Every word Christ spoke was for our salvation. His last words spoken from the cross before he died — each one of them – required great physical and emotional effort to pronounce. To breath a single breath caused his crucified body excruciating pain. And he speaks to us, 7 times, before he dies. How great his love for us!
Let us draw closer to Jesus Christ, as Lent draws to a close, and hang on his final words spoken from the cross. Let us listen closely, and as we ponder and reflect on these saving words, let them sink deeper in our hearts. Ask the Lord for this grace to know him intimately, to understand how much he truly loves us, and finally, to love him more in return.
The 7 last words of Christ
Today’s reflection is on the first word:
“Father! Forgive Them, for They Know Not What They Do”
“Father!” The very first word from our Savior’s lips.
Speaking first to the Father of Mercy, Jesus prays from the cross, as he taught us to pray, calling out to God our Father. The ultimate paradox of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross is that through this sacrifice, we who believe receive the grace to become adopted children of God — God is now our Father. Jesus, thus, refers our thoughts first, not to himself, but to his Father, and ours. We can now unite our thoughts with his and pray with him to the Heavenly Father, who so loved the world that he gave his Only Son for our salvation.
Jesus prays to the Father for forgiveness. As he hangs from the cross in agony, his plea for mercy is not for himself, but for those who offended him — that is, for us. He calls to the Father’s attention, and ours, that his sacrifice on the cross is for our sake, though we have done nothing to deserve this. Through our thoughts, words, and actions, we are the ones who offended God; we are the ones who deserve punishment. Yet Jesus begs the Father to forgive us and he offers himself in atonement for our transgressions.
Jesus pardons us. Suspended on the cross, awaiting his imminent death, his first act as universal judge is to exonerate, rather than condemn us for what we have done. He does not say we don’t deserve a more severe sentence than his; he says, “They do not know what they do.”
Is this what we deserve? Unconditional pardon? Because of our ignorance? How can this be so?
The great mystery is that we cannot sin without knowing what we are doing. Once we have sinned, we know what we have done. Yet we, who could have just as well never existed, cannot possibly know what it means to sin against the almighty, eternal, infinite God. Nor can we know the exact demands of justice for this offense, or that we could never pay the price for ever once rejecting God and abandoning him, by choosing to love ourselves more than we should love him.
Jesus restores us to order. Pardoning us from the cross, he teaches us his love. Crying out to the Father, he turns our eyes upward and beyond our tiny, sinful selves. Dying, he opens the door for our redemption, makes us adopted sons and daughters of God, and restores us to eternal life with the the Father in Heaven forever — the way God willed it from the beginning.
If we will only accept his love, his his mercy, and his sacrifice for us. We must unite our will to his, ask the Father with him to forgive us, and beg for the grace to remain in his love as the adopted sons and daughters he calls us to be.
Let us kneel before him, at the foot of the cross, and join our hearts with his sorrowful heart, and pray with him to God the Father to forgive our sins and have mercy on our souls.
Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and the Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins, and those of the whole world.
For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world!
You may also be interested in reading Fr Jason Smith’s meditations on the 7 Last words from last year: