The version of the “Our Father” in today’s Gospel is shorter than the one in St. Mathew’s Gospel, and is presumed to be the older one since it is unlikely that Luke to save space truncated the version he found in the tradition. In either case, however, the forgiveness phrases are the center of the prayer and, one might say, the center of the Christian faith.
However, we do not earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving others. God’s mercy cannot be earned, rather it is a given. Our task is to manifest it to others. Because we know that God is implacable mercy and love we reveal that love by our own forgiveness, imperfect as it may be.
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* This story is based remotely on the film “Flat Liners”Once upon a time a young man made a retreat. As a kid he’d been a bully, but he gave that up quickly because his priest had told him it was wrong. On the retreat however he remembered that he had teased a skinny little girl about her buck teeth and her glasses. She cried every time he teased her and then whenever she saw him. He really liked to see her cry. Then she and her family moved away and he grew out of his teasing phase, about which he quickly forgot. However, on the retreat the nun who gave the conferences talked about bullies. That conveniently repressed phase of his life came back and horrified him. He felt terrible. How could he have been such a jerk. The poor little kid. He might have ruined her life. He talked to the nun about. Typical boy behavior she observed. But I stopped doing it. I grew up. I haven’t been a bully for a long time. Will God forgive me. Yeah, probably said the nun, but I’m not sure about the little girl. He went home from the retreat really upset. He had done a terrible thing. He had to find the little girl and apologize.
For a couple of weeks he couldn’t sleep he felt so guilty. So he began to search for the girl. He discovered where she had moved to and then that she was a lawyer like he was and worked for a firm near his. It took him another two weeks to work up the nerve to seek her out. Then by accident he encountered her in court one morning. She had grown up to be gorgeous. He stumbled and bumbled and muttered and apologized. You were a bully all right, she said. But you were kind of cute too. Can I buy you a cup of coffee.
That’s the way God is.
1 I give thee thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing thy praise;
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