We have Matthew's rendition of The Lord's Prayer in today's Daily Office Gospel reading. Forgiveness plays a key role in our praying to God: as preparation for that prayer and as a component of the prayer. This forgiveness is for those who have wronged us, and our asking God for forgiveness for our missteps. I am struck by how hard it is for us, as humans, to forgive, to let go of those feelings of anger, betrayal and the resulting behavior we may exhibit toward (and about) those people for whom we have these hard feelings. We can see the detritus on the side of the road-of-life all around us caused by those very human, and very real, feelings.
Jesus was fully human, and somehow, miraculously, fully divine, fully God-in-human-form. Being fully human, he had to have those same emotions creep up on him and try to overtake his actions and thoughts. He found a way around this human tendency of ours to dwell in anger and resentment.
I had lunch with a priest friend of mine recently where we talked about anger and forgiveness. He said that he thought about anger as something we have to physically travel through, like Moses leading the fledgling (well, yet to be established) nation of Israel through the Red Sea. They had to walk through that sea-bed, with the raging waters on each side of them, to reach the other bank of safety and peace. And they did reach that point, they did travel through to the other side. This is an apt metaphor for anger, as it is an emotion that we cannot ignore, or just toss aside as if it does not exist. We need to travel through it, knowing that we can reach the other side where the gift of forgiveness is waiting on the banks of the shore.
The gift of forgiveness is as much for us as it is for those who have trespassed against us. For we can be consumed by those passions and thoughts emanating from our feelings of betrayal, and completely lose our way. I am sure Jesus knows those emotions and passions, but also knows the Godly gift of forgiveness is always possible once we recognize those emotions as just that, emotions to get through, and not something to allow to have control over us.
What river-bed of emotion do we still have to get through to allow us to find that place of peace and reflection that allows for our forgiving nature to blossom? We can, and we must, find our way to that far shore and not let those tempestuous waves surrounding us, overwhelm our progress toward the Kingdom.
Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer, All Rights Reserved.