Father forgive them

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Jesus' last words point to injustice but also forgiveness.

Guest blog post by Donna Carroll

“And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him.... And Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.’”

Earlier this month, a courageous young man, weeks short of graduating from Dominican University, sat in a Georgia jail, facing the possibility of being deported. His name is David. He is second generation, undocumented—innocent, but for circumstance. He has lived his entire childhood in the shadows, but he dreams of the sunlight of the Resurrection.

And so, he and seven of his peers courageously stepped out of obscurity. “Undocumented and unafraid.” They put their experience into words—public words, painful words, truth-telling words. “We will not be moved.” Ironically, that day as they sat alone on that Georgia street, stopping traffic, and hoping to stop their friends’ exclusion from higher education, they no longer felt isolated.

And no longer would the rest of us remain in ignorance. Jesus in his enormous compassion said of his persecutors, “they know not what they do.” But the courage of David and his friends, and of all of those who cry out from the margins of our society, does not permit us such luxury. We who gather at the foot of the cross this Lent carry the burden of knowing what we do—of knowing the multitude of injustices that are committed in our name, with our complicity, if not our support.

And yet, the gospel tells us that Jesus’ first word is always, forgiveness.

Even before we sin, we are forgiven. Though we too crucify God’s son, we are forgiven. So now what?

As it turns out, David was not deported; he is safely back on campus, and I look forward to awarding him his diploma on May 7. At Dominican University, David found the embrace of a loving community, loneliness was replaced with conviction, he spoke his truth—and his words live beyond the jail. But he is only one of many waiting in the shadows, seeking the light of justice.

Father, forgive us, and transform our hearts. May we, the forgiven, step into the light as well.


Guest blogger Donna Carroll is the president of Domincan University. She delivered this Lenten meditation at St. James Episcopal Cathedral as part of a program on the Seven Last Words of Christ.

For more on Lent, visit uscatholic.org/lent. Submit a guest blog post about Lent to onlineeditor@uscatholic.org.

Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.