The Seven Last Words of Christ refer, not to individual words, but to the final seven phrases that Our Lord uttered as he hung on the Cross. These phrases were not recorded in a single Gospel but are taken from the combined accounts of the four Gospels. Greatly revered, these last words of Jesus have been the subject of many books, sermons, and musical settings. The following meditations are based on the writings of Archbishop Fulton Sheen in his book, Seven Words of Jesus and Mary.
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Lk 23:34)
When Jesus was hanging on the cross he asked for forgiveness for the people who were responsible for this great evil, and he gave a reason that they should be forgiven. He said it was because they were ignorant of their deeds. Bishop Fulton Sheen says their ignorance was a great blessing to them. We often hear that you get to know life through experience. This is true in the areas of travel and fine dining, but it doesn’t apply to everything. We should all desire to be free from the experience of sin just as a healthy doctor is free from disease. It is the disordered craving for knowledge that destroyed the unity that Adam and Eve had with God.
Keeping a safe distance from sin is what allows us to know how horrible it really is. You learn just how strong an enemy is by defeating it in battle, not by surrendering to it. If knowledge and experience was the key to happiness and morality then we would be the most virtuous people who ever lived.
Our Lord’s Passion was so horrific because He was so innocent. Sinning against someone of infinite virtue brings with it infinite guilt, but as He hung there on the cross he asked that the offenders be forgiven. Through our sins we too are equal parties in Passion, but we have an equal opportunity to be forgiven. Only the Sacrament of Reconciliation makes it possible for you to be forgiven for the times you have “experienced” too much.
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