The Seven Last Words of Christ
A Reflection by Fred Schaeffer, OFS
1. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
As Jesus spoke these words, he looked down from the cross at the people who had scourged him, beaten him, spat upon him, and shouted for him to die. But Jesus knew that his Father's love included them, too. To the Father, we are all his children, created in the image of God. Did they know that Jesus on the cross was the son of God? Dear Lord Jesus, may we graciously forgive those who have insulted us. May we reach out to all who hate us, just as you did on the cross, when you spoke these words "Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing."
2. "Amen, I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise."
Here is the repentant thief, hanging on the cross next to Jesus. He could have said nothing. He could have had the same thoughts that prevailed in the crowds milling about at Golgotha. But the thief knew he had sinned, and he had Faith. He asked Jesus to forgive him, thusly: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." (Lk. 23:42) May we have the presence of mind, when we breathe our last, to ask Jesus to forgive us, and to take us into His Kingdom.
3. "Woman, behold thy son ... Behold thy mother."
Jesus, realizing that the end is near, with the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother, and St. John, standing at the foot of the cross, tells his mother "behold thy son..." In this instance, Jesus gives all of us a legacy, we are His heirs, and Mary is our Mother. That is why we love Mary so much. And Jesus told the Son, the disciple, in other words, you and I - that now we have a Mother, Mary. And we ask Mary, who is closest to her Son in Heaven, to intercede with Him on our behalf. Mary, Our Mother, Queen of All. So, we are no longer orphans... we have a Heavenly family of which we all are a part.
4. "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"
Jesus feels this emptiness, this loneliness, as he is waiting to die. He feels unloved, forgotten, hated, defiled. Dear Jesus, never allow us to be so cut off from your love that we feel forgotten. When we dishonor God through sin, we often feel forsaken, and when we continue not to love Jesus, He will feel forgotten and unloved. The Father has given us great love, indescribable love, when we were created in God's image. He knows each one of us personally. So we are never forsaken or forgotten.
5. "I thirst."
Jesus wasn't really thirsting for water, as much as he was thirsting for our love. When we say "Lord, I love you," let this not be just words, but may our actions, our love for our sisters and brothers, show this love for Him who redeemed us by his Cross.
6. "It is consummated"
It is done. It is over. Jesus finished what he came to the world to accomplish, to redeem us from our sins by his Crucifixion. "Jesus, the Son to whom the Father has given all things, has given himself wholly back to the Father, yet expresses Himself with a sovereign freedom by virtue of the power the Father has given him over all flesh."ˡ
7. "Father into thy hands I commend my spirit."
Jesus places all that he has into the Hands of God. His Body is buried, to arise from the dead three days later. His Soul ascends directly into Heaven, into the Hands of the Father. We pray that when it is our time to leave this earth, that our soul will also go to Heaven, as in our last breath, we say, Lord it is finished, I am now yours all the way.
(ˡ) Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed., 2749
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Term expires: 2/10/2022
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
Jack Reddy, OFS
Donna Haro, OFS
Joanne Giordano, OFS
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Five Franciscan Martyrs