The church celebrates on this day the death of Jesus on the cross, and contemplates on his sufferings and death. Let us now prayerfully listen to the last few words of Jesus. The Evangelists have faithfully recorded for us the last seven words of Jesus.
The First Word: Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.
The Second Word: I assure you; today you will be with me in Paradise .
The Third Word: Dear woman, here is your son. And to John, this is your Mother.
The Fourth Word: My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
The Fifth Word: I am thirsty.
The Sixth Word: It is finished.
The Seventh Word: Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.
The First Word: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
It makes sense that the first word of Jesus from the cross is a word of forgiveness. That’s the main point of the cross. Jesus is dying so that we might be forgiven of our sins and reconciled to God for eternity. He forgives all those who unjustly condemned him and brought him to the cross to die a shameful death. He tells the Father that they are not aware of what they are doing. But the forgiveness of God through Christ does not come only to those who do not know what they are doing when they sin. In the mercy of God, we receive his forgiveness, even when we deliberately do something wrong. God chooses to forgive us and wipe away our sins, not because we have some convenient excuse, not because we have tried hard to make up for them, but because he is a God of amazing grace. As we hear the words, “Father, forgive them,” may we understand that we are forgiven through Christ. Because Christ died on the cross for us, we are cleansed from all wickedness, from every sin.
Gracious Lord Jesus, it is easy for me to speak of your forgiveness, even to ask for it and to thank you for it. Today I need the freedom that comes from the assurance that you have cleansed me from my sins. Dear Lord, I believe that you have forgiven me, yet this amazing truth needs to penetrate my heart in new ways. Help me to know with conviction that I am totally forgiven, not because of any merit of mine, but because of your grace and forgiving love for me. May I live today as a forgiven person, opening my heart to you and others, spreading your message of forgiveness to all, Amen.
The Second Word: “I assure you; today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
As Jesus hung on the cross, he was mocked by the leaders and the soldiers. One of the criminals crucified with him added his own measure of scorn. But the other crucified criminal sensed that Jesus was being treated unjustly. He did reprimand his co-criminal for his harsh mocking words against Jesus. After this, he spoke to Jesus directly as he made his simple request: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus responded to this criminal, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Paradise was sometimes thought to be the place where righteous people went after death. Here we encounter one of the most astounding and encouraging verses in all of Scripture. Jesus promised that the criminal would be with him in paradise. Yet the text of Luke gives us no reason to believe this man had been a follower of Jesus or even a believer in him. He might have felt sorry for his sins, but he did not obviously repent. Rather, the criminal’s cry to be remembered seems more like a desperate, last-gasp effort. Jesus, embodying the mercy of God, says “You will be with me in paradise.” We too are welcome there into his kingdom because God is merciful and we have put our trust in Jesus.
Dear Lord Jesus, how I wonder at your grace and mercy! When we cry out to you, you hear us. When we ask you to remember us when you come into your kingdom, you offer the promise of paradise. Your mercy, dear Lord, exceeds anything we might imagine. It embraces us, encourages us, and heals us. Today I live, trusting you and you alone. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom! Jesus, remember me today as I seek to live within your kingdom! Amen.
Hymn: Father Remember me
The Third Word: “Dear woman, here is your son.” He said to John “She is your Mother.” (John 19:26)
As Jesus was dying, his mother was among those who had remained with him on Calvary . Most of his disciples had fled, with the exception of one, John, whom the Gospel calls “the disciple he loved.” Jesus deeply loved his mother and wanted to make sure she would be in good hands after his death. The presence of Mary at the cross added both humanity and horror to the scene. We are reminded that Jesus is human and had lived in a family. He truly understood the family affection and the need of caring. Even as he was dying on the cross as the Saviour of the world, Jesus remembered his role as a son, which he didn’t neglect even in his last moment. He could feel and experience the pain of his mother suffering for him. Out of concern and love for her Jesus presented his beloved disciple to Mary and with that act he offered the other disciples and the entire humanity to her. Jesus told John that Mary is a Mother to him and to all the disciples. A new bond is built and a new family is set up. From this moment on Mary will take care of each one of us. We become her children in her Son Jesus.
Lord Jesus, even in the midst of your sufferings on the cross you did not forget any one of us, and specially your dear mother. While giving her a son to take care of her, you provided for each one of us a mother, who will understand our sufferings and pain. Today Jesus the presence of your mother at the cross engages my heart. Allow me to stand near Mary my mother, to console her and be consoled by her. Let me enter joyfully into this new family and remain close to her and experience her consoling love Amen.
The Fourth Word: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Mark 15:34)
As Jesus was dying on the cross, he echoed the beginning of Psalm 22, which reads:
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
Every day, I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.
