The Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father is the richest prayer we have as Christians because the Lord Himself gave us this prayer; it’s perfect in every way. Throughout the history of the Church there have been many profound and wonderful reflections on the Our Father that help form and deepen us in our own prayer lives. We are well underway in our Lenten journeys now, we are also well into our Jubilee Year of Mercy, which began for us on December 8. The Year of Mercy as many might know is important because we as a faithful people in addition to the many other ways we live out our faith, are mindful in a particular way of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
This is so important; our world especially needs this focus because the only way we will grow in relationship with God and with each other, the only way we will love more is when we allow more forgiveness and mercy to enter our lives. You may have heard more homilies mentioning the Sacrament of Reconciliation, of confession and its importance. You may have heard more about the emphasis on the infinite mercy of God and how it’s been given to us throughout human history. You may have heard more mention on the importance of mercy and forgiveness as its made manifest in the sacraments; Holy Baptism, confession, the Anointing of the Sick and of course Holy Eucharist.
My friends in Christ, these are so very important and I too have been inspired by blog articles and homilies given on these elements of our faith and try wherever possible to promote mercy and forgiveness in my own preaching. When I was first meeting with a spiritual director and seriously seeking to deepen my prayer life, the exercise he had me do was to take each line of the Our Father and meditate upon each line, to ask the Lord to reveal everything He wanted me to know about this beautiful and perfect prayer. It was a rich spiritual exercise I encourage everyone to try.
When I was preparing for today’s homily, speaking with a brother priest, he reminded me of the beautiful connection between the Our Father, the Lenten journey and the Year of Mercy to be found in the line, “…and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Friends, it’s of great importance that we are truly mindful of how the Lord loves us and forgives us of the many things we do in our daily lives. God knows we’re not perfect and we aren’t loved any less because of it; that is mercy! That is love! We’re not perfect but He asks us to try to be anyway always knowing His love and mercy keep us going. But in the second part of this line, “as we forgive those who trespass against us” is very important too. We are called in this Year of Mercy to extend mercy to others, to forgive others, to let go of grudges, resentments, dislikes and distastes for our brothers and sisters.
Maybe it’s a friend who’s betrayed us; maybe it’s husband or wife who we’re separated from or divorced from; maybe it’s a person at the office or in our lives whom we find disagreeable or distasteful. Maybe it’s a mother, father, brother or sister who has sinned against us. Maybe it’s just someone who annoys us – most of us have issues with someone, and most of us have a hard time letting go for a wide variety of reasons. But if we savour the words of the Our Father, and especially the invocation of forgiveness; then we must try.
Throughout the Archdiocese of Toronto we have many sets of Holy Doors where our faithful are making their way to and entering through for the indulgences or special graces given. We can trust in God’s grace in this special Year of Mercy, that if we ask for the courage and strength to forgive more, we will be granted this request. The extent to which we extend mercy through Lent and beyond makes a great difference. We can’t pick up a newspaper, watch a TV news program without seeing that unforgiving hearts are causing more strife in the world that is most definitely obstructing the Good News from spreading. My friends in Christ, each one of us can change that with the manner we offer mercy and forgiveness to the people near and dear to us in our lives. It’s in this way that we make perfect the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father as we apply it to our daily lives. May God bless you.