By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis reflected – at the weekly General Audience – on the words of the Lord’s prayer: “as we forgive those who trespass against us”.
The Holy Father began by reminding the faithful in St. Peter’s Square that everything we have, even our very existence, is a gift from God.
“Our life was not only willed by God,” he said, “but was loved by God.”
He said there is no space in the Church for “self-made men”, because we are all indebted to God. But, he said, we often leave out the words “thank you” when we pray, as if forgetting that we owe all to God who forgives us when we go astray.
Extend God’s forgiveness to all
Pope Francis said Jesus intentionally added a second part to the petition “Forgive us our trespasses”, which relates our being forgiven by God to our forgiveness of others.
“The relationship of vertical benevolence on the part of God is fractured,” said the Pope, “and is called to be transformed into a new relationship that we live out with our brothers and sisters: a horizontal relationship.”
He said God is always willing to forgive “the sins of those who are well disposed and ask to be embraced again.”
Forgiven as I forgive
But, said Pope Francis, “God’s abundant grace is always demanding.”
“Those who have received so much must learn to give as much, without holding some back for themselves,” he said.
Pope Francis then told a story of a priest he knew who went to hear the Confession of a lady who was on her deathbed.
The priest, he said, asked her if she repented of all her sins. Yes was her answer.
Then, the Pope said, the priest asked her: “‘Do you forgive others?’ And the lady, at the point of death, said: ‘No.’ The priest was distressed. If you do not forgive, God will not forgive you.”
If we have problems forgiving others, said Pope Francis, we need to ask the Lord to help us to forgive.
Forgiveness stops spread of evil
Pope Francis noted that Jesus inserts the power of forgiveness into human relationships, saying it fills the gap left by justice in the world.
“Not everything in life is resolved by justice. Especially where it is necessary to put a stop to evil, someone must love beyond what is necessary, in order to restart a story of grace. Evil knows how to take revenge, and, if we do not interrupt it, [evil] risks spreading, suffocating the whole world.”
So, Pope Francis concluded, this Easter week is an opportunity to offer others the most precious gift we have received: forgiveness.