The seven last words of Christ—the final phrases that Our Lord spoke during His Passion—have been the subject of Christian meditation since His death, particularly on Good Friday. Bishop Fulton Sheen preached on these seven sacred words every Good Friday for over half a century.
We invite you to join us each Friday of Lent as we meditate on each of these seven words.
Today, the first Friday of Lent, we consider the first word:
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
The words are stunning upon impact.
It wasn’t enough for Jesus to say to us, “Love your enemies.” He showed us how to do it.
He forgave the friend who betrayed Him, the chief priests who falsely accused Him, the cowardly judge who condemned Him, the vicious crowd that called for His crucifixion, the callous soldiers who scourged Him nearly to death, nailed Him to a cross, and left Him to asphyxiate. All when He was perfectly and clearly innocent.
It doesn’t make forgiving our enemies seem so difficult. Though we, too, suffer hurt, betrayal, and other wounds from those who challenge our charity in this life, Christ has gone before us in all these sufferings—and we have His grace to assist us.
But there’s something else.
Jesus wasn’t just addressing the individuals responsible for His death. He was asking His Father to have mercy on all of us. On you and me. Sure, we can say that we aren’t the historical Judas, or the soldiers that nailed Him to the Cross. But our sins were the reason for His Passion—it was our sin that He atoned for with His precious Blood. Our sin tormented Him far more than any physical torture.
And strangely, paradoxically, mysteriously—the very Blood that our sins shed was the cause of their forgiveness. The Blood of Christ, which, as St. Paul says, “speaks more eloquently than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24), cries out to His Father for mercy, rather than for the justice that Abel’s demanded. Not only His words, but His Blood, His whole being, supplicate His Father on our behalf.
It makes sense that these words would be the first of His seven last words. They encapsulate the entire purpose of His Passion. They are, as it were, the opening words of the final act of His Passion, His death upon the Cross.
One of the Church’s most beloved devotions in honor of Our Lord’s Passion is the Stations of the Cross, which many parishes pray together on the Fridays of Lent like today. Even at those times when you are not physically at church, you can still keep the Stations near your heart and hands. The Stations of the Cross Rosary—with images of each Station and beads for the traditional Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be—fits in your pocket and will help you pray the Stations wherever you go. Order yours from The Catholic Company today!