'Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.' Luke 23:34
Every word Jesus spoke from the cross was important and filled with an immense amount of love. In order to have enough oxygen to speak, Jesus had to raise His chest by pulling up on His pierced wrists to move His body from a Y shape into a T. Knowing how much effort it took for him to speak from the cross, His words take on a new depth and value.
Jesus' words, 'Father, forgive them, they know not what they do,' are spoken not only to those physically crucifying Him but also to us. It was our sins that crucified Him, as it says in Isaiah 53:5, 'he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity.'
Pope Francis said in his Angelus address on March 17, 2013, 'The Lord never wearies of forgiving! We are the ones who weary of asking for forgiveness.'
It's true! For a long time, even though I knew that Christ offered me forgiveness, I got tired of asking to be forgiven because I knew that no matter how hard I tried, I kept falling into the same sins. Even for sins that I committed once, I had a hard time receiving His forgiveness because I didn't feel worthy of being forgiven. Even after going to confession, I still felt guilty and ashamed for what I had done because I didn't believe enough in His mercy.
It wasn't until last year that I began to understand the truth that there is nothing I can do to earn the forgiveness God offers me. I realized that if I wait until I feel 'more worthy' than I will never receive His forgiveness because no matter what I do, I will never be worthy.
I realized I have to choose to receive His mercy now in spite of my sins. Christ died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8) so He knows where we're at and where we've been, yet He chose to still die for us. This TOTAL and unconditional forgiveness is something we will never be worthy of on our own, yet Christ makes us worthy because He offered Himself once and for all for us.
It was awesome when I went to confession and finally received His mercy. I began to see myself in a different way. I no longer felt like I had to pray out of obligation or effort to make myself worthy but simply prayed out of love for God.
I was able to see more clearly my own worth and others worth as well even in the midst of their sins. Those who I used to judge or withhold forgiveness from, I saw in a new light. Knowing that I myself am not worthy, yet forgiven, I was able to forgive others who I didn't feel like forgiving.
If you think about it, forgiveness is not an emotion, but it's a decision made out of love. As Jesus cried out from the cross, 'Father, forgive them, they know not what they do,' He probably did not feel like forgiving those who were crucifying him, yet He chose to forgive in the midst of extreme pain.
Forgiveness is a choice – a sometimes painful, hard choice to make.
Are you brave enough to make that choice, even while you still feel the pain of being hurt? I can assure you that it is so freeing to not withhold forgiveness from anyone.
In accepting His forgiveness, and following His example on the cross, we’re able to live as the new creation that He desires us to be. And for that, I’m so thankful.