Seeing Differently through Jesus’ word of forgiveness from the Cross

Bishop Philip Huggins invites us to reflect on Jesus' giving and forgiving spirit as we respond to the calls for safety and protection for refugees and people seeking asylum.

Then Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing’. ( Luke 23:34)

The context for Jesus’ poignant word from the Cross is of humankind behaving at our worst: callous cruelty, mean words and actions, a banal indifference to the suffering of another, a lack of kindness and justice.

In this context Jesus offers beautiful forgiveness. His first word from the Cross is consistent with the prayer gifted to us when the disciples saw Jesus praying and asked for help with their praying.

..“forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us"..( Luke 11:2-4).

It is consistent too with Jesus’ poetic encouragement to Peter about always forgiving - seventy times seven! (Matthew 18:21-22)

Consistently Jesus gives and forgives, inviting us to live in this way and see others differently, with love and compassion.

It is always an invitation. As St Ignatius reminds us, there is no coercion in God.

This invitation sits before us as we consider our lives as an Easter people.

Shouldn’t we know by now what it is we do?

The context in which Jesus spoke from the Cross is not our context.

Those mocking and those co-opted into cruelty as soldiers may not have known then that this truly was and is the incarnate God; the “one in whom all things hold together” (Colossians 1); the Resurrection and the Life .

Their behaviour was before the Resurrection.

But for us, isn’t it different?

Yes and No!

‘No’ in the sense that there is this same encouragement to live a giving and forgiving life, including in the complicated matter of self - forgiveness!

In fact, some friends and I have recently published a Study Guide on Forgiveness to help with this, as a matter of love. My motivations came from both concern about the unloving way we are treating God’s creation and thus causing the climate to change, but also from years of pastoral work and seeing the damage done when resentment and hatred shape toxic cultures. (“Cultures”, be it the culture of a family, an organisation, or even a nation are, after all, just the history of relationships in that place.)

Our Studies, with meditations and spiritual exercises, invite each of us to consider what we might let go of, in a giving and forgiving spirit.

One can but imagine that some of those present when Jesus forgave from the Cross may have been prompted to see differently, asking for and offering forgiveness when they later heard of Jesus’ resurrection!

But, ’yes’ too! For us now, shouldn’t things be different?

It sometimes seems that appreciating the Gospel is a journey the human family have only just begun, rather than being a reality of some 2,000 years!

Lately I have been involved in further advocacy on behalf of people seeking refuge and asylum, including those who have spent harsh years in indefinite detention(#SetThemFree). The cruelty of this destroys people. We know this. We know what we as a nation have done and are doing to those seeking refuge. We know from our First Nations people something of the cost of separation from loved ones as it now impacts these folk, long separated from family, without hope of perhaps ever seeing parents and grandparents again, this side of eternity. That is, unless federal policies change and become kinder.

In the last weeks we’ve had some welcome answers to our prayers and advocacy - the Government's announcements of an additional intake of 16,500 Afghan refugees as well as the news that New Zealand will resettle 450 refugees from Australia’s detention system. However, in our rejoicing we must continue with our prayer and advocacy until everyone has been set free from indefinite detention, whether offshore or within Australia.

‘Yes’, things should be different after so long seeing the Easter truth - “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

So, on Palm Sunday (10 April), we reflect on Jesus’ poignant and beautiful word of forgiveness from the Cross. As disciples we seek to follow; giving and forgiving.

Relatedly, as regards to refugees and other vulnerable beings, let us help shape together an Australia with policies which always seek to heal and never to harm. 

Wouldn’t that be wonderful!



Bishop Philip Huggins reflection engages with Luke 23:1-49, a reading set out by the Revised Common Lectionary for the sixth Sunday in Lent


Discussion Questions

What is the story of your ‘forgiveness’ journey?

Can you reflect on a work of forgiveness that you have accomplished in the past? If there is a matter with which you are struggling now, remembering that forgiveness from the heart can take a while, what might help?

What is your response to the “Yes and No” nature of Jesus’ word from the Cross for us now? Shouldn’t things be different now - kinder, more loving, compassionate and forgiving?

How can we help Australia be a place with policies only to heal, never to harm?


Gracious God

You create this beautiful universe, make us in your own image and 

likeness, then gift us with this life.

Incarnate in Jesus, you make it plain that we are to love one another, even to love our enemies.

Poetically, you say we are to forgive one another, even seventy times seven.

We hear again the poignancy of your word from the Cross and so must ask afresh for grace and pray for peace.

How can it be that there is still so much sadness and cruelty?

Amidst a pandemic and a climate changing and already more than 80 million people forcibly displaced by catastrophic wars and violence, how can it be that even the simple and obvious things are hard to achieve?

How can this be?

And everyone of those forcibly displaced, those indefinitely detained, those hoping for safety - everyone of them is someone whose story you know.

Someone you love.

Gracious God, our words run out but you are our peace and you invite us to pray for what we need.

In our communion with you, we hear and see afresh your word from the Cross and pray for a just peace. You know what this is. You know what this takes.

Jesus have mercy, we pray.


Bishop Philip Huggins has served as a Bishop since 1995 after initially training and working as an economist before preparing for Ordination as a priest in the Anglican Church. Bishop Philip Huggins is currently focused on the contribution of a contemplative heart for a more giving and forgiving culture as well as faith-based advocacy to prevent climate change and to ease the suffering of vulnerable people, including people seeking asylum and refugees.

Seeing Differently