Today, Good Friday, April 7, 2023, we offer a brief essay based on the writings of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen for the Passion of Christ.
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!
It seems to be a fact of human psychology that when death approaches, the human heart speaks its words of love to those whom it holds closest and dearest. There is no reason to suspect that it is otherwise in the case of the Heart of hearts. If He spoke in a graduated order to those whom He loved most, then we may expect to find in His first three words the order of His love and affection. His first words went out to enemies: “Father, forgive them”, His second to sinners: “This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise”, and His third to saints, “Woman, behold thy son”, Enemies, sinners, and saints—such is the order of Divine Love and Thoughtfulness.
The congregation anxiously awaited His first word. The executioners expected Him to cry, for every one pinned on the gibbet of the Cross had done it before Him. Seneca tells us that those who were crucified cursed the day of their birth, the executioners, their mothers, and even spat on those who looked upon them. Cicero tells us that at times it was necessary to cut out the tongues of those who were crucified, to stop their terrible blasphemies. Hence the executioners expected a cry but not the kind of cry that they heard.
The Scribes and Pharisees expected a cry, too, and they were quite sure that He who had preached “Love your enemies”, and “Do good to them that hate you”, would now forget that Gospel with the piercing of feet and hands. They felt that the excruciating and agonizing pains would scatter to the winds any resolution He might have taken to keep up appearances. Every one expected a cry, but no one with the exception of the three at the foot of the Cross, expected the cry they did hear. Like some fragrant trees which bathe in perfume the very axe which gnashes them, the great Heart on the Tree of Love poured out from its depths something less a cry than a prayer, the soft, sweet, low prayer of pardon and forgiveness: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Forgive whom? Forgive enemies? The soldier in the courtroom of Caiphas who struck Him with a mailed fist; Pilate, the politician, who condemned a God to retain the friendship of Caesar; Herod, who robed Wisdom in the garment of a fool; the soldiers who swung the King of Kings on a tree between heaven and earth – forgive them? Forgive them, why? Because they know what they do? No, because they know not what they do.
If they knew . . .
If they knew what they were doing and still went on doing it; if they knew what a terrible crime they were committing by sentencing Life to death; if they knew what a perversion of justice it was to choose Barabbas to Christ; if they knew what cruelty it was to take the feet that trod everlasting hills and pinion them to the limb of a tree; if they knew what they were doing and still went on doing it, unmindful of the fact that the very blood which they shed was capable of redeeming them, they would never be saved! Why, they would be damned if it were not for the fact that they were ignorant of the terrible thing they did when they crucified Christ! It was only the ignorance of their great sin that brought them within the pale of the hearing of that cry from the Cross. It is not wisdom that saves: it is ignorance!
There is no redemption for the fallen angels. Those great spirits headed by the Bearer of Light, Lucifer, endowed with an intelligence compared with which ours is but that of a child, saw the consequences of each of their decisions just as clearly as we see that two and two make four. Having made a decision, they made it irrevocably; there was no taking it back, and hence there was no future redemption. It is because they knew what they were doing that they were excluded from the hearing of that cry that went forth from the Cross. It is not wisdom that saves: it is ignorance!
If we knew . . .
if we knew what a terrible thing sin was
and went on sinning;
if we knew how much love there was in the Incarnation
and still refused to nourish ourselves with the Bread of Life;
if we knew how much sacrificial love there was in the Sacrifice of the Cross
and still refused to fill the chalice of our heart with that love;
if we knew how much mercy there was in the Sacrament of Penance,
and still refused to bend a humble knee to a hand that had the power
to loose both in heaven and on earth;
if we knew how much life there was in the Eucharist
and still refused to take of the Bread which makes life everlasting
if we knew of all the truth there is
in the Church as the mystical body of Christ
and still turned our backs to it like other Pilates;
if we knew all these things
and still stayed away from Christ and His Church
we should be . . .
Indeed. As is the world today.
Lost. . .
Something to think on; many are lost, for there are so few to make reparation for them.
Remember – Our Lady needs us to obey: First Saturdays of Reparation, daily rosary, at least 5 mysteries, wear her brown scapular and live your Total Consecration to her Immaculate Heart, offering daily duties in reparation and for the conversion of poor sinners.
Open your hearts to the Lord and serve Him only: and He will free you from the hands of your enemies. With all your heart return to Him, and take away from your midst any strange gods” (I Kings 7:3)
† Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of our hearts, Mother of the Church, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of poor sinners, especially our Pontiff.
† Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy kingdom come! Viva Cristo Rey!
† St. Joseph, protect us, protect our families, protect our priests.
† St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
~ by evensong for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, King.
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin! Give me strength against thine enemies!