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Our Father: ‘Forgive us our trespasses’

Friday, October 31, 2014
God creating man, by Michelangelo 

There was once a garden into which man was loved into existence, sharing the image and likeness of his Creator. Born of dust and having the creative breath of God breathed into him, he stood as a unique creature in the artwork of creation. A gulf existed between God and man, the sort of gulf that naturally exists between a creator and his creation; but the two were united by a harmonious bond of love. 
Adam and Eve exiled from Paradise

But man thought it good to overcome this gulf by making himself God, seizing that which was not his by right, thereby disrupting that harmonious relationship which God had willed for His beloved creature. Ever since that maxima culpa by the first parents of humanity, the words ‘forgive us our trespasses’ have ever been on the lips of mankind, shown to us in varied ways through the Scriptures.

So what of these words, ‘forgive us our trespasses’? In the first place, we are reminded that, because of the fault of our first parents, our human will is inclined towards sin—something we call ‘concupiscence’— and we tend to commit sin. Of course, this is not how God created our human nature, but such as it has been since the Fall.

Secondly, in light of our sinfulness, we ought to turn to God for forgiveness, for ultimately all sin is an act of disobedience towards Him, but the remedy for this disobedience is also to be found from Him. This act of turning to the Lord is exactly what our first parents lost sight of in the Garden: they forgot the Lord. Turning to the Lord beseeching His forgiveness and mercy is a recognition in truth of the state of our human condition. We acknowledge our real need for Him. St John Chrysostom says that by our Lord showing us how to pray in this way, we are reminded of our sins, thereby 'persuading us to be modest'. Pride wears many masks and is never far away; modesty will help guard us from it.

In giving us the Our Father, Jesus shows us how to approach the One who loved us into existence, namely, in truthfulness and hope. St John in his epistle says: ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’

It is more difficult for us to experience the harmony which once existed in that Garden before the Fall; but Christ showed us the way back to Paradise. Just as the downfall of humanity began with a forgetting of its need for God and a loss of sight with regard to its proper relationship with Him, so our Blessed Lord reminds us in the Our Father that the beginnings of our redemption will be found, first, in the recognition that we are sinners, and, secondly, that we need the forgiveness which He readily offers to us out of sheer love for you and for me. So great is His love that He gave to the Church the Sacraments to help us grow into that likeness that was originally lost. What great hope there is for us!

The Holy Father hearing a confession during World Youth Day in Brazil


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