Tuesday of the First Week in Lent
(Isaiah 55:10-11; Matthew 6:7-15)
Christianity essentially is not an ethic but an encounter. It is to know Jesus as our Savior and Lord. However, from this association a way of living emerges. In the “Lord’s Prayer” of today’s gospel, a striking feature of the Christian way is highlighted.
Christians are not to hold grudges. Rather, they are to forgive those who offend them just as they ask God, the Father, to forgive their offenses. Blessed John Paul II brilliantly illustrated this principle when he visited his attempted assassin in prison. In doing so, the pope imitated Jesus in at least two gospel scenes. On the cross in the gospel of Luke Jesus asks his Father in heaven to forgive his executioners. Also, in a resurrection appearance of John’s gospel Jesus seeks out Peter who denied him publicly.
Forgiveness epitomizes the change of heart to which Jesus calls us. It seems more consistent with Jesus’ manner that we do not wantonly proclaim forgiveness to everyone who upsets us. Before that, there is need for a determination of the culpable party and for an admission of guilt. But whether or not a request for forgiveness is forthcoming, we are to pray for those toward whom we feel animosity.