April 17, 2016

FATHER, FORGIVE THEM”

 

 No words can compare with these three: “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). They contain all God’s power and holiness; they are indomitable words that no crime or offense can overcome, for they were uttered just when evil was most powerful and at its peak, which it can never reach again. “Death is swallowed up in victory.” / “O death, where is thy victory? / O death, where is thy sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). These words, “Father, forgive them,” are like sacramental words. They express the meaning and purpose of the passion—which is the reconciliation of the world with God—and in their expression, they cause it. This reconciliation began immediately at the cross with those who crucified Christ. I am convinced that these men were saved and that we shall meet them in heaven. They will bear witness for eternity to the extent of the Lord’s goodness. Jesus prayed for them with all his power, “Father, forgive them!” and the Father who had always heard his Son’s prayer in life (cf. John 11:42) cannot but have heard this prayer of his Son at the moment of death. After the ones who crucified Jesus were forgiven, reconciliation was also extended to the good thief, then the centurion at the foot of the cross, and then the crowd that converted on the day of Pentecost. This procession has gone on swelling and swelling and embraces us who celebrate Christ’s death in our own day. In the Book of Isaiah, God says of the suffering servant that he will “make many to be accounted righteous; / . . . because he poured out his soul to death, / and was numbered with the transgressors; / yet he bore the sin of many, / and made intercession for the transgressors” (53:11, 12). Because he took their faults upon himself, saying, “Father, forgive them,” he made many to be accounted righteous (Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa).”