“When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” They divided his garments by casting lots. The people stood by and watched..” Luke 33-35
We typically read this powerful line in a certain way.. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” But there’s a change of inflection that can open this verse up to a different meditation. “Father, forgive them, for they know… Not what they do…” and it can be completed, “but how they feel.” “They know; not what they do.. but what they want.” “Father, forgive them. For they know; not what they do.. but how others expect them to act.”
When we sin, we know something! We know a little piece of the puzzle.. what we want, how we feel, how we think things should be. But rarely, do we see the big picture. In Isaiah 55 we read, “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.” We cannot imagine how different our view is from God’s; how beautiful, how perfect His view is and how pitiful ours is. Yet, we act on the pitiful one and expect the picture to stay the same. God does not hide His will, His view, from us; He’s very clear on how we should live. But we rely on our own vision, glimpse a few obstacles and claim the journey’s too hard to do it any other way but our own.
We might complain about how someone parents without realizing that their child overheard and has never forgotten our words about their Mom and Dad. We might have been right in our observations! But oh, the wisdom that we would have found in James, ”If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue.. his religion is worthless.”
Or maybe we correct someone’s work and never know that when we laughed and rolled our eyes at their attempts, it affected their confidence to improve. Was God not trying to protect their hearts, and ours, when He said, ”Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”
Or how about what we read in Luke; “One who is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” Yet we wonder why we cheat on a test in adolescence and our taxes in adulthood.
We fooled around with a boyfriend or girlfriend in high school never having imagined it would affect our future marriage. Why did we not trust Him when we read in Matthew, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery.. in his heart.”?
We read the stories of Cain and Abel, Joseph and his brothers, even the little spat between Martha and Mary. Yet we don’t think twice when we get in meaningless fights with family members and let it ruin years of great memories.
For some reason, we have a lot of trouble believing what He tells us through Scripture and the Church. We’re not God. We don’t know the full impact of our sins, we don’t know what He has planned for us, we don’t know how He has protected us with the very crosses that we so begrudgingly bear. It's His job to know.
It's our job to trust. We can’t enter Heaven without an understanding of God, His will and our purpose in serving it. Where and how do we come to this understanding if we haven't fully trusted Him in our lives? Many saints have described their visions of purgatory as “purification by fire”. Like dipping an old shoe into hot, melted silver, allowing each hole, each nook and cranny to be filled and a perfect figure emerging, so will our imperfections be refined so that we can shine.
St. John Vianney said, "How dearly we shall pay for all those [little amusing] faults that we look[ed] upon as nothing at all..!" We cannot imagine the anguish of realizing all the ways we offended and turned away from Him, despite His gift of guidance in our Holy Mother Church. Like those who stood at the foot of the Cross and realized their grave mistake, how much we will wish that we had taken His Life, His Word and His teachings to heart.
Our lives do not revolve around our life stories. It revolves around His sacrifice. It’s not about us. It’s about Him. It’s always about Him! Being Catholic doesn’t mean we’ve earned salvation, it means we’ve accepted His gift of it, teachings and all, each day of our lives, knowing that it is the artist who makes a painting beautiful; not the paintbrush. We must stop focusing on our little piece of the puzzle and live by His big picture most perfectly painted in Christ our Lord.
He’s not calling us to be all-knowing. He’s calling us to be all-trusting. All-faithful. He’s calling us to love, he’s calling us to forgive and He’s calling us to pray. Love, forgive, pray. He did all three when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do..”