But yours, O Lord, are compassion and forgiveness.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Stop judging, and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning, and you will not be condemned.
Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you,
a good measure, packed together, shaken down,
and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.
Abba Hyperichus said, ‘It is better to eat meat and drink wine and not to eat the flesh of one’s brothers through slander.’
. . .
All the Lenten discipline in the world is nothing if by it we do not become more merciful, forgiving and compassionate. Our penitential practices have an aim: imitatio Christi. By the fasting and almsgiving, devotion to prayer, and the like, we do not merely satisfy a requirement of Christian faith. It isn’t about what we give up, but who we become in the process. To be more like Christ is the object of all we do during Lent; we model our own lives after the life of the one who, dying, said, ‘Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.’ We open ourselves to receive the Holy Spirit, who was given to the disciples (according to John’s gospel) by the breath of the risen Lord. What power comes from the Spirit? Jesus said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.”
So very important—forgiveness is so important that it is the one thing Jesus speaks about when he breathes the Holy Spirit onto his disciples. It is so important that we commit oursevles to it every time we pray the Lord’s prayer, however unthinkingly: ‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ We imitate Christ by forgiving, and plead for the Father’s forgiveness. I like to think of God’s forgiveness as always preceeding, and I believe that in a very real sense it always is. But the Lord’s prayer reminds us that receiving God’s mercy does not leave us unchanged. By becoming forgivers, we become part of the answer to our prayer, ‘thy kingdom come’. For he is the Forgiving King who reigns in love and compassion, who is love and compassion, and who lives in us. Lenten discipline is about breaking the chains that bind us to anger and resentment, that limit the flow of forgiveness from the Lord through us to those He came to save.