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Press Release: As We Forgive Those

Michael J. Corgnati

The Lord’s Prayer is probably said millions of times each day, but how many people actually stop to think of what it means. The prayer first acknowledges God; we praise Him, we express our faith and then we begin to ask for our needs. Immediately after “Give us our daily bread” God tells us to ask Him to forgive us our trespasses. In the next breath we say, “As we forgive those who trespass against us.” The theory is easy to understand, but actually doing it sometimes is not.

Everyone who has read the Bible remembers that Jesus forgave all those who had beaten, whipped and crucified Him before He died. It showed Jesus to be merciful, but we have to admit it is easier for Him to forgive, for He is God. We, on the other hand, are just human beings who have to work harder at forgiveness.

Imagine that you got up for work and you and your spouse said good bye and your spouse went to work at the towers on 9/11. Suddenly, you hear on the news of the attack and after the some anxiety filled period of time, you realize they will not be coming home again. The grief that follows should in theory contain forgiveness for those who did this. The thought of forgiving those who did this would be nearly impossible for me and I am not proud to admit that.

Imagine that your teenage son and daughter are coming home from a high school football game with your neighbors, who picked them up. A man who has had too much to drink, but drove anyway, hits the car and kills your son and daughter, and the drunk is unharmed. In your moment of grief you should forgive the man who selfishly did not think that calling a cab could save not only the lives of the kids, but spare their parents a lifetime of grief.

The fact is, at that moment the words in The Lord’s Prayer stick in the throat of those who have experienced the loss. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, causes many to lash out at God, blaming Him for their death. The survivors can’t forgive the person responsible, God or even themselves.

The families of the victims of 9/11 were given money to compensate them for their loss. Money can’t buy peace of mind, it can take away the hurt, but some think it will. Mother Teresa told Marlene Elias that hate was like acid in a bottle it will eat away at the bottle until it destroys it.

To listen to a minister, or in my case a priest, talk about what we should be doing in our own lives, has caused me to wonder, ‘what world are they living in?’ On a daily basis we live with people who have no regard for the rest of us. They act as if they are the only people on the planet. It happens to all of us. Intentional cruelty is just flat out hard to understand, especially to those of us who are trying to do the right thing. I need help understanding how to forgive someone who kills another, rapes or robs someone they have never met. I need help understanding someone who starts a fire that destroys not only lives but destroys property, valuables and memories that can never be replaced. I need help with people whose words are used as arrows to pierce the hearts and minds of people who have done them no harm.

Faith is the only thing that can help with forgiveness. We must believe that God loves us even when things happen that devastate us. A woman told me the most amazing story. She gave birth to her child and knew immediately that the child would die. She held it every minute she could until she died a week later. The mother told me it was the best thing to ever happen to her. I looked at her with disbelief. Was she crazy, or had God given her an understanding that I did not have. The mother said she trusted God and even in her grief she knew God was watching over her. It made her marriage better. She has two other children for whom she thanks God each day. This woman is operating on a higher plane that most of us.

The next time somebody cuts us off in traffic, or does some awful thing to us, try to remember that forgiveness frees us. The time and energy we use up in hate, will have no effect on those hateful people, but the effect will change us. It will take something good within us and make it bad. It will take us away from God. We all have to struggle, but to spend eternity in heaven with God it seems a small price to pay.

We need God to forgive us as we need to forgive others.