LORD JESUS CHRIST, Fountain of holiness and sweetness, I bless and thank you for your abundant love and heartfelt prayer for you enemies and for those crucifying you. With hands outstretched on the cross, you pleaded for them, asking that they be pardoned, and you generously excused their transgressions, saying, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. Indeed, these are words, full of grace and sweetness, capable of softening the heart of any sinner and of moving him to repentance!
O sweet Jesus, how inclined you are to forgive, how easily appeased, and how eager to show mercy. Great and boundless is you kindness Lord, to all who love you; you likewise manifested that same loving kindness toward you enemies. Hanging high on your Cross you were not moved by any bitterness against those crucifying you, nor did you seek vengeance on those tormenting you. You did not for the earth to swallow them up, or for fire to come down from Heaven and consume them that very instant. Rather, like a welcome rain, you uttered sweet and loving words on behalf of your cruel tormentors, saying: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.
These words reveal you most excellent love as well as your indescribably meekness, qualities that could never be obliterated in you. Nor were you held back from uttering a prayer. Your executioners shouted: Crucify! Crucify! And you responded with the words: Father, forgive them. They drove rough nails into your body and you offered excuses for their unheard-of wickedness, saying: They know not what they do. O Christ, how wonderful is your love.
Penetrate deeply into the five sacred wounds of the crucified, kiss his other wounds, cling to the tree of life with loving arms, and hold fast to Jesus hanging on his Cross, he is the certain pledge for our salvation. Worship him devoutly, commit yourself to him with full faith, and abandon yourself completely into his hands. Since he had shown himself to be good and merciful to his enemies, then he will certainly be more gracious to one who sorrows over his sins.
If you, however, wish your prayer to be heard the sooner, and if you desire to win your Redeemer’s grace and obtain the fullness of his mercy, then from the depths of your heart forgive your brother for whatever he has done against you. Forgive him for small matter so that God may forgive you for more serious offenses, and pray for his salvation in the same way as you pray for your own. You will find grace and, by imitating the example of Jesus, who orders us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors, you will become the child of the Most High.
If you train yourself to forgive all injuries don you, even though you suffer them unjustly, and to pray for those who have wronged you, then you have gained for yourself at the hour of your death a confident hope. Such holy prayer for one’s enemies has won eternal blessedness for the apostles, has glorified the martyrs, ennobled the confessors, and made all the saints like unto Christ and deserving of eternal life.
– Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471), On the Passion of Christ