Forgive Us Our Trespasses As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us
St Stephen - Christmastide
Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-59 & Mt. 10:17-22
“Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Remarkably this was the prayer of St. Stephen as he was being stoned to death. But as we know forgiveness is one of the hardest things for us to do. How many families feuds continue, for example, even when the original cause has been forgotten?
Jesus knew this and that is why, on the subject of forgiveness, He never grew tired of preaching about it. The rabbis taught that you must forgive your brother three times. One day Peter came to Jesus and said, “Lord, how often must I forgive my brother, seven times?” Peter thought he was being generous, doubling the three and adding one for good measure! He expected to be warmly commended but Jesus surprised him. “Peter, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” In other words you must place no limit on your forgiveness.
How unfair we are! We go to Confession and expect God to forgive us every time. What a shock we would get if the priest said, “Today, there is no forgiveness for you.” Would we not be heartbroken?
It is so important we forgive that if we are unforgiving to one another Jesus does not want to see us at Mass. Did He not say this? “If you are at the altar and there remember that your brother has some ground of complaint to make against you. Leave your gift lying there before the altar and go home, be reconciled with your brother first and then come back to offer your gift.”
There is a story told about Our Lady although you will not find it in the Gospels. After she had buried her Son, she went to the Garden of Gethsemane to be alone with her thoughts. Suddenly, she heard sobbing, saw the silhouette of a woman and recognised her, and knew exactly what she was going through - because that woman too had lost her son that day. She went to put her arms around her and tried to console her. The woman was none other than the mother of Judas Iscariot whose son had betrayed her own Son. Since Mary had heard her Son pray, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” she was now showing to Judas’ mother the same forgiveness and compassion.
People hurt us from time to time. Do we forgive them? We must … always.
Holy Spirit, give us the grace always to forgive our enemies as did Jesus and Stephen. If we do not forgive, we cut ourselves off from the forgiveness of Our Father in Heaven. His Son taught us this in the prayer the Our Father, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”