"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."
Gospel of Luke 23:34
Jesus is looking down from the cross just after he was crucified between two criminals. He sees the soldiers who have mocked him, scourged him and tortured him, and who have just nailed him to the cross. He probably remembers those who have sentenced him - Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, Pontius Pilate, and Herod. But is he not also thinking of his Apostles and companions who have deserted him, to Peter who has denied him three times, to the fickle crowd, who only days before praised him on his entrance to Jerusalem, and then days later chose him over Barabbas to be crucified?
Is he also thinking of us, who daily forget him in our lives?
Does he react angrily? No! At the height of his physical suffering, his love prevails and He asks His Father to forgive them!
Right up to his final hours on earth, Jesus preaches forgiveness. He teaches forgiveness in the Lord's prayer: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us" (Matthew 6:12). When asked by Peter, how many times should we forgive someone, Jesus answers seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22). At the Last Supper, Jesus explains his crucifixion to his Apostles when he tells them to drink of the cup: "Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:27-28). He forgives the paralytic at Capernaum (Mark 2:5), and the adulteress caught in the act and about to be stoned (John 8:1-11). And even following his Resurrection, his first act is to commission his disciples to forgive: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (John 20:22-23). "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" Lk 23:34
The first Last Word that Jesus spoke was to ask for forgiveness on our behalf. Not only was he asking for our forgiveness, but he was giving us the reason/excuse that we should be forgiven - because we do not know what we are doing. Jesus could say that about the soldiers nailing him to the cross, because they did not know him as the Son of God. But how does this apply to us. Don't we know him as the Son of God, as our Saviour, the Way, the Truth and the Life. Thus when we sin, can we say we do not know what we are doing?
Yesterday we had the penitential service at CTK, and I found myself wondering whether the priest were hearing new terms for the sins being confessed. Such as: Being economical with the truth
These were the words being used to describe the actions of Lewis Hamilton and the McLaren Team in the Formula One race in Melbourne last weekend. When asked if they instructed Hamilton to slow down for the Toyota car to pass him, they said that they did not, despite having done so.
The many fanciful terms being thrown around to describe an act which is basically lying is in fact one of the ways that we try to bluff ourselves that our actions were really not that bad. In the past few weeks, the topic of confessions and sin has occurred a few times at the retreats and conversations with various people. Some have mentioned that they have no sin, no big sin or always the same sins.
I've been there and done that, and thus I can't fault them. We like to forget the bad that we have done, or more likely, we are not even aware of the many sins that we have and are committing. Like I shared earlier on the parable of the wicked servant I don't really know what my full debt/sin is.
Fulton Sheen calls it the ignorance of evil, and it is because of this ignorance that Jesus is asking the Father for our forgiveness. Often we are not aware of our sin, or we are deceived into thinking that we have not sinned, or we water it down by making it sound not as serious. There are other times that I'm not aware of the...