Wednesday 22 February 2012

Seven Last Words: "Father forgive them for they know not what they do"

 (Luke 23:33-35)

As we begin our Lenten journey today we invite you, for the next seven weeks, to come and stand with us at the foot of the Cross as we listen to the 'Seven Last Words' spoken by Jesus.  Each week we will post a reflection which will seek guidance from these words as we, his Church today, like him, experience betrayal, criticism, abandonment and disownment.
In this first weekly Lenten Reflection we shall listen to Christ's plea of forgiveness; considering these words in the context in which Jesus spoke them and questioning how they affect our perception of God's forgiveness towards us - and others.

As Jesus spoke these words he may have thought about Judas who betrayed him, the Jewish leaders who perceived him as a threat, the Romans who wished to maintain control and order; he may have looked down from the cross towards the people who had scourged him, beaten him, spat on him, and shouted for him to die….and yet he asked God to forgive them.  But when we consider the whole ministry of Jesus, would we expect any less from him than forgiveness of those who mistreated and killed him?  Isn’t that ultimately what his cross is really all about?

As Christians we believe that it is also our sins that put Jesus on the cross, as much as Pilate and all the others, and so we can rightly hear Jesus’ petition for forgiveness as including us too.  And just as God forgave those who betrayed his Son and attempted to eradicate all his influence and his works so too, in present times, does God forgive those who, like Judas, have betrayed his Church. . . God forgives those who, like some of his followers, have abandoned his Church. . . God forgives those who, like Peter, have denied belonging to his Church. . . God forgives those who, like the Romans, would like to see the Church’s influence and works die. . . God forgives those who, like Pontius Pilate, listen to the crowds without following their own hearts. . . God forgives those who, like Thomas, have lost faith in the Church. . . God forgives pride, anger, judgements, jealousies, resentments. . . God’s forgiveness is bountiful and endless. It may be a forgiveness which we feel is underserved and inappropriate for some but, nonetheless, God’s forgiveness, often unlike our own, is immediate and without reservation.

But how do we feel about being forgiven by God?  

We may not have explicitly betrayed or abandoned Christ and the Church but we are all sinners.  Do we really believe God has forgiven us for our sins? Do we enjoy the freedom of God’s forgiveness? Even though you trust God and have confessed your sins perhaps, you believe you are only ‘semi-forgiven’ and you live as though sin still has power over your life?  Do you try to prove yourself to God, as though you might earn more forgiveness if only you were better?  

The truth of God’s complete forgiveness needs to penetrate your heart in new ways.  Jesus dies so that we are forgiven for our sins.  As we hear the words, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" may we fully understand that we too today are forgiven through Christ.

Prayer for the week:
Good and gracious God, help me to know with fresh conviction that I am fully and finally forgiven, not because of anything I have done, but because of what you have done for me. May I live this week as a forgiven person, opening my heart to you, choosing not to sin because the power of sin has been broken by your salvation. All praise be to you for your matchless forgiveness! Amen.

Come and Join us....
If you live in Dublin why not come and be present for our Lenten Reflections?  The above reflection is one of two that will be shared; the second will have a particulary Francsican flavour.  Reflections will be held at the Our Lady of the Angels Capuchin Church on Church Street in Dublin each Friday of Lent beginning at 8:00pm for forty minutes.  Music for these reflections will be provided by the CYC chamber choir. You can read the other weeks reflections here: week one, week two, week three, week four and week five.

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