The Holy Week begins with the solemn proclamation of the Passion of Christ from Luke’s gospel. In this crucial narrative of faith, we find three of the seven words, or phrases, spoken by Jesus as he hung on the Cross. The first of these solemn words that Jesus says on the Cross is:
“Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34).
But what are you saying, Jesus? We were taught that in order to be forgiven we must be sorry for the harm done, we must feel the guilt. And after being aware of the evil caused, ask for forgiveness and have the sincere desire to repair the damage caused. And only then, those who have suffered for our sin will be able to present that greatness of mind to grant forgiveness.
How much less we wish that, especially for those who have committed ecological sins, against future generations, in manifest acts and habits of pollution and destruction of the harmony of the environment, of this Earth; in transgressions against the principles of interdependence and in the rupture of the networks of solidarity among creatures.
However, in this scheme of justice, so human indeed, there is no place for love. At least that is how you understood it, Jesus, and that is how you taught it to us. In spite of everything, it is hard for us to believe You, who now hang on that Cross.
Your testament may still sound to us like insane words that disrupt our world and, at the same time, fill it with consolation.
There are Your words in Matthew 5: “You have heard how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: […] if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well”
There is Your prayer in Matthew 6: “As we have forgiven those who are in debt to us”
There is Your good Teacher answer in Matthew 18: “Then Peter went up to him and said, ‘Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.”
There is Your absurd commandment in Luke 6, without indulgence or crack: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly. Treat others as you would like people to treat you. […] If you love those who love you, what credit can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them”.
And there you are, Jesus, in your final Hour, suffocating yourself on that Cross between two crucified men and saying: “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing”.
And in case we had any doubt, You went one step further and in the height of contradiction You said to the one on Your right, the extremist of the people accused of being a prisoner: “Today you will be with me in paradise”.
For You, Jesus, there is always an opportunity for conversion, even if it is at the last minute.
Is it possible to forgive? Jesus did it.
He did, but what about us? Is it possible for us to forgive only afterwards and with conditions? Hopefully not, because Jesus thought otherwise. And if forgiveness exists on this Earth that “suffers and groans in labor pains” it must be like that of Jesus: free and without conditions. To love without limits. That is the hidden meaning that Jesus wanted to give to the washing of your feet.
It is true that conditions can facilitate forgiveness, and I wish they were always there! But will we leave this earth adrift until the desired conditions are met?
Jesus did not wait for that impossible miracle to happen. Jesus created the conditions: forgiveness first. And that is what he called us, his disciples, to do.
What would have become of this story, if Jesus, before forgiving, had demanded that the soldiers and the high priests and Pontius Pilate be repentant and aware of the harm done and able to ask for forgiveness and have a sincere desire to make reparation?
The answer is easy: the darkness of that dark night of that unholy Friday would have lasted until today, and we would still be waiting for the Passover, the Gospel, and the tomb would never have been empty.
But You, Jesus, forgave first. “Forgive them; they do not know what they are doing”. You forgave, that is, you looked kindly upon your evildoers. In other words, you put yourself in their place. In other words, you redeemed them. In other words, you gave them another chance. In other words, you healed them. In other words, you made them more human. And with them, you saved Creation.
Forgiveness came first. And then all Your wounds were also healed, Jesus, and on the Cross, Easter blossomed. The human being became capable of God. And this Earth was filled with hope because she, as Creation together with her children, with your words of FORGIVENESS, will be freed at last from the bondage of corruption to which she was, and still is, subjected by our sins.