One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Jesus never stopped being a pastor, never stopped loving, never stopped forgiving, even when nailed to the cross. Some of the last words Jesus spoke concerned forgiveness, and all for the sake of God’s love. The criminal fastened to the cross felt undeserving of forgiveness, and believed he had received his just sentence. Yet Jesus, in his dying breath, affirmed him, forgave him, and promised him a place in God’s paradise.
Forgiveness and reconciliation are essential for our lives, whether it’s within community, or in an intimate one-on-one relationship. We all need to forgive, and be forgiven. Sometimes over and over again. Sometimes it is easy to forgive. We may find no difficulty in setting aside an incident and moving forward. At other times, we may find it extremely difficult to forgive the person or community that has harmed us. Still at other times, we may find ourselves struggling terribly between the desire to forgive, and not yet being able to forgive. Indeed, a great amount of grace is needed to forgive the wrongs of others, especially when forgiving might be the very last thing that even feels like the right thing to do! This is a very human response. Truly, forgiveness takes practice, patience, and gentleness.
Forgiveness for love’s sake is hard. Very hard! But it is possible. May our Lenten prayer be for the grace to love and forgive others in a Christ like way.
My heart was heavy, for its trust had been
Abused, its kindness answered with foul wrong;
So, turning gloomily from my fellow-men,
One summer Sabbath day I strolled among
The green mounds of the village burial-place;
Where, pondering how all human love and hate
Find one sad level; and how, soon or late,
Wronged and wrongdoer, each with meekened face,
And cold hands folded over a still heart,
Pass the green threshold of our common grave,
Whither all footsteps tend, whence none depart,
Awed for myself, and pitying my race,
Our common sorrow, like a mighty wave,
Swept all my pride away, and trembling I forgave!
John Greenleaf Whittier
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Prayer often attributed to St Francis, but actually author unknown.