The Seven Last Words of Jesus on the Cross
“Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.”
Fra Angelico- circa 1420-1423
"When they came to the place that is called the Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said “Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:33)
Jesus of Nazareth is the true king, but his power is completely different. His throne is the cross. He is not a king who kills, but on the contrary gives his life. His approach to every single person, especially the weakest, defeats solitude and sin’s destiny. With closeness and tenderness, God’s only Son leads sinners into the space of grace and forgiveness. He offers people mercy from the cross. In the kingdom of Jesus there is no distance between what is religious and temporal, but rather between domination and service, Jesus’ kingdom is unlike the one that Pilate knows and is willingly or unwillingly part of. Pilate’s kingdom, and for that matter the Roman kingdom, was one of arbitrariness, retribution, vengeance, discrimination, privileges, domination and occupation. Jesus’ kingdom is built on love, service, justice, peace, forgiveness and mercy. This is Luke’s recipe for authentic conversion, as Jesus promises a criminal not only forgiveness but a place by his side on the very day when his journey to God triumphantly reaches its home in paradise.
PRAYER: I pray to you tonight Lord, I ask of you forgiveness for all these lacerations, for all these wounds, and for Your blood poured out, because of these wounds in Your Mystical Body. I pray to you tonight, Lord for all of us. Teach us to love. It is not easy to love. Often when you think you love, it is only yourself that you love, and you spoil everything, you ruin everything. To love is to meet oneself, and to meet oneself one must be willing to leave oneself and go towards another to love is to commune and to commune one must forget oneself for another, one must die to oneself completely for another. Loving hurts you know, for since the Fall-listen carefully- to love is to crucify self for another.
“Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Titian circa 1566
"One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding (Jesus) and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”But the other rebuked him, saying, do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:39-43)
One of the most excruciating experiences in life is to be left out, to be unwanted. How could we not think that the thief on the cross did not know the pain of rejection? We have his own admission that he deserved execution. He too, was most likely an abandoned and unloved man, one who was also abused, a person whose life of crime reflected a loveless, unloved life. When someone lives life believing that no one would want anything to do with them, that person is prone to do bad things.
Can you imagine this criminal’s shocked reaction when Jesus looked him in the eye and said, “Today, you will be with me.” “You and me? A king and a terrible criminal? A savior of the world and the scum of the earth… in paradise together? Why would Jesus want to spend time with me?”
Thankfully, Dismas experienced love, mercy and forgiveness just before he died. While it is regrettable that this criminal did not experience this love until those final moments, at least he met mercy in the flesh hanging on the cross next to him as the two prepared to close their eyes on a violent world. After a lifetime of abuse, crime and deception the man crucified with Jesus was extricated from the vortex of evil of the other criminals, removed from the mob hostility that was aimed at Jesus. This criminal decided to take a bold step of faith. After a lifetime of rejection, deception and violence, Dismas died in peace and entered paradise with Jesus at his side.
Thank you, Lord, for this moment.
Thank you for the stars.
Thank you for the silence.
Thank you for the time you have given me.
Thank you for life.
Thank you for grace.
Thank you for being there, Lord.
Thank you for listening to me, for taking me seriously, for gathering my gifts in your hands to offer them to your Father.
Thank you, Lord.
“Woman, here is your son… Here is your mother.”
El Greco circa 1597 - 1600
"Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene, When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, 'Woman here is your son.' Then he said to the disciple, 'Here is your mother.' And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home." (John 19:25-27)
At Calvary, the mother of the Lord experienced the full responsibility of her “yes” spoken to an angel in Nazareth years before. Before he dies, Jesus commits his beloved disciple to his mother’s care and his mother to the disciple’s care. “Here is your son!” “Here is your mother” In his last moments on earth, Jesus is concerned, not with his own condition but with the accomplishment of his mission and with the welfare of those he leaves behind. Mary’s spiritual maternity begins at the foot of the cross. In the disciple who has been entrusted to her, Mary not only sees a dear friend of her Son, but all disciples of Jesus who have now become her children in a radically new way, this new People of God is really the Church, and Mary is the Church in her maternal role of welcoming God’s word and God’s people as her own.
PRAYER Every gesture of yours, every sigh, every blow, every wound, enters her heart. She knows your sufferings, She suffers your sufferings, And without coming near you, without touching you, without speaking to you, Lord, with you she saves the world. Often, mingled with the crowd, I accompany men on their Way of the Cross, and I am crushed by evil I feel incapable of saving the world; it is too heavy and rotten, and every day at the turn of the road I meet with new injustices and new impurities. Lord, show me your mother, Mary.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Rembrandt Van Rijn -1631
From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45,46)
For human beings, death is dark and scary and real. Even though as Christians we believe and trust in God, death can cause anxiety and anguish. Jesus does not bring us deliverance from death but deliverance through death. We do not suffer death alone. We live in a culture that, in many ways, is death-denying; it is afraid to take a clear look at the fact and the meaning of mortality. The cry of the psalmist is a profoundly human one. Jesus has made the psalmist’s cry his own- and in so doing, has made it our own cry.
Jesus suffered and died because of his fidelity to God’s will in his life. Jesus’ preaching was good news for the poor; he ate with publicans and sinners. Many, including both political and religious leaders, found this offensive and threatening. If we show fidelity to the teaching an example of Jesus, we can face similar reactions. may not face actual death. But we can face opposition and mockery in lesser, more subtle ways that are still painful. The psalmist’s words were certainly fulfilled in the life of Jesus. “All who see me mock at me…they shake their heads” (Psalm 22:7). And they find echo and fulfillment in all those who choose to follow Jesus.
