Again, here we are demanding from God, Our Father. However, this time, we are demanding that He forgive us, which implies that we have something that needs to be forgiven. If we have failed Our Father, how can we demand that He forgive us? Haven’t we already failed Our Father and thus have rejected His Fatherhood? How then can we demand that He forgive us? Surely, a humble please would be needed.
And yet, this is what we are taught from Jesus Himself, the Eternal Son. Forgiving must be an integral part of God’s Fatherhood to us. A necessary part for us sinners. Definitely not needed for Jesus. And so seems like an odd contradiction. Is forgiving an integral part of God’s Fatherhood in total, or just to us. Was this part of God’s Fatherhood from the very beginning or just for us? Is this integral to fatherhood itself or just after the Fall?
If it is integral to God’s Fatherhood to us, how could it not be integral to fatherhood? Now, that does not mean that Jesus, the Eternal Son, ever sinned. It just means that before all of Creation, God’s Fatherhood involved forgiving His children. The Eternal Father, just never needed to act on this responsibility. Much like I have a responsibility to physically protect my family and my house, I may never actually have a need to do so.
And with Our Father’s responsibility to forgive us, we have a three-fold way we are called to participate in this responsibility of Our Father. We need to rely upon Our Father for our forgiveness. And in that, we need to ask for forgiveness as we admit our failures. We cannot ask forgiveness if we have nothing to forgive or that we need forgiven. It might then seem scandalous that Jesus said this prayer. But Jesus is praying this like our older brother. We made the mess and Jesus is asking Our Father to forgive “us” as a collective. Jesus does not need forgiveness, but Jesus is identifying with us. After all, does not Jesus already do this by becoming man and then taking on our sin as His own?
And then, there is the third way we are called to participate in this responsibility of Our Father. We are to “forgive those who trespass against us.” This is, by far, the hardest way we are called to participate in this responsibility. And perhaps, it is because we somehow lessen our sins, since we know the circumstances. Surely, we too often legitimize our sins because of the circumstances and, God forbid, justify them as not sins at all. We do not fully know the circumstances of “those who trespass against us”, so we are not as easy to legitimize or justify them. It is much easier to point at our neighbor than to look our own sinfulness.
And even if our neighbors sin still seems far superior to ours, we must realize that our sin is a sin against Our Father. Our Heavenly Father is infinite, which makes our sin an infinite sin. We cannot make up for the least of our sins, since we are but finite creatures. But we are more than creatures! We are sons and daughters of God and His desire to forgive us led our older brother to the Cross. After all, He is that one that identified with us as He asked “Our Father” to “forgive us.”
Jesus, it is terribly hard for us to forgive our neighbor. Help us to forgive them as You did while agonizing on the Cross asking Our Father to “forgive them, they know not what they do.” Amen.