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Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Seven Last Words of Christ

I am a little behind on my Lenten reading. That being said, I am reading Fr. Richard John Neuhaus', Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus From the Cross. As we approach Good Friday, I will attempt to offer my own reflections on Fr. Neuhaus writings as I progress through the book.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

In Eucharistic Prayer III we pray, “Look with favor on your Church’s offering, and see the Victim whose death has reconciled us to yourself.” Here we proclaim the mystery of our atonement, granted to us through the death of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

In Death on a Friday Afternoon, Father Neuhaus outlines four truths of atonement.

  1. Something has gone terribly wrong.
  2. We are responsible.
  3. Something must be done.
  4. We can do nothing.

In partaking of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve sought the power to determine right from wrong, good from evil. Rather than let them be stored up the prodigal son desired his treasures immediately. In declaring itself blameless, the world condemned God to die on a cross. Yet, they knew not what they were doing.

We, in the here and now, were present in the there and then. It was we who sought and still seek knowledge to judge, treasure, and excuse. We know not what we do, for it is outside the realm of our human understanding to contemplate the fullness of God. To know the full agony of sin would be too much to bear. Yet, we are responsible.

God, who is Justice, demands that reparations be made for that which has gone wrong. The world is disordered and must be made right. Shall we do it? We, in not knowing what we do, are not even able to recognize the depth of our own fault. How are we to right the entire world?

If we can do nothing to right that which we have wronged, then who can? Our answer is found in the person of Jesus Christ, crucified on a cross and raised in glory. Christ, who was not sin, became sin so that he could take our place in justice. In obtaining for us our atonement, Christ did what we could not do in our ignorance. In fact, crucial to our salvation is our ignorance. If we had known that this man, Jesus Christ, was the Son of the Living God would the words, “Crucify Him”, have dared been uttered from our lips. Would we have dreamed to seek our excuse by laying the blame on he that is blameless?

God is not bound by our judgment. Yet he submitted himself to it so that he might forgive us for that which we do and do not know. In his death Christ reveals to us that to which we are blind. It is at the foot of the Cross that the world is rightly ordered and we are able to see.

Continue Reading: Part 2

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