MEDITATION ON OUR LORD'S PASSION: Father Forgive Them.
Crucifixion with the Virgin, John the Evangelist, and Mary Magdelene
Father forgive them.
Pause upon every word. (Father) he doth not say Lord, which is a name of severity and justice, but Father, which is a name of mercy, and of the new Testament, given unto us in this place by the blood & merits of Christ: that even as he would be our Brother, so we should have all one father in Heaven. He saith therefore O Father, know me thy Son; the Father will deny nothing to his son: I came into the world to this end, that thou shouldest receive thine enemies for thy children. Hear me then praying for them. For even as the prayers of the Priest in the Church shall hereafter be very effectual, which shall conclude in my name in these words, through Christ our Lord: so I do now pray unto thy my Father, through me thy only begotten Son. Therefore as thou lovest me thy Son, so receive these my prayers. For I ascended this cross, & have suffered all these stripes that I might obtain mercy and pardon for them. If therefore thou doest reject the prayers of thy son, and not hear thy son, thou shalt impose a greater torment on me, then the Cross itself; which I suffer that I might take away a greater evil, that is, that I might turn away thy wrath from them. Spare therefore the great dolors of thy Son, least he seem to have endured them in vain. Thou livest reward to others labors; I desire only this reward for my pains, that thous wilt forgive these men.
(Forgive) here our Lord doth the office of a Priest: for he prayeth for the sins of the people, and he cryeth, not only as a Priest but as a sacrifice, desiring not a free pardon, but offering a full satisfaction. His wounds cry, his blood cryeth, his spitting, his pains, and all his members cry (Forgive;) accept of these torments for their sins; I have payed their debts; I give my blood for the price, my pains for the ransom, my life in satisfaction, my body & soul for a sacrifice Be thou therefore merciful: for this is copious redemption. A hard thing is required, twit, that the Father should forget the death of his only begotten Son, and of such, and so great a Son: but the Son begets, and he begets with his blood.
Secondly he asketh it not conditionally, as he prayed for himself in the Garden, If it be possible, if they wilt, if it may be done; but absolutely, (Forgive:) Both that thous mayest learn to pray to God for pardon of thy sins, and for his divine grace, without any condition,because that hath always relation to Gods honor: And also that this shouldest freely forgive thy neighbors faults without any condition.
Thirdly, he prayeth to have them forgiven presently, and not to be deferred till after his death. For he would not leave this life, till peace was made with God. Parents, when they are dying, do often leave unto their children small store of goods, and those entangled with many difficulties, charges, debts, and contentions: But Christ before his death paid all debts with his own blood; took away all difficulties, and charges, and made a peace and reconciliation with his Father. He sayeth therefore,O Father forgive, and that by and by: For the time of having mercy on him commeth, for the time cometh; to wit, the hour of sacrifice, the day of satisfaction, the time of forgiveness, the last instant of my life, in which being presently to yield up my breath, I now propound my last petition, and entreat only this; O Father forgive them.
Fourthly, he saith not forgive the sins already committed; but only (forgive,) even those evils, which they shall hereafter commit against me, their irrirsions their blasphemies, the bitterness of the vinegar, my death, the wound in my side: that thou also shouldest quickly forgive thy enemies, and remit all things, keeping no rancor at all in thy heart.
Fifthly, he sayeth not, I forgive; both because the offense against his Father grieved him more, then his own torments; and also because being intentive up on the happiness, which should redound to all the world by this his Passion, he seemed to esteem all the evils, which the Jews did unto him, rather as a benefit, then any hurt. Like as a man, having a grievous ulcer in his side,if his enemy, thinking to kill him, should would him in that place, whereby the ulcer should be opened, and the corruption let out. would be glad of that wound, which was the cause of his cure: So desirous was our Lord of thy salvation, that he rejoiced at those his pains, which were the cause of so great good unto thee.
(Them) Note first that he sayeth not, these wicked Crucifiers, these Hangmen, these adversaries and enemies, both because thou shouldest refrain from all evil words and reproaches; and also because thy Lord reputed no man his enemy, who paid the price of his death for all men, and offereth salvation to every one, loving dearly even these very Jews his executioners, not for their own evil works, but for their Father’s sakes, who were holy and just men: and therefore speaking of his stripes. (I was whipped (saith he) in the house of them, that loved me:) Not by them that loved me, but the Sons of them, that love me, that good might be done unto the Children for their holy Father’s sakes. Secondly, (them ) in the plural number; not only those, which conspire now against my death, but also to all those , who at any time by their sins have given cause of this my Passion. For thou shalt not be excluded from this prayer, whose sins have nee cause of our Lords death; and thou mayest have hope of pardon, if thou wilt join thy prayer with the prayer of Christ. For if the prayer of Christ did profit them, which never required it doubtless it will profit thee, requiring it of him, and praying together with him.
~ Fr. Francois Coster S.J.