Homily: “On Forgiveness, part seven and conclusion”

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

The seventh and last word to be uttered by our most loving Jesus from the Cross is, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” The meaning is clear. But why did the Son  of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father, why did Jesus commend Himself publicly into the hands of His Father in this way, when He knew that He would nonetheless have received commendation had He not spoken as He did? Surely He who, only a little while before, had said, “The ruler of this world,” that is, Satan, “is coming. He has no power over me,” knew that His most holy spirit had already the Father’s commendation?

He commended His spirit into the hands of His Father in order to edify us, who are nothing but dust and ashes. He said it that we might also learn to commend our spirit into the hands of our eternal Father, lest as it leaves the body it should be seized by the ruler of this world, for he, alas, is far from finding nothing that belongs to him in us, filled with sin as we are. It was certainly not of necessity but for our example that He commended into the hands of His Father His holy spirit, which spirit, being itself most pure, was on the point of leaving a body that was wholly pure, for Him himself owed nothing to sin. Indeed, he came to take away all sins. [1]

Over two months ago I shared with this Parish through our newsletter a story published on CNN’s website by a hospital chaplain. She had learned what people who are sick and on the point death usually talk about. They talk about their family. Because by talking about their family, they are talking about God. This is how all the meaning of their life comes to bear, and how life’s big questions are confronted and talked about.

As the chaplain wrote, we live in our families. It is into our families that we are born. Our lives are lived in our families, including the families we create by the grace of God, and the families we make through the people we find as our friends. This is where we create our lives, where we find meaning, where our purpose in life often becomes clear. Likewise, family is often where we experience love, and where we first give love. And family is probably the first place where we experience hurt, wounding, and emotional bleeding. And through those experience, hopefully we are able to learn what it means to overcome hurt and wounds, and to learn what love actually is.[2]

It was Jesus’s family that crucified Him. You all, myself, the other two billion Christians alive today, and the countless more of the past and yet to come. It was Jesus’s family that crucified Him. And as Jesus hangs from the Cross, He teaches us about Himself, and thereby teaches us about love. For God is love.

Although we His Body are often a destructive family, by God’s inestimable giving of Himself to us through His Son Jesus Christ, who from His first human moments lived His entire life for us and for our salvation, we learn through Him what forgiveness means. He gave Himself for us so that we could realize that His presence lives and moves and has His being in us, for we are Temples of His Holy Spirit—so that we could realize that forgiveness has already been made possible for us, so long as we are made able, by His grace, to recognize Jesus Christ in the person that hurt us, Jesus Christ in the person that wounded us, Jesus Christ in the person that made us bleed.

Because on the Cross, Jesus beheld His family from the Cross, we who had crucified Him, and recognized Himself in us. “Father,” He said, “forgive them; for they know not what they do.” All glory, laud and honor be to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who as the head of His family, forgave His family, by seeing Himself in us. Amen.

[1] This section closely paraphrases chapter 13 of The Mystical Vine by Saint Bonaventure.

[2] This section borrows liberally from the aforementioned article in CNN.com.

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