In the words of the psalmist Jesus found a way to express the cry of his heart: Why had God abandoned him? Why did his Father turn his back on Jesus in his moment of greatest agony? We will never fully know what Jesus was experiencing in this moment. He was suffering alone on the cross and it seems as if his loving Father had stayed away from him. No one was able to reach out to him. His only consolation now was the prayer he learnt from his mother and he recited the psalm taught by Mary when he was young. Yet, this was the moment of trust for Jesus in his loving Father. He knew very well that his Father will not abandon him. Let us remain with Jesus in his loneliness on the Cross.
Lord Jesus, though I will never fully grasp the wonder and horror of your abandonment by the Father, every time I read this word, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. How can I ever thank you for what you suffered for me? What can I do but to offer myself to you in gratitude and praise? Thank you, dear Lord, for what you suffered. Thank you for taking my place. Thank you for being forsaken by the Father, so that I might never be. Permit me to stand near you with Mother Mary and offer my consolation to you, Amen.
The Fifth Word: Jesus says: “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28)
No doubt Jesus experienced extreme thirst while being crucified. He would have lost a substantial quantity of bodily fluid, both blood and sweat, through what he had endured prior to crucifixion. There was the fear, pain and anxiety. Thus his statement, “I am thirsty” was, on the most obvious human level, a request for something to drink. In response, the soldiers gave Jesus sour wine, a cheap beverage common among lower class people during the time of Jesus. John notes that Jesus said “I am thirsty,” not only as a statement of physical reality, but also as a fulfilment of his mission. The mission was to save the world through his suffering and his death. Here he was thirsting to receive everyone into his fold to build his spiritual Kingdom. As we reflect on the words of Jesus, “I am thirsty,” let us bring to mind our own thirst and desires. We are thirsting for him and our soul is yearning for the living water that Jesus supplies. Let us remain close to Jesus, so that our thirst for the water of life might be quenched.
O Lord, I want to express my gratitude to you for your suffering on the cross for my sake. Besides this extraordinary physical pain, you also experienced extreme thirst. All of this was part of the divine mission as you took upon yourself the task of redeeming mankind from sin. Dear Lord, in your words “I am thirsty” I add the cry of my own heart. I too am thirsty, Lord, not only for the fresh living water of your kingdom. I need to be refreshed by your presence in my heart. I yearn for your Spirit to fill me once again. I am thirsty, Lord, for you. Amen.
The Sixth Word: “It is finished!” (John 19:30)
When Jesus said “It is finished,” surely he was expressing relief that his suffering was over. “It is finished” meant it is accomplished; the work of his Father was finally done. Jesus had fulfilled through his suffering and death, the mission given to him at his incarnation. He had announced and inaugurated the kingdom of God . He had revealed the love and grace of God throughout his public life. He had expressed that love and grace by dying for the sins of the world. He had shown to the world what truly the Kingdom of God is. In the midst of suffering Jesus had the joy of fulfilling a task. Jesus completed the mission for which he had been sent, and we are the beneficiaries. But this is not the end. His mission will continue in and through us and we all have the task to fulfil this mission. We know that nothing can separate us from God’s love as it was in the life of Jesus. One day what God has begun in us will also be fulfilled, when God will unite us all together in Jesus.
Dear Lord Jesus, how can I ever find words to express my gratitude to you? You accomplished the task for which you had been sent, faithful in life, faithful in death faithful to the mission. You accomplished all that no other person could do, taking the sin of the world upon your sinless shoulders. You took upon yourself my sin so that I may receive your forgiveness and new life. You have built the new family, the mystical body to experience truly your love. Thank you Lord Jesus for accepting me and making me part of your kingdom, Amen.
Hymn: Abba Father
The Seventh Word: “Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
The Gospel according to Luke gives us the final word of Jesus: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” On the most obvious level Jesus is simply entrusting himself to God as he dies. He’s saying, “My life and my death are in your hands.” As we reflect upon this final word of Jesus from the cross, we are struck, by the love, trust and confidence Jesus always placed in his Father. He started his mission at the River Jordan as the beloved son and the chosen messenger. He entered his sufferings and passion trusting in his Father and telling him if it is his will he would willingly drink the chalice given to him. Jesus now gave his very life to his beloved Father fully assured that it was safe with him. Jesus was aware that his Father will raise him up on the third day. The prayer of Jesus before his death was a prayer of repose from the psalm which is normally said before a person sleeps at the end of the day, placing his very person in the hands of God. jesus must have learnt this prayer from Mary his Mother.
Gracious Lord, even as you once entrusted your spirit into the hands of the Father, I too give my life to you. I trust you, and you alone to be my Saviour. I submit to your sovereignty over my life, and seek to live for your glory alone. Here I am, Lord, always available to you, to work for your mission. As you entrusted your spirit into the Father’s hands, you did it with love and hope of your resurrection. Give me the grace to live in that hope to leave the sadness of Good Friday behind and look for the Easter joy, Amen.
Hymn: Into your hands I commend
Fr. Eugene Lobo S.J. Rome