SEVEN LAST WORDS OF CHRIST – FORGIVE

INTRO:

The last words of any dying person are really important and we strain to hear them. Become a precious memory. The Last Words of Jesus, uttered during his Agony on the Cross, are more than a memory – they are a call to us, shaping our discipleship of our Crucified Master, Lord and Brother. Words to be pondered and contemplated.

[1]     Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do! (Luke 23: 33-34) Recorded only in Luke – Luke (probably) the only Gentile writer in NT. His Gospel expresses Jesus as the Prophet of the poor and marginalised, the bearer of God’s mercy and forgiveness to to both Jew and Gentile. Find the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son in Luke only (Luke 15:1-31). The joy of repentance and home Coming. Jesus the Elder brother (the ‘first-born’ Son of Abba), who comes searching for us like a Good Shepherd and carries us home to our God and to ourselves. Father – Abba – waiting and yearning for our return, sends His Son to bring us home.

 

[2]     Forgiveness is the first Word from the Cross – it is the beginning of everything – the beginning of change and transformation. Beginning of our New Life. Forgiveness enables us to be honest before God and ourselves, Forgiveness enables us to trust God’s infinite love towards us. Forgiveness is the beginning of our being ‘born again’ into the New Humanity that is Jesus.  There is no ‘new world’ of the Kingdom without the endless mercy and forgiveness of God in Christ. The Cross is the sacrificial love that empowers our   building of the New Heaven and New Earth.  Forgiveness is the sheer undeserved, unearned, free gift of God’s loving. The ultimate of God’s self-forgetting self-giving.

[3]     But what? who? is forgiven – His executioners? yes; His disciples who desert him? yes; His religious leaders who conspire to engineer his death? yes; those who oppress and deny justice to the poor? yes; those who wound instead of heal? yes; those religious people who hide the face of God by their legalism, by their hypocrisy, by hearts  full of ritual and self-righteousness but empty of love and compassion? yes; those like the priest and levite who walk on other side so as not to get involved in the pain and misery of the world? yes (Luke 10: 29-37); those who harm the planet by exploiting and raping the Earth, pollute the rivers and seas? yes; those who create systems of power and wealth at the expense of the poor majority of humanity? yes; those who engineer holocaust and genocide? yes; Those who refuse to forgive? yes. 

[4]     And Why? Why such endless forgiveness … because it is the power for change and transformation, the source of ‘freedom to love’. That is why in the words of Bro Roger of Taizé ‘the sole purpose of the Church is to fling wide open the gates of God’s mercy’. That is why at the moment of Crucifixion, we are told that ‘the Veil in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom’ (Matt 29: 50-51) no longer the High Priest alone enters the Holy f Holies – we all share the priesthood of Chris, our High Priest and we all can freely enter the merciful heart of God, the Holiest ‘place’ of all, and be ‘re-born’! The Mission of the Church is to be ‘ambassadors of Reconciliation’ (2 Cor 5: 17-21) calling all to ‘be reconciled’ and allow the New Creation to emerge upon the Earth.

[5]     There is nothing and no-one that God in Christ from the Cross does not forgive! no limit to the forgiveness of God, the sin of the world gathered into the dying heart of Christ and embraced with mercy and forgiveness. Hard for us to believe. Hard for us to forgive ourselves? Forgiveness is the great work of God, the Ministry of Jesus, because without forgiveness the endless cycle of violence and hatred keeps dividing and wounding and killing. If I do not dig deep into the well of the Spirit to drink from the waters of mercy and so find freedom to forgive, then I die within, because I kill love within myself. 

[6]     Unforgiveness is a cancer that eats away inside the heart and kills love – meaning and purpose of my life! If only we knew that the one we refuse to forgive is in reality Jesus in the other; the one I wound, oppress, harm refuse to love by changing my life-style – is Jesus in the Other. However, the deeper the wounds, the more overwhelming the hurt, the longer it can take to come to the place of forgiving. For us to forgive can be a life-long journey into healing. As the wounds are gently healed, then slowly we can learn ‘the art of forgiveness’ and liberate the other as we are liberated ourselves. 

[7]     Let us contemplate the Cross, let us listen to the dying Jesus offer and assure the world (and me and you!) of God’s endless forgiveness. Let open our hearts to the mission he entrusts to the Church – to you and me – to forgive as we are forgiven, to bring that freedom to the human heart, to human society, to invite all peoples to walk through the wide open gates of God’s merciful heart, pierced open in love upon the Cross. The Resurrection can happen!

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