For the second consecutive week the Holy Father focused his catechesis during his general audience on Jesus’ prayer before dying, basing his remarks on three phrases Christ pronounced from the cross, as narrated in the Gospel of St. Luke.
Jesus’ first phrase: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”, was pronounced as soon as He had been crucified and while the soldiers were dividing His garments. “This first prayer to the Father”, the Pope explained, “was a request to forgive His executioners”. At the same time, however, “it is an interpretation of what is happening. The men who crucified Him ‘do not know what they are doing’. In other words, Christ presents ignorance, ‘not knowing’, as a reason for requesting forgiveness of the Father, because that ignorance opens the way to conversion”.
The second phrase: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise”, addressed to the “good thief” crucified at Christ’s side, is “a word of hope”, the Holy Father said. Jesus thereby reaffirmed “that God’s goodness can touch us even in the final instant of existence, and that sincere prayer, even after a misspent life, encounters the open arms of the good Father Who awaits the return of His child”.
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”, the last words Christ pronounced, are “a prayer of ‘entrustment’, full of faith in God’s love. Jesus’ prayer before dying is as dramatic as its is for all men and women but, at the same time, it is pervaded by that profound calm which arises from faith in the Father and the desire to entrust oneself to Him completely”.
“When life was about to leave Him, He sealed His final decision in a prayer. Jesus allowed Himself to be consigned ‘into human hands’, but it was into the hands of the Father that He placed His spirit. Thus, as John the Evangelist says, all things were accomplished, the supreme act of love was carried to the end”.
“Jesus’ words on the cross in the final instants of His earthly existence provide binding guidelines for our own prayer, but they also open the way to serene trust and firm hope. By asking the Father to forgive those who are crucifying Him, Jesus invites us to make the difficult gesture of praying for the people who do us wrong, … that the light of God may illuminate their hearts. In other words, He invites us to adopt, in our prayer, the same attitude of mercy and love which God shows towards us”, the Pope said.
“At the same time Jesus, at the extreme moment of death, entrusted Himself entirely into the hands of God the Father, communicating to us the certainty that, however difficult our trials … or burdensome our suffering, we will never fall out of God’s hands, the hands which created us, and which support and accompany us on life’s journey”.