April 2, 2021
When they came to the place called the Skull,
they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left.
[Then Jesus said,]
“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
~ Luke 23:33-34“
Even amidst the treachery and events leading to the events of today, Christ does not think of himself in his final words, but asks God, His Father, to forgive and release us from our own suffering. Even through the most horrific abuses, physical and emotional, Jesus offered this remarkable prayer of generosity, for their sake and for ours.
And as is true of all Jesus’ words and actions, these final words present one of His greatest teachings on how to live and to move beyond our own suffering. “Father, forgive them” is not easily uttered when one has been treated unjustly, when one has been abused, when one’s human dignity has been trampled upon. Yet, it is a prayer that demonstrates complete trust and faith – trust in something bigger than the hurt and the pain.
“Father, forgive them” shows the power and depth of Jesus’ forgiveness. He forgave everyone involved, directly or peripherally, in his crucifixion. They didn’t realize who they were killing, and they were certainly not repentant – they were angry and violent. Yet Jesus still forgave them. This gives hope to humanity. Through the sacraments, our sins our forgiven. Jesus is ready to accept and forgive. And we know that is not where it ends. It is upon us, by His example on the cross, that we must forgive others. Jesus’ last words give us the encouragement to follow His lead, to be worthy of forgiveness and to forgive others.
As we ponder Jesus’ victory on the cross and this example of transcendent mercy – his plea to heaven for his tormentors and on our behalf – may we use our prayers this Good Friday, and the emptiness of Holy Saturday, in memory of Jesus’ instruction, and to set ourselves free.
By His Cross and Resurrection, He has set us free.
Let us Pray:
Jesus, look upon me with pity, for all of my own sins and failings,
and help me to learn mercy from you, who are All Mercy.
Then, as I have so often added my own sufferings to yours upon the cross,
Help me to now add my own words of compassionate forgiveness to yours,
that I may learn from your example, and by doing so, further understand and share in your victory.