For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14,15 NRSV).
In The Rule of St. Benedict Chapter 13: On the Celebration of Lauds on Ordinary Days in verses 13-14, he wrote,
Thus warned by the pledge they make to one another in the very words of this prayer: Forgive us as we forgive (Matt 6:12), they may cleanse themselves of this kind of vice. At other celebrations, only the final part of the Lord’s Prayer is said aloud, that all my reply: But deliver us from evil (Matt 16:13).
Why was this so important to St. Benedict?
In a residential Benedictine Monastic community, the Monastics live in close quarters with each other 24/7. They are literally on top of one another at all hours of the day or night. Praying. Eating. Sleeping. Working. Reading. In chapter meetings. Writing, etc. Those of us even in a dispersed community struggle in our relationships with each other too. St. Benedict did not want his Monastics to allow themselves to let quarrels regardless of how small to brew into a grudge by which the members would not forgive each other. Such a grudge has the ability to rip the community apart and make life unbearable for everyone. Such disruption also creates a real problem for silence and contemplation. Therefore, St. Benedict had the Lord’s Prayer recited in the silence up to “But deliver us from evil,” so that members of the community could let go and allow God to help them keep the community together in harmony.
Those of us who are married know that the same kind of thing can happen between spouses. They can also happen between parents and children. How many holiday dinners are very tense (or destroyed beyond repair) because one member of the family just has never forgiven another? It happens to the best of us.
I would very much like to encourage my readers to consider spending some Lectio Divina time on the words “forgive, as we forgive.” While in this time, allow the Holy Spirit to bring to mind someone(s), anyone(s) that you have not forgiven. Let Jesus into those moments of pain, fear, anger and give you the grace to let it all go and forgive. I have had to do this any number of times in the past, and I will be doing it that many more times in the future. As we contemplation those words, “forgive, as we forgive” it is amazing how gentle and merciful God is in such moments. You just might be amazed to discover that the one person you have had the hardest time forgiving is yourself. Even there, God will bring so much grace into your life that you will come out of it a healthier and happier person.
Who do you need God’s help to forgive as you have been forgiven?
Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB