The April 24, 2019, General Audience was held at 9:10 in St. Peter’s Square, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.
Taking up the series of catecheses on the “Our Father,” in his address in Italian the Pope focused his meditation on the theme: “As we forgive those who trespass against us” (Biblical passage: From the Gospel of Matthew 18:21-22).
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present.
The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.
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The Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today we complete the catechesis on the fifth question of the “Our Father,” pausing on the expression “as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12). We have seen that it’s proper to man to be a debtor before God: we have received everything from Him, in terms of nature and of grace. Our life was not only willed but was also loved by God. There is truly no room for presumption when we join our hands to pray. “Self-made men” don’t exist in the Church — men who made themselves. We are all debtors of God and of so many persons who have given us favorable conditions of life. Our identity is built from the good received. The first is life.
One who prays learns to say “thank you.” And we so often forget to say “thank you.” We are egoistic. One who prays learns to say, “thank you,” and asks God to be benevolent with him or with her. Try as we might, an overwhelming debt remains before God, which we will never be able to restore: He loves us infinitely more than we love Him. And then, try as we might to live according to Christian teachings, there will always be something in our life for which to ask forgiveness: we think of days spent lazily, of moments in which resentment occupied our heart, and so on. It’s these experiences, unfortunately not rare, which make us implore: “Lord, Father, forgive us our trespasses.” So we ask God for forgiveness.
If we think properly, the invocation could also be limited to this first part; it would be good. Instead, Jesus welds it with a second expression that is altogether one with the first. The vertical relationship of benevolence on God’s part is refracted and we are called to translate it into a new relationship that we live with our brothers: a horizontal relationship. The good God invites us to be altogether good. The two parts of the invocation are linked together with a merciless conjunction: we ask the Lord to forgive us our trespasses, our sins “as” we forgive our friends, the people that live with us, our neighbors, the people who have done something bad to us.
Every Christian knows that the forgiveness of sins exists for him; we all know this: God forgives everything and forgives always. When Jesus tells His disciples about God’s face, He outlines it with expressions of tender mercy. He says that there is more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over a crowd of righteous persons who need no repentance (Cf. Luke 15:7.10). Nothing in the Gospels lets one suspect that God doesn’t forgive the sins of one who is well disposed and asks to be embraced again.
However, God’s grace, <which is> so abundant, is always challenging. One who has received so much must learn to give as much and not keep for himself what he has received. One who has received much must learn to give much. It’s no accident that Matthew’s Gospel, immediately after having given the text of the “Our Father,” pauses, among the seven expressions used, to stress in fact that of fraternal forgiveness: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). But this is strong! I think: sometimes I’ve heard people who said: “I’ll never forgive that person! I’ll never forgive what they have done to me!” However, if you don’t forgive, God won’t forgive you. You close the door. Let us think if we are capable of forgiving or if we don’t forgive. When I was in the other diocese, a priest told me anxiously that he had gone to give the last Sacraments to an elderly lady who was about to die. The poor lady couldn’t talk. And the priest said to her: “Lady, do you repent of your sins?” The lady said yes; he couldn’t hear her confession but she said yes. It’s enough. And then he asked again: “Do you forgive others?” And the lady, about to die, said: “No.” The priest remained anxious. If you don’t forgive, God won’t forgive you. Let us think, we who are here, if we forgive or if we are capable of forgiving. “Father, I can’t do it, because those people did so much to me.” However, if you can’t do it, ask the Lord to give you the strength to do so: Lord, help me to forgive. We rediscover there the welding between love of God and that of our neighbor. Love calls for love, forgiveness calls for forgiveness. We find in Matthew again a very intense parable dedicated to fraternal forgiveness (Cf. 18:21-35). Let us listen to it.
There was a servant who had contracted an enormous debt with his king: ten thousand talents! A sum impossible to restore; I don’t know how much it would be today, but hundreds of millions. However, the miracle happens, and that servant receives — not a postponement of the payment, but the full condoning of it — an unexpected grace! However, see how, in fact, that servant, immediately after, set upon his brother who owed him one hundred denarii — a small thing –, and, although this figure was accessible, he doesn’t accept excuses or entreaties. Therefore, in the end, the master calls him back and has him condemned. Because, if you don’t make an effort to forgive, you won’t be forgiven; if you don’t make an effort to love, you won’t be loved.
Jesus inserts in human relationships the strength of forgiveness. Not everything is resolved in life with justice. No. Above all where a stop must be put to evil, one must love beyond what is owed, to begin again a history of grace. Evil knows its revenge, and it’s not interrupted; the risk is that it solidifies suffocating the whole world. To the law of retaliation — what you did to me, I do to you. Jesus substitutes the law of love: what God has done to me, I do to you! Let us think today, in this lovely Easter week, if we are capable of forgiving. And if we don’t feel capable, we must ask the Lord to give us the grace to forgive, because it’s a grace to be able to forgive.
God gives every Christian the grace to write a story of goodness in the life of his brothers, especially those that have done something displeasing or mistaken. With a word, an embrace, a smile, we can transmit to others what we received that is most precious. What is the precious thing we have received? <It is> forgiveness, which we must be capable of giving also to others.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
I greet affectionately the Italian-speaking pilgrims.
In particular, I receive joyfully the pre-adolescents of Milan, accompanied by their Archbishop, Monsignor Mario Delpini, and by their priests and educators. Dear youngsters, I encourage you to grow in faith and in charity, committed to bear good fruits. May the Gospel be your rule of life, as it was for your Saints: Ambrose and Charles, who changed their world with love.
A special thought goes to the Confirmed of the Diocese of Treviso, gathered here with their Pastor, Monsignor Gianfranco Gardin; with the strength of the Holy Spirit, be generous witnesses of Christ.
I greet the faithful of the Oratories and Parishes, especially those of Lecce, of Cava dei Tirreni and of Magione; the new Deacons of the Society of Jesus with their relatives; the Women and Men Religious; the school Institutes and the Associations, in particular, the City of Hope Foundation of Monte di Malo.
A special thought goes to young people, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds. I invoke for all the joy and hope that derive from Christ’s Pasch. May you be able to have an experience of the living Jesus, to receive the gift of His peace and to become His witnesses in the world.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican[Original Text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]