Tuesday

"Father, forgive them ..."

During the Lent season I started a series on the seven phrases that Jesus spoke from the cross. With everything that was going on, I only had time to finish one - "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" - so now I would like to continue with that series.

Saint Benedict said that Christians should live in the spirit of Lent, a spirit of sacrifice, throughout the year. I agree with him on this point but I would also like to add that we should live in the spirit of Easter weekend throughout the year as well. There are so many lessons that we can learn from that one weekend and when I think of Easter, my heart is challenged anew to live like Christ.

When the soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross, the gospel writer Luke wrote that Jesus cried, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." In my favorite version of the Bible (New Revised Standard Version), this phrase is sandwiched between two brackets meaning that some ancient translations do not include this phrase. And, as a writer, I have to say that where the phrase is inserted makes the flow of the paragraph sound choppy, but that's just stylistic preference. Even though I am not sure why earlier translations do not include this phrase, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing," doesn't it sound fitting for our Lord?

This same Christ, who told his followers to forgive an infinite amount of times, practiced what he preached. Forgiveness. On the cross, he was full of compassion - for the guards who had pounded spikes into his flesh and who gambled for his clothing; for the people who had cried out for his death; for the disciples who had fled; for Peter who had denied him; for the people who mocked him; and, perhaps even for Judas, the disciple who betrayed him and then committed suicide. Jesus wanted his Father to forgive everyone who had hurt him because they truly did not know what they were doing.

An interesting question came to mind at this point. Would I crucify God?
If we are truly honest with ourselves some of us might do this very thing. The reason I say this is because many of us, like the religious rulers of Jesus' day, are so comfortable with our lives that we would do anything to maintain the status quo. In fact, we would maintain it so well that it would almost be impossible to hear God speak. It would ruffle our feathers, like an irritated hen, if there was a possibility that God might want something else for us.

Would we, like the Roman soldiers, just follow orders from the establishment because it was our job? Many Christians today give up their God-given ability to reason and to form their own opinions just so they can follow whatever a pastor, televangelist, author or other Christians tell them without examining the Scriptures and any facts for themselves. They just parrot the party line so as not to rock the boat.

There are also Christians who, like the crowd, mock and jeer at new ideas, education and scientific discoveries without examining the facts, especially if what is discovered doesn't fit with their interpretation of the Bible. They jeer at those who accept these discoveries in order to hide their own ignorance and, again, to maintain the status quo. I am convinced that people who love the status quo would, indeed, crucify Jesus once again if they could. Humanity hasn't changed that much since Jesus walked the earth.

For those who do not idolize the status quo, how is our compassion for those who do? Do we love as Christ did? Do we forgive?

Each of us must ask ourselves if we are truly open to what God is doing. And, if we are, do we have compassion for those who are a little slower and for those who may never follow at all?