Reading the articles is always difficult. I don't feel it fair to ignore the plight of my fellow Christians, however, so I muster the courage to read on. Countless stories of families being torn apart, illegal imprisonment, careless legal systems, and ruthless persecution overflow from the pages. However, something deeper holds those stories together - Love. Even in the face of such incredible circumstances, these people share such a true and unshakable love of Christ that I am repeatedly amazed. I have learned so much from their steady, courageous examples. They understand the message of love and forgiveness better than I ever could. I am humbled by their strength, and their child-like acceptance of God's Will in all things.
Anyway, with those stories in mind, I knelt down to offer a Divine Mercy chaplet for them before bed. As I prayed the Our Father, I felt my normal twinge at "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
You see, ever since I understood that phrase to mean "Forgive us to the same measure we forgive others" I've added a mental prayer in addition to that. I'll typically ask that God will give me the strength to forgive others to the extent that He forgives. I fully understand that my ability to forgive is incredibly handicapped. I'm much better at being holding grudges or even stamping my spiritual feet in defiance of responsibility. However, each time I pray the Our Father, I note my failings and ask God to teach me the proper road of forgiveness, understanding that this road is what leads me to being forgiven, myself.
That all being said, I had an epiphany last night. Instead of my normal "God, help me to forgive like you forgive" mental note, I was thinking of those tortured families who freely offered forgiveness to their captors. As a result, my prayers slightly changed. My mind added, "God, forgive the torturers their trespasses as those persecuted Christians have forgiven them... and help me to offer that same forgiveness for love of You."
That's when I had my little epiphany. The Our Father is a collective prayer using the words "us," "our," we" and "those." It is inclusive not just of ourselves, but of all people - past, present and future. And since Jesus, Himself, gave us this prayer, we know that He, too, included Himself by first stating "Our Father."
Oh my goodness! This part of the prayer isn't just asking God's forgiveness of daily offenses. This prayer is asking God to collectively forgive all humanity as humanity collectively forgives one another. Since God is within all of us, we each offer one another the chance for His Forgiveness if only we'd open ourselves up to it. Jesus, Himself part of the collective, offered perfect forgiveness. Through Him and with Him we ask God for the chance to be forgiven in the same perfect way that He forgave.
How awesome is that?!
The Our Father, already an awesome prayer, totally just went up a few more notches in my book. The Holy Spirit has been kind to me. :)