FATHER, FORGIVE THEM, FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO (Luke 23:34)
The first of the Seven Last Words of Jesus on the Cross.
Shared by Bro. Miguel A. Gaspe, CSsR on Good Friday, the Siete Palabras.
Click here for the link of the Video (https://www.facebook.com/OMPHRedemptoristDavao/videos/2986892808037601/)
“Radical Love” is a documentary on forgiveness and healing of Ms. Cherry Pie Picache. Cherry Pie, is a Filipino actress, best known for her dramatic roles in Movies and Television. The film captures her experience of meeting her mother’s murderer five years after the dreadful event. One of the highlights in that film features the most heart-wrenching scene where Cherry was able to forgive her mother’s murderer. As she underwent the process of healing, she affirmed how difficult and challenging it is to forgive the person who literally “broke her life.”
In her words, “It took me a lot of courage, strength, and prayers from God to be able to forgive the person who murdered my mother.” Painful though it is, She took the road of forgiveness for her to be healed and move on. Her story is indeed exceptional, but for many who are drenched in pain, grief, and revenge, to forgive is such a rare thing do. What does it mean to forgive and how to forgive?
We look back to the scene where Jesus uttered these words, Jesus at this hour was on the brink of death, nailed to the Cross with the Roman soldiers at his feet. As he addressed these men, we could picture how exhausting the scene was. By this time, these Roman soldiers had been executing many criminals and had seen death day after day. They are reduced to mere functionaries. They have no choice and freedom to do what is just and right at that moment as they were only following orders. Familiarity with violence and brutality causes these soldiers to be numb and deaf with their emotions. Their society has allowed them to be stripped of their dignity as human persons gifted with freedom and compassion. It is in this human frailty and desperate condition where Jesus uttered to them, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing?”
Like us, Jesus understands what it means to be a human person. He showed in his life that a human person is a being created, loved, and cared for by God. Jesus believes that in every human person, there lies within goodness. Despite our weaknesses, short-comings, and sinfulness, each has the capacity to go beyond our human conditions. Each of us is called towards goodness. Each of us can share this innate goodness to our fellow beings. When Jesus addressed “Father, forgive them…” these are not words of condemnation and self-righteousness. Instead, these are words of prayers addressed to his Father. Even in suffering, He went beyond our underlying tendency for revenge and offered a path for us to be reconciled with God, our Creator. Forgiveness, for Jesus, is an act of prayer and unselfish concern for the good of the other.
Does forgiveness also mean to forget? I think we are familiar with the phrase “to forgive is to forget.” Forgiveness, to some, may come in the non-recognition of the wrong done. Or to forget, others would condone the transgression in exchange for shallow healing and reconciliation. But if we look into the truth of its meaning, forgiveness in Greek means “to send away.” A word used for commercial language meaning “to release from an obligation or to cancel one’s debt.” That is why in other translations of the “Lord’s Prayer,” sin or transgressions is equated with debts. In Matthew, it says, “forgive us from our debts as we forgive our debtors.” To cancel one’s debt includes a thorough acknowledgment of the debt owed by that person. In other words, from every transgression we commit with ourselves and with others is a debt we owed to God. And this debt has to be paid in full.
Here comes the Good News. The debts we owed to others, to our environment, and God, are now paid in full, with and through, Jesus our Lord. His life, death, and resurrection are in itself the entire process of what it means to forgive and be forgiven. Forgiveness is a process where it involves acceptance of undergoing pain, anger, and grief which in the end will lead to an experience of “resurrection.” What it requires is our openness and obedience to the movements of God’s Spirit already working within us.
In the film’s last scene, as Cherry was able to meet the Convict, both of them were in tears. She could not imagine doing such an impossible thing of finding the grace to forgive. What is most striking in their encounter was that she was able to bless and pray for the healing of her mother’s murderer. She forgave not only for her good but to the person who wronged her, who is significantly in need of healing as well.
Watching that scene made me realize that it only brought into reality what Jesus’ words on the Cross truly meant. Forgiveness, indeed, is of God, and it is only through His grace that we may be able to give it to persons who have wronged us.
My brother and sisters, today is a time of grace, let these words of Jesus penetrate in our hearts. Let his words be a reminder that God, our Father, is madly in love with us despite and in spite of our human conditions. And in realizing this truth, may we see that innate goodness which moves us to a genuine reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in Christ. My friends, let us ask to our Father for that grace.