These are meditations on the Seven Last Words of Jesus for Holy Week. Those planning to do our Good Friday vigil should wait until Friday to read these. I wanted to share a couple each day for those who won’t be participating.
What if Jesus’ dying words shaped how we lived the rest of our days?
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots (Luke 23:34).
Jesus died just as he lived: extending grace toward others. While Jesus’ own death and offer of forgiveness had a one-of-a-kind significance, he also intended for his followers to follow his example. This is why he taught us to pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.”
We’ve all heard too many heartbreaking stories of people who have gone to the grave bearing a grudge, or of children living their entire life weighed down by a burden of guilt or bitterness toward a parent they never had the chance to be reconciled with. People are dying all around us these days of the Covid-19 pandemic — nearly 2,000 deaths yesterday in the U. S. alone) , and we are foolish to think we are immune to the same possibility.
Someone has said that refusing to forgiven someone is like drinking poison ourselves and expecting the other person to die from it. Remember that forgiveness is not the same thing as reconciliation. We can release someone to God (forgiveness) before we ever get to repairing the relationship (reconciliation).
So, let’s take a moment to ponder these probing questions and invite the Holy Spirit to have His gentle way with us in this holy moment.
- Can you name the harshest, most painful message you’ve ever received from someone? Have you worked through this pain—with a friend or counselor? Are you on the path to healing or still pushing aside the pain?
- Do you need/want to move toward forgiving this person? If they are no longer living, do you need to release the anger or pain into Christ’s hands and let him to bring closure and healing?
- Do you need to be forgiven by someone you’ve hurt? Might this time of isolation and collective humbling be a good opportunity to reach out and reconnect with this person?