There is material for a whole year of reflections in the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer, but let’s concentrate, for today, on just the last two.
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Why? Two reasons: God has first forgiven us; and forgiveness and self-giving are precisely what the life of the kingdom is all about. Forgiving is not a test to see if we’re worthy. We’re not worthy – never could be on our own. There is ingrained in human nature the tendency to think that we have to earn God’s favor, that there are conditions we have to meet. It is expressed in the ancient heresy, Pelagianism – refuted by St. Augustine, but never completely extirpated from the Christian mindset. So, we approach this matter of forgiving others as a condition of entry into the kingdom. That’s not correct. God’s reign is precisely one of forgiving – God of us, and we of one another – forever. But is forgiving even possible for us? Emphatically, yes, through God’s life in us by virtue of our Baptisms. It is God’s forgiving that we live on earth, as does God in heaven.
And lead us not into temptation.
[Or “do not put us to the test”, as in both Matthew and Luke.] Jesus is not speaking here of personal temptation. He is speaking of the wrenching disruption that will accompany the inauguration of God’s reign for our world. Children will be against parents, parents against children, brother against brother. All of our cherished human value systems and social structures will be turned upside down. The Gospels are emphatic about that. We ask God to help us through this time of trial, to help us choose God’s way over human ways. But this is not just at some remote, future time. It’s now. In every act of self-giving, of justice, God’s reign is coming now. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to act through us to bring about His kingdom. We lead into the Lord’s Prayer at Mass with the words: “We dare to say . . .”. We dare – not because we address God as Father, but because God’s kingdom is dangerous and its coming will surely test us if, in God’s view, our ways are the world’s ways. The old saying “Be careful what you ask for” certainly applies to the Lord’s Prayer.
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