"Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us;"
When Jesus speaks of the forgiveness of God, it is always conditional on our forgiveness of others. Later on in Matthew's Gospel (18:21) Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone, seven times? Jesus responds with I do not say seven times, but seventy times seven. In other words, we must forgive every time it is required. This seems humanly impossible, because I believe it is, naturally speaking. Forgiveness of others requires supernatural help, grace.
Forgiveness is not reconciliation. Forgiveness is letting go of the wrong done to us by another with or without their asking for it. Reconciliation requires both persons to take steps to forgive and reestablish the relationship.
Sometimes we are wronged by others without them even realizing or recognizing the hurt and pain they have caused. It is in these moments when we are angry and annoyed and hurt that forgiveness is the only answer. Forgiveness is not an event that happens, but a process that we go through with God. We have to surrender the person and the situation to Our Lord through prayer. That means we have to pray for that person and pray for God to help us forgive them as well.
Here is a way to practice forgiveness with God. When the situation/person arises in your mind and heart and all the feelings of pain, hurt, and anger show up with it; you say, "God I pray for so-and-so bless them abundantly and help them to know your love and mercy in their lives. God help me to forgive them for this offense. I choose to forgive them, help me to experience this forgiveness. Help me to let go of the hurt that blocks me from experiencing more deeply your love and mercy for me. Me, who has been forgiven so often and for so much by You."
It's not easy, but absolutely necessary and required by God. Try it and see if the tentacles of un-forgiveness don't begin to unravel from around your heart. Going on this journey of forgiveness with God will lead to an amazing freedom - a freedom that leads to joy and peace!
Daily Lenten reflections by Father Browning.