FATHER, FORGIVE THEM…..
A Friday every year is devoted to the solemn ceremonial recollection of a death – the death of Jesus Christ on a cross. Christ’s death on the cross was a decisive act that has motivated millions of people in the last two thousand years to identify themselves with the sorrows of this world and to struggle for a more just society. It has inspired many ordinary people as well as saints to works of compassion for the poor, the outcast and the leper.
Even for non-believers in Christianity there is poignancy about the story of the Crucifixion of Christ. Some of his sayings as He hung on the cross have had an extraordinary effect on men’s hearts. The first and the most famous among them is Christ’s derelict prayer amidst his agony and the sadness of betrayal by his followers: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing". (Luke 23: 33-34) This prayer has reverberated through many a human heart, bringing comfort to the despised and the forsaken.
Jesus asks God to forgive "them" – that includes the persons who are responsible to send him to the cross and the disciple who betrayed him, the disciples who slept in Gethsemane instead of keeping watch, the religious leaders who found Jesus an obstacle to the stability of the establishment, the political rulers who wanted to get rid of a troublemaker, the fickle crowd who changed their loyalties so quickly, even most of his own disciples who had run away from the scene to avoid trouble. Jesus suggests that they were doing this because they were ignorant – may be of the true nature of his person and the character of his ministry.
"Forgiveness and reconciliation are the marks of Christian life. New beginnings in personal and community life are impossible without forgiveness." (Rev. Dr. Stanley Samartha). Perhaps, the practice of forgiveness and the possibilities of reconciliation are greater in personal than in community relations