Lord, I struggle to understand as you did on the Cross.
I know all too well, the crushing familiarity of pain and loneliness.
Every instinct in me cries out in fear when the Shadow of the Cross falls upon me.
I look to You.
Even in the hardest moment, even when the sun was eclipsed by darkness and death, Your light still shone.
The light may be dimmed but will not be extinguished.
Shine that light Lord, into the dark corners of my soul; Give me the courage both to admit my sinfulness
And to believe in your mercy and forgiveness.
Help me understand despite all
You who were not forgotten by the Father
Will never abandon me.
“I AM THIRSTY”
Irish Holy Week Art circ 12th century
“After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished
He said (in order to fulfill the scripture),
I am thirsty.” (John 19:28)
Until we know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for us, we cannot fathom who He wants to be for us, for you and for me. What specifically is Jesus thirsting for in us? Jesus thirsts for us to unlock the doors of our minds and hearts, especially when we pretend to be filled with knowledge and not with the Spirit, when we have become scholars of death and not of life, who instead of teaching mercy and life threaten with punishment and death, and who condemn the just.
Jesus thirsts for us to be merciful when we are so often judgmental of others and pick up stones to throw at them and crush them without ever recognizing our own sins and faults.
Jesus thirsts for us. He longs for us and desires to meet us at the high noons of our life to quench our thirsts. May we always thirst for Him and for the life-giving water that He alone can give. Let us never be afraid to allow this water to wash over us, cleanse us, purify us and send us out on mission to feed the hunger and quench the thirst of the human family.
I was hungry – you gave me to eat.
I was thirsty – you gave me to drink
Remind me of your powerful words, if I cease to give of myself.
It is not easy to meet the hunger of the world and the thirst for your Spirit.
I would rather say my prayers, piously and properly.
I would rather just fast and drink only water on Fridays.
I would rather just give to charities and visit one or two lonely people.
But that is not enough, because I know the truth.
Because of you I no longer thirst for the miserable, muddy waters of this earth.
I thirst for you., - the water of life, the Wellspring of Salvation.
Feed my thirst, so I have enough to live, enough to serve you.
You thirsted on the Cross ---I thirst for you.
The Father met your needs- Your Spirit meets mine.
“IT IS FINISHED”
Anthony Van Dyck 1621-1625
“A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So, they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, 'It is finished.'"(John 19:29-30)
Death cannot stop those significant persons in our lives from becoming embarkation points for us. Indeed, their importance may even grow. We may come to see aspects of who they were for us that we never realized when they were alive.
When such people are taken away from us so suddenly, and there is no time to say goodbye, the pain is even greater. Sometimes we soften the tragedy by saying that some people died natural deaths. They weren’t shoved into gas chambers, stark naked and humiliated. They didn’t die from starvation or typhus. Still from the biblical perspective, “natural death” is a misnomer, because every death is a violation of the God-willed order for creation. One thing we often hear from survivors of the Holocaust or of other great tragedies of the past centuries, and even our century, is that they didn’t have time to say a proper goodbye. Partly because guards were standing there with whips, screaming at them to keep moving. Partly because the survivors didn’t know they would never see their mothers, fathers, brothers or sisters again, because they didn’t know that this parting was for eternity.
We hear His final words- “It is finished, it is accomplished.”
A few hours more,
A few minutes more,
A few instants more.
For thirty-three years it has been going on,
For thirty-three years you have lived fully minute after minute.
You can no longer escape, now; you are there, at the end of your life, at the
End of your road.
You are at the last extremity, at the edge of a precipice.
You must take the last step,
The last step of love,
The last step of life that ends in death.
It ends, and it begins for mortal flesh must die to make way for eternity-
It is accomplished!
“Father into your hands I commend my spirit”
Diego Velazquez 1631
"It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying out in a loud voice said, 'Father into your hands I commend my spirit' Having said this, he breathed his last." (Luke 23:44-46)
The cross of Christ amassed all the arrows of evil: hatred, violence, injustice, pain, humiliation- everything that is suffered by the poor, the vulnerable, the oppressed, the exploited, the marginalized and the disgraced in our world. However, we can rest assured that for all who are crucified in this life, as in the case of Christ, the Resurrection follows the cross; hatred, violence and injustice have no prospect; and the future belongs to justice, love and life. Therefore, we must journey toward this end with all the resources we have in love, faith and patience.
We need to cry out, “Where are you, God?” If only you had been here, our brother would not have died!” Today we are given the answer: God is hanging on a tree, in the broken body of a young man- arms outstretched to embrace us, and gently asking us to climb up onto the cross with him, and look at the world from an entirely new perspective. From the cross, Jesus is the insurgent, the revolutionary of kindness, tenderness, compassion, consolation, forgiveness and care for others. Jesus turns us outward toward people to whom we are not physically, related identifying these people as our spiritual mothers, fathers, sisters, or brothers. From the cross, Jesus breaks down the barriers between people and creates this new family by the power that flows from his death for humanity. May we learn from the words, phrases and example of Jesus crucified, for he is our bridge to the heart of God.
Your work is done,
You can leave your Cross,
You can come down to rest, you have surely earned it.
Slowly you slip down, like a man weary of labor and drowsy with sleep.
Your mother takes you in her arms.
What a state you are in; you were not sensible, you died of exhaustion!
Perhaps the Father did not require so much.
But you rest in peace. Over your face, calm and serene there passes a ray of joy.
All is accomplished.
Grant that through the merits of your Son, I may never fall asleep without receiving the forgiveness of our Father, That, each night, resting in peace in your arms, I may learn how to die.