Anselmusjmj, your comments about the Jewish rabbi bring to mind an aspect of the prayer that Jesus taught us.

I am thinking of the verse: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” As you know, it is the only verse where we are asking God for something that has a condition attached to the asking. The other verses contain words of adoration and simple supplication. “Forgive us our trespasses ‘as we forgive those who trespass against us.'” In the version given in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, this is the only verse that Jesus stresses by adding: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

It is so interesting that Jesus stresses this verse. He could have stressed any of the verses of his prayer: “Remember to hallow the Name of God.” “Remember how important it is to ask for your daily bread.” But no, the verse that Our Lord stresses is the one that has a condition, the only one where Rabbi Jesus states a very explicit expectation that He has for us. Of course, all the verses contain implicit conditions and expectations. And each verse is infinitely deep in meaning.

Interesting that “forgiveness” is stated. Think of all the natural and theological virtues. Although each and every one of them is implicit in our Lord’s prayer, it is interesting that “forgiveness” is singled out for explicit mention and then reiterated a second time. That is something to really think about!

From the moment a human being attains consciousness, that human being begins to “suffer” existence. Memory begins to record little hurts and big hurts, little slights and big ones. Some go very deep and barely register on the border between the conscious and the subconscious. The boy who goes into a school cafeteria and starts killing people at random: we all sense that the hate in such a person had been building up for a long time. The employee who goes to work with the desire to kill has been nursing grudges for some time before he starts mowing people down with bullets.

The hatred a rapist unleashes on one woman betrays a hatred of all women that has roots, even deep roots. How many pro-abortion women have felt betrayed by men somewhere down the line and want to get even . . . even if it means killing an innocent child as revenge? How many big box office motion pictures have as their theme the cop who goes out and settles all scores? How many popular video games involve extreme acts of violence and even have the words “revenge” or “vengeance” in their titles?

The Jewish rabbi you mention in your post appears to have a lot of deep anger against Christians and Roman Catholics. Without in any way condoning an iota of it, I wonder whether Auschwitz, Dachau, Buchenwald and Treblinka have anything to do with it. From the moment Cain murdered Abel until Jesus put an end to it all: “God forgive them, for they know now what they do . . .

Think of the little “grudges” that build up in a single day: the rude driver in front of us who doesn’t signal; the waitress who is icy; the sales clerk who ignores us; the next door neighbor who . . . the co-worker who . . . the Catholic priest who . . . on and on and on ad infinitum.

How much of the mind is taken up with the storage of little and big hurts? And then there are all those little transferences: a guy in the big pickup truck cuts you off and then you seem to have a bad feeling for everyone who drives big pickup trucks . . . the plumber who cheats you and then you seem to have it in for all plumbers.

If you read the Gospels you see Jesus very clearly demanding perfection of us. In God’s eyes, even the angry thought is murder, even the lustful look is adultery. But then, it is almost as if God has given us a loophole: “if you forgive men their trespasses; your Heavenly Father will forgive you. . .” It is not a loophole hidden away in some obscure passage from Holy Scripture. It is in the Lord’s prayer. It is in the Lord’s prayer as the only expectation that Jesus explicitly mentions . . . and mentions twice! Obviously it isn’t a loophole! It cannot be looked at heretically or in a Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian sense. We can do nothing without God’s grace. The death and resurrection of Jesus and nothing but is what saves us. But we should pray for the grace of forgiveness and practice it to the limits while there is still time. Because as one of the Fathers of the Church has said: No one knows if they are an old man, even a little child may already be on the doorstep of death and be an old man.


About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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