By Eric Martin
Forgiveness is the central tenant of Christianity and Pope Francis focussed on its importance as one of the seven petitions of the Our Father, as taught to us by Christ, as he returned to the theme of his recent catechesis on the Lord’s Prayer.
“The forgiveness of God is a sign of his overwhelming love for each of us; it is the love that leaves us free to move away, like the prodigal son, but that awaits our return every day; it is the enterprising love of the shepherd for the lost sheep; it is the tenderness that welcomes every sinner who knocks at his door,” Pope Francis said.
“The Heavenly Father, our father, is full and full of love and wants to offer it to us, but he cannot do it if we close our hearts to love for others.
“By inextricably joining the forgiveness of our sins by God to our own willingness and ability to forgive the sins of others, Jesus teaches us the vital importance of the relational nature of the Church and that we are called to model His love here on Earth.
“If we want to experience the freedom of having the emotions of guilt and shame lifted from our shoulders, we need to recognise that inherent need in others and respond with the same grace with which we hope to be treated in return,” he continued.
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us – anyone who has experienced the joy, peace, and inner freedom that comes from being forgiven can open themselves to the possibility of forgiving in turn.
“You always have to forgive,” he explained. “Christ confirms this by telling a parable, the parable of the unforgiving debtor which shows the inconsistency of the one who was forgiven before and then refuses to forgive.”
In the parable, the servant, who has been forgiven a large debt owed to his master, the King, fails to provide the same consideration and forgiveness to another servant, one who owes him just a small amount of money.
When the King, who has willingly forgiven his servant, learns of his treatment of his peer, he is furious and gives the wicked servant over to the torturers.
“The incoherent attitude of this servant is also ours when we refuse forgiveness to our brothers,” the Holy Father said.
“While the king of the parable is the image of God who loves us with a love so abundant of mercy from embracing us, loving us and forgiving us continually.”
However, even though he is loving and merciful, the Lord is also just and we take his forgiveness for granted at our peril – even though God’s love is infinite and unlimited, it is important that we do not squander his mercy and fully appreciate that forgiveness is a gift to be given and received in honour of Him.
“Since our Baptism God has forgiven us, remitting an insoluble debt: original sin. But that’s the first time. Then, with unlimited mercy, He forgives us all the faults as soon as we show even a little sign of repentance,” the Pope said. “God is so merciful.”
“When we are tempted to behave as the servant did toward his fellow servant, closing off our hearts to those who have offended us and come to apologise, we must remember the words of the Heavenly Father.”
He told the ruthless servant: “I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?”
During his catechesis the Pope did not mention the petition, “lead us not into temptation”, as he personally believes that the Italian translation of this line, which says: “non ci indurre in tentazione”, is incorrect, as God does not actively lead us into temptation.