Homily: “On Forgiveness, part six”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County on Maundy Thursday, Year A, 2017.

The sixth word of Our loving Lord Jesus Christ from the Cross come right on after the fifth word. Like the fifth, it was recorded by Saint John, so let us return to the moment we experienced on Palm Sunday. Again we are close to the very end of Jesus’s life on earth. He has been mocked, spat upon, tortured and crucified on the Cross. His garment torn, His Body emaciated—yet the loving words to His Mother and to John the Beloved Disciple have been uttered, along with the words, “I thirst,” that fifth words that reminds us that Jesus always thirsts for us. And then Saint John tells us in his Gospel these words: “When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” That is the sixth word of Jesus from the Cross: “It is finished.” For John, this is the final utterance, for as he tells us of Our loving Lord Jesus, then “He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”

Indeed what He gave up to us! At that moment, He began the giving to us the promised Counselor. For as He told His disciples, Jesus would pray to His Father, and He would give the disciples the Spirit of truth, Who will teach His disciples all things, and bring to your remembrance all that Jesus said to His disciples. It was, and it is, the Holy Spirit who brought to the mind of the disciples, indeed the Apostles, all the Scriptures that had been fulfilled by Jesus, through His Incarnation and  Passion, and then through His Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. All these Scriptures began to come together in a remarkable way with the Coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost—a remarkable, even an explosive way. Jesus sais, “It is finished,” in part because He knew that the Holy Spirit would guide the Apostles and disciples towards, and into, those passages from the Scripture that foretold, explained, and revealed the depths of Who Jesus is. Even the receiving of vinegar mixed with gall fulfilled scriptural prophesy from Psalm 69, which reads: “for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”

Jesus says, “It is finished” for another reason. It is to teach us true perseverance. In our dark moments, or when we confront the deepest hurts and wounds in our lives, indeed a real moment of truth when we are most vulnerable, naked, and honest about our wounds, let us remember Jesus, who teaches us through every moment of His life. He teaches us to look forward, in our darkest hour, to the dawning of the new day, that moment when we can say, by the grace of God and His healing touch, His Oil poured out to us to us for our healing—when we can say, “It is finished.” Which for us is that moment when we realize that we have forgiven the person who hurt us, because forgiveness is a by-product of being healed. “It is finished”—indeed, I no longer have any impediment to recognizing that God is active in the life of the person who hurt me—no longer any impediment to being able to Exchange the Peace with he or she who made you bleed. “It is finished”—meaning, I have not forgotten what happened, but it is no longer will separate me from my ability to love Jesus as He lives and moves and has His being in that other person.

And yet there is still another reason why Jesus says, “It is finished.” Indeed, it is finished because He has given us the Eucharist. And in giving us the Eucharist, by instituting it at the Last Supper for all time, by giving us the commandment to “Do this in remembrance of me,” He has given us Himself. The word translated as “in remembrance” in fact means something closer to “to make actually present again.” And so the commandment “Do this in remembrance of me,” would more literally be translated as “Do this for the actually-making-present-of-me again.” The Eucharist therefore is the most available way that Jesus is present to us. It is actually Him, and His Real Presence under the appearances of bread and wine. Through His death on the cross, then ensues the efficacy of the Eucharist when it is celebrated in the way that Jesus instituted it.

Jesus shed His Precious Blood for us and for many for the forgiveness of sins. The relationship between the Eucharist and forgiveness is so close as to be wedded together. His Real Presence is necessary for forgiveness because His Presence heals all wounds, rights all wrongs, brings peace to all pain. His healing is His love, poured out for us, and always flowing for the forgiveness of sins: most plenteous, and most precious. Amen.

Cover image “Crucifixion of Jesus” by Dionisius is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original.