In a text “conversation” with a family member recently, we somehow got into a bit of a back-and-forth about the hurt and angst another family member apparently had inflicted upon them, which then invariably turned into a discussion about “really wanting to forgive and forget, to just move on” and so on and so forth.  Though texting is rarely conducive to meaningful conversations, I’m quite sure the subject matter of this particular text exchange is not an unfamiliar one amongst Christians – and even among the growing number of Nones – throughout the world (You are not alone!).  As texting goes, it ended somewhat abruptly; and at times, as it always does, continues to march on.  Much later, a text pinged my phone with the short phrase:  “I tremble in fright when praying this part of the Our Father –  ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’”   Uh-oh…

So many of us may experience these same sentiments while praying the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer we recite often – at the very least at Mass and while praying the Rosary.  But should we tremble in fear or in delight?  Not to outright dismiss the efficacy of some healthy bone-rattling fear – some gut-wrenching fear & trembling isn’t always a bad thing for us to experience – however, delight in the reality of forgiveness received and freely given can and should be something we are able to reflectively savor.  What we must learn and then take to heart despite ourselves is that forgiveness is an act of the will, in other words an act of love. Forgiveness, like love itself, is not necessarily an emotional feeling or a deep consolation derived from the senses – like a hot cup of dark roast coffee in the early morning hours.  Genuine forgiveness in no way requires the cooperation or active participation of the offending soul.  Thanks be to God for this reality – our transgressors cannot hold us hostage, nor can our emotions.

There is no part of the Lord’s Prayer that should ever sink us into despair or prolonged servile fear.  Quite the opposite.  So, despite our emotions which often fluctuate like the proverbial four winds, we objectively forgive when we simply and sincerely will to “forgive those who have trespassed against us.”   Realize, too, that forgiveness does not mean reconciliation, the full restoration of friendly relations, or a grand “kumbaya  moment” of sensible gratification.  Might that happen?  Sure, it might, but it is not required for us to authentically forgive and, yes, freely move on.  Move on?  Indeed, move on.  Reconciliation, reunification, or a once very friendly relationship  may no longer be possible nor even advisable in some extreme situations.  No matter. After all, Our Lord Jesus forgave those “who knew not what they do” under the most unfriendliest of circumstances.  We really do leave the past to God’s Mercy, the future to his Providence, and the present moment to His Love when we will to forgive.

One thought on “Why Tremble?

  1. Such a very important and wise lesson. And, what greater teacher do we have than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is so important. It is said that the two hardest words to say in the English language are “I’m sorry” – we should keep that in mind not only when offering up an apology but even more so when we receive those words from someone else.
    Thank you for sharing this lesson with us! God bless you!

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