Forgiveness: One of The Seven Last Words of Christ – I

[Since the 16th century preachers Christians have made reflecting on The Seven Last Words of Jesus a part of a lenten preparation to celebrate Easter.  The “words” are actually sentences: three from the Gospel of Luke; three from the Gospel of John, and one found both in Matthew and Mark gospels. A great many writers and preachers have included all seven in one homily or reflection.  Many have preached a series of seven homilies (one for each word).  A few have written a book on the subject.  The artwork is copyrighted by Irish painter John Dunne and can be found online here. The reflections are written and copywritten by Dr. Mark D. Roberts,  a pastor, author, retreat leader, speaker, and blogger.  You can find them here.]

“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34)

Reflection

It makes sense that the first word of Jesus
from the cross is a word of forgiveness.
That’s the point of the cross, after all.
Jesus is dying so that we might be forgiven for our sins,
so that we might be reconciled to God for eternity.

But the forgiveness of God through Christ
doesn’t come only to those
who don’t know what they are doing when they sin.
In the mercy of God, we receive his forgiveness
even when we do what we know to be wrong.
God chooses to wipe away our sins,
not because we have some convenient excuse, and
not because we have tried hard to make up for them,
but because he is a God of amazing grace,
with mercies that are new every morning.

As we read the words, “Father, forgive them,”
may we understand that we too are forgiven through Christ.
As John writes in his first letter,
“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just
to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9).
Because Christ died on the cross for us,
we are cleansed from all wickedness, from every last sin.
We are united with God the Father as his beloved children.
We are free to approach his throne of grace with our needs and concerns.
God “has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (Ps 103:13).
What great news!

Questions for Reflection

Do you really believe God has forgiven your sins? Do you take time on a regular basis to confess your sins so that you might enjoy the freedom of forgiveness? Do you need to experience God’s forgiveness in a fresh way today?

Prayer

Gracious Lord Jesus,
it’s easy for me to speak of your forgiveness,
even to ask for it and to thank you for it.
But do I really believe I’m forgiven?
Do I experience the freedom that comes from the assurance
that you have cleansed me from my sins?
Or do I live as if I’m “semi-forgiven”?
Even though I’ve put my faith in you and confessed my sins,
do I live as sin still has power over me?
Do I try to prove myself to you, as if I might be able to earn more forgiveness?

Dear Lord,
though I believe at one level that you have forgiven me,
this amazing truth needs to penetrate my heart in new ways.
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 today 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, Lord Jesus, for your matchless forgiveness! Amen.

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About Paul Wharton

I am a cradle Catholic, a native West Virginian, and a priest since April 24, 1982. Spiritual Direction has made a tremendous difference in my life and I encourage people to try it out. My motto is "Progress not perfection." I am grateful that God has done for me what I could not do for myself.
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