A Sobering Conclusion From the Editor

A Sobering Conclusion

Stephen Kennedy

“… we rarely, if ever, really know what we are doing.”

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34a).

I think, if you’d asked them, they would have said they knew what they were doing.

The Roman soldier who took up the mallet and nails knew what he was doing. Undoubtedly, he’d done it many times before. He’d honed the skill of kneeling on the outstretched arm to pin it still, of placing the tip of the spike in the sweet spot so that the crucial first blow drove the nail through skin and flesh, sinew and muscle. He knew the second blow would drive the spike into the wood below. He had it down to a science, I’m sure. He was under orders. He knew what he was doing.

The religious leaders were saving their people from yet another pretender, avoiding the carnage of another doomed-to-fail uprising. This man’s crucifixion would preserve the delicate peace with their occupiers and protect their own positions of power and privilege. I think they knew what they were doing.

Luke is the only gospel writer to record this prayer of Jesus from the cross. I have read it and heard it read countless times in my life: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. I read it again this Easter season as I walked through the passion story. This time I stopped to chew on it awhile. It’s been a burr on my brain ever since. The conclusion I’ve come to is this: we rarely, if ever, really know what we are doing.

Marco Muzzo thought he knew what he was doing on the afternoon of September 27, 2015, when he climbed behind the wheel of his Jeep Grand Cherokee and exited a parking lot at Pearson International Airport. He had just returned from his bachelor party in Florida. He was going home to Vaughan, Ont. Thirty minutes later, Muzzo blew through a stop sign on Kipling Ave. doing 85 km/hr and T-boned a Dodge Caravan. Inside the minivan were a grandmother, a grandfather, their three grandchildren aged nine, five, and two, and a 91-year-old great-grandmother. The grandfather and the three grandchildren were killed. The grandmother and great-grandmother suffered serious injuries. A toxicologist concluded that Muzzi’s blood alcohol concentration would have been twice to three times the legal limit at the time of the collision.

Marco Muzzi pleaded guilty to four counts of impaired operation of a motor vehicle causing death, as well as to two counts of causing grievous injuries. As I write this, he is awaiting sentencing. Here is part of the statement he read in court on February 24, 2016:

“I know that there are no actions that can ever change what has happened. I know that there is no step that I can take to bring back your children … I am tortured by the grief and the pain that I have caused your entire family and the tragic effects that this has had on so many others and its impact upon the community. I could never have imagined the degree of suffering and pain I have caused. If I could reverse the hands of time, I would without hesitation.”1

 “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

We had the privilege of having a Syrian refugee family stay in our home for two months this past winter. The experience put faces and names to the insanity happening every day in our world. Now, when we hear of another suicide bombing, we try to imagine what it was like for Amal and her three beautiful children to be trapped in a windowless apartment in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

If you were to ask the suicide bomber just before he detonates himself if he knew what he was doing, he would assure you he did. So, I imagine, would those who direct armed drones from a continent away to accomplish a similar gruesome reality.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

A well-known Canadian comic chooses to ridicule a young singer with a disfiguring disease—just for laughs. The comic argues that his constitutional right to freedom of expression allows him to do so. The fact that a vulnerable 12-year-old boy is humiliated and driven to attempt suicide is not, in this comic’s thinking, his responsibility.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

It’s been a sobering thought to consider, that even when we think we know what we are doing, we don’t know what we’re doing. To use Marco Muzzo’s words, a choice can have consequences we “could never have imagined.” It may be a choice as insane as being drunk behind the wheel of a car or triggering a bomb in a crowded marketplace, or one as flippant as a cutting word or a clever insult.

 “Father, forgive us, for we do not know what we are doing.”

Is it my conclusion that we must all live in fear that our choices will cause someone to suffer? No. (Although a healthy dose of sober second thought wouldn’t be a bad thing for most of us.) My conclusion is that we need to be praying the prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray: “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us” (Luke 11:4a). We need to learn how to live both forgiven lives and forgiving lives. We need to hear Jesus praying for all of us who don’t know what we’re doing, even when we think we do:

“Father, forgive them.”


1 “Every single thing is gone: Marco Muzzo to be sentenced March 29,” CTV News, accessed March 4, 2016, http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/every-single-thing-is-gone-marco-muzzo-to-be-sentenced-march-29-1.2790469.

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