Catholic Fine Art
Father Forgive Them
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." [Luke 23: 34]
O loving tenderness of Jesus towards men! Saint Augustine says that when the Savior was injured by His enemies, He besought pardon for them; for He thought not so much of the injuries He received from them, and the death they inflicted upon Him, as upon the love which brought Him to die for them.
But some may say, Why did Jesus pray to the Father to pardon them, when He Himself could have forgiven their injuries? St. Bernard replies that He prayed to the Father, not because He could not Himself forgive them, but that He might teach us to pray for them that persecute us. The holy abbot says also in another place: "O wonderful thing! He cries, Forgive; they cry, crucify." Arnold of Chartres remarks that while Jesus was laboring to save the Jews, they were laboring to destroy themselves; but the love of the Son had more power with God than the blindness of this ungrateful people. St. Cyprian writes, "Even he who sheds the Blood of Christ is made to live by the blood of Christ." Jesus Christ, ill dying, had so great a desire to save all men, that He made even those enemies who shed His Blood with torments partakers of that Blood." Look, says St. Augustine, at thy God upon His Cross; see how He prays for them that crucify Him; and then deny pardon to thy brother who has offended thee!
St. Leo writes that it was through this prayer of Christ that so many thousands of Jews were converted at the preaching of St. Paul, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles; whilst [says St. Jerome] God did not will that the prayer of Jesus Christ should continue without effect, and therefore at the very time he caused many of the Jews to embrace the faith. But why were they not all converted? I reply that the prayer of Jesus Christ was conditional, and that they who were converted were not of the number of those of whom it was said, Ye have resisted the Holy Ghost. [Acts 7: 51]
In this prayer Jesus Christ further included all sinners; so that we all may say to God:
O Eternal Father, hear the prayer of Thy beloved Son, Who prayed to Thee to pardon us. We deserve not this pardon, but Jesus Christ has merited it, Who by His death has more than abundantly satisfied for our sins. No, my God, I would not be obstinate like the Jews; I repent, O my Father, with all my heart, for having offended Thee, and through the merits of Jesus Christ I ask for pardon. And Thou, O my Jesus, Thou dost know that I am poor and sick, and lost through my sins; but Thou hast come from Heaven on purpose to heal the sick, and to save the lost, when they repent of having offended Thee. Of Thee Isaiah said, He came to save that which had perished. [Isaiah 61: 1] And of Thee St. Matthew writes, The Son of Man is come to save that which was lost. [Matthew 18: 11]