition during our rosaries, chaplets and crowns. Rare is the meeting among Christians that does not invoke God’s grace with that ironic, ecumenical prayer.
Mercy, as the Lord reminds us, is a two way street. We want mercy; we must show mercy. The Holy Father has pointed to a catastrophic lack of mercy in our international systems. Using a pseudo-scientific excuse like “The Economy” nations and banks refuse to forgive loans of money that were taken by corrupt rulers in desperate third world countries. When the disgraced despots flee into luxurious exile, their governments disintegrate under the pressure, wars break out and refugees die on the high seas. But The Economy, that mysterious, mechanical idol, is safe!
How can a Christian continent like Europe or North America fail to show mercy to Asian and African refugees and still recite this prayer?
But the Church does not force us to recite this prayer; it’s the Holy Spirit. Human beings might find ways to forget the prayer but God’s Spirit draws it out of us. Daily and many times a day the Lord reminds us of our obligation to show mercy and of our consequent need for the Judge’s clemency.