Saturday, April 16, 2011

Reflection: "Father, forgive them..."

"Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."

Intercession.  That is the first gift Christ offers from the cross.  He intercedes with His Father on our behalf.  He pleads for our absolution, even as He hangs on the cross fashioned from our sin.  He begs His Father to consider our ignorance, to look with pity on our sin-darkened intellects.

The Jewish authorities and Roman soldiers did not really understand what they were doing.  They thought they were preserving their people from error or protecting the social order.  They did not understand Who Jesus was.

But can we really claim ignorance?  We, who claim the name, "Christian," can we also claim that we do not know what we do when we sin?  Can we ask God to excuse our intentional failings because we did not know what we were doing?  In this age of instant access to information, ignorance is a weaker defense than ever before.  We rarely accept it as an excuse for poor judgement.  We expect one another to be informed.

But raising consciousness is not the same as having a well-formed conscience.  Even when a depthless well of information is available to us, we rarely draw wisdom from its waters.  There are books and websites that offer detailed knowledge about every subject.  Yet, to paraphrase Denethor, for all our subtlety, we have not wisdom.  Why?

Because wisdom is not something you gain by bloodless means.  Words on a page, be they in a book or on the internet, do not purify the sin-stained will.  Only the crucible of self-sacrificial love burns hot enough to blast the impurities out of our nature.  The waters of the Jordan are not sufficient.  The Blood of Christ and the Fire of the Spirit are the only agents capable of purging our iniquities.  We must go out to the desert to hear John the Baptist, but we cannot stay there with him.  To learn true wisdom we must travel with Jesus to Jerusalem.  To Calvary.

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," say both Psalm 111 and Proverbs 9.  Only when we are awestruck by an encounter with God do we begin to understand.  Only when the numinous assaults the mundane, only when the sacred invades the profane do we have the chance to learn real wisdom.  Awe draws us into relationship with God, and that relationship is the foundation of wisdom.  And nothing is more Awe-ful than the Crucifixion.

The cross shows the sincerity of God's desire for a relationship with us.  It tears the veil "woven over all peoples," and heaven erupts through the rent seams.  The tool of torture becomes the instrument of rapture, for, in breaking the God-Man's body, it restores the relationship between Man and God.  "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do," does not simply excuse our ignorance, but also replaces it with the wisdom of eternal love.  With one hand He removes our shame.  With the other He bestows a share in His glory.

But there is a deeper truth.  Christ does not act alone.  All that He does, He does in obedience to the Father, in union with the Spirit.  He does not simply offer Himself to the world; the Father offers Him to the world.  He does not merely give us His example; He gives us the Holy Spirit.  Remember, the first word of these last words is, "Father."  From His first breath to His last, Christ has come to reconcile us to the Father.  He offers us forgiveness so that we can be in relationship with the Father just as He is.  Just as the Father offers the Son, so too does the Son offer the Father.

Wisdom comes from a relationship with the Living God.  Wisdom is alive.  But it can be gained only at the foot of the cross; at the pierced feet of the dying Christ.  Death must be endured before it is defeated.  Life must be given up so that it can be received.  We know this, but do we really know it?  Is it the breath in our lungs and the blood in our hearts?

We do not know what we are doing, but that may not matter so much in the end.  Christ knows what He is doing.  Our salvation comes not from knowing what we have done, but what He has done.  It does not come from knowing ourselves, but from knowing Him.

Let nothing keep you from knowing Him.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please keep comments respectful. Thanks!