Jesus' Last Words From the Cross

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The Crucifixion - by GRÜNEWALD, Matthias - from Musée d'Unterlinden, Colmar

 

Jesus' Last Words From the Cross

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During Holy Week we recall the Sufferings of Jesus Christ and His victory, on Easter Sunday, in His Resurrection. It is not enough to watch these events like spectators at a play. It is not a pageant. The only way is to be part of the action ourselves. We offer a short reflection for every day of Holy Week which will help to draw you deeper into the action. The reflections are based on the seven last words of Jesus.

 

Monday - "Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)

The Crucifixion seems the final failure. Mankind nails Jesus to the Cross in an effort to keep Him down and to destroy Him. Today, we continue to try and reduce Jesus to a size that we can manage. Jesus' words reflect His sympathy for our ignorance and frailty, and He forgives.

 

Tuesday - "Indeed, I promise you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43)

These words are not addressed to mankind. They are spoken to the man next to Him. He is a crucified criminal from the dregs of society. How can Jesus have anything in common with such a man? It is only because the man had spoken His name and voiced his need of Jesus. "Jesus," he said, "remember me when You come into Your kingdom." This was the first man to be saved through faith in Jesus on the Cross.

 

Wednesday - "Woman, this is your son . . . this is your mother." (John 19:26-27)

Faith can only grow within a family. We need the help and encouragement of each other. His mother, who had supported Jesus through life, supports Him in His last moments. She was His only human support. And Jesus shares her with us. To be a true Christian means that we, like Jesus, are happy to put ourselves into the hands of Mary.

 

Thursday - "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? . . . My God, My God, why have You deserted Me?" (Matthew 27:47)

Suspended between Heaven and earth Jesus experiences the agony of feeling abandoned by God and man. These words are a cry of distress, but not of despair. For they are the opening words of Psalm 22 which begins as a prayer of lament but ends on a note of victory. "You entrusted me to my mother's breast..." the Psalm says, "They shall praise the Lord, those who seek Him. May their hearts live for ever and ever!" It is suffering humanity and, in His final prayer to His heavenly Father, transforms us into an acceptable offering to God. This is precisely what happens in the Eucharist.

 

Friday - "I am thirsty." (John 19:28)

It has been said that the only works of man that will be seen in Heaven are the marks of crucifixion in the hands and feet and side of Jesus Christ. As Jesus dies on the Cross, man's only gift is a sponge dipped into sour wine, the soldier's ordinary drink. Mankind can offer Him so little comfort, "For food they gave Me poison," says Psalm 69, "in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink." Jesus drinks man's sour offering as a sign of His thirst to save all men and women. And then He dies.

 

Saturday - "It is accomplished." (John 19:30)

Jesus is in the tomb. What appears to be a ring of final dereliction is, in reality, the completion of Christ's work. Thirty years of life as a man is now fulfilled as Christ's lifeless body lies in the deathless state which is to be shared by every human being. Jesus appears to have thrown in the towel, yet everything that has happened is part of God's loving plan. Mankind, as yet, cannot understand such love.

 

Sunday - "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit." (Luke 23:46)

With these words Jesus breathed His last. And St John goes on to tell us that, "Jesus breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven.'" Jesus' final words on the Cross are linked with His first words on Easter Sunday. Jesus offers us His Spirit Who forgives us our sins. Jesus' saving words on the Cross have turned full circle. They began with, "Father, forgive them . . ."

 

There is only one way in which we can live the meaning of Holy Week. Only one way! And that is by forgiving.

 

pope.gif (87154 bytes) Pope John Paul's 2001 Lenten Message on Pardon

 

Pope John Paul speaks: Unforgivable sin?

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"There is no sin which cannot be forgiven, if we approach the Throne of Mercy with humble and contrite hearts. No evil is more powerful that the infinite mercy of God. In becoming man, Jesus entered completely into our human experience, even to the point of suffering the final and most cruel effect of the power of sin - death on a Cross. He really became one like us in all things but sin. But evil with all its power did not win.

By dying, Christ destroyed our death; by rising, He restored our life; by His wounds we are healed and our sins are forgiven. For this reason, when the Lord appeared to His disciples after the Resurrection, He showed them His hands and His side. He wanted them to see that the victory had been won; to see that He, the Risen Christ, had transformed the marks of sin and death into symbols of hope and life."