The Seven Last Words of Jesus
FIRST WORD OF JESUS
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Lk 22:33-34)
Forgive them! Forgive those who put me here; forgive those whose jealousy led to the treachery, the mockery, the lies, the show trial, the anguish of the scourging, the unspeakable pain and humiliation of the crowning with thorns; the pain and shame of being beaten up along the way to Calvary. And now, after it all, this is your prayer for those who ill-treated you. “Father, forgive them.”
O heart burning with love for us, how can I thank you for these revealing words of forgiveness. As I look at you, listen to you, Jesus, grace to come close to you in spirit and imitate you, flows from your heart into mine. How difficult it is to forgive when we have been deeply offended. Yet, the injuries, real or exaggerated, will never be healed until we forgive.
O Jesus, who forgave those who betrayed, tortured and put you to death, help us to forgive the small offences we suffer. I place here at the foot of your cross all the injuries, slights or injustices of my whole life and beg you to heal all my bitter and resentful memories. Help me to repeat with you; “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
SECOND WORD OF JESUS
“This day you will be with me in Paradise.” (Lk 23:39-43)
To be crucified with Christ; This was the holy ambition of many saints and martyrs. But there were two men who were crucified on either side of you, O Jesus. They listened to your prayers, you listened to their swearing and cursing, until one of them, struck by your divine patience and nobility, your extraordinary courage and serenity, began to wonder and finally turned to you: “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” In one leap of astounding faith this thief and murderer stole his greatest booty, eternal life. How complete his faith was. How powerful and loving the radiation of the love of Jesus, even at the lowest point of his physical life.
We thank you, Jesus for this last moment of conversation, so encouraging to us. Loving heart of our Good Shepherd, you sought out the lost sheep even on the Cross and bore it up to heaven with you.
Grant us the faith of the thief, that one day we too may hear you say to us: “This day you will be with me in Paradise.”
THIRD WORD OF JESUS
“Mother behold your Son, Son behold your Mother.” (Jn 19:25-27)
Loving Saviour what more can you give us? At the Last Supper you gave us yourself, and now you are giving us your mother.
His dying eyes sought you out, dear Mother. He had a last gift and a last request for you. “Mother behold your Son.” Look after my beloved disciple and in him be a mother to the whole church for the future.
At the marriage feast of Cana, you saw the wine fail, dear mother. “Do whatever he tells you,” you said to the waiters and the wine flowed plentifully. Now, when the wine of his precious blood is being shed to the last drop, he cries out: “Behold your Mother.” Do whatever she tells you. Make her your mother, be a true child to her. John, beloved disciple, and all my children, take Mary for your Mother, let all generations call her blessed.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Mk 15:33-35)
O Jesus, who can ever penetrate the physical agony of your body, racked to the last extremity of human endurance, but, above all, dare we try to enter the sanctuary of your human soul. You have voluntarily allowed your Father to hide his face, you experience only the terrible agony of sin, tearing your soul away from God into some unknown and unfathomable abyss of bitterness. By your own free will you now allowed darkness to invade your soul.
Your heart was pierced by the ingratitude and abandonment of your own, and the sorrow of your holy Mother at seeing your suffering and degradation. Now, God your Father, in whom you constantly rejoiced, seems to have abandoned you. And this cry, so often heard from those who suffer is wrung from you. Why? Why have you, O Father forsaken me?
O Jesus, how this word on your holy lips plunges us into adoration. All we can do is adore. O mystery of the Cross! You descended to this depth for us. Can we do anything but wonder, thank and, above all, adore.
“I Thirst!” (Jn 19:28-29)
It is the last hour on the cross, O Jesus. Your poor head, pierced with thorns, seeks in vain for a resting place. How you suffer from your parched mouth and lips. What pain our salvation has cost you! It is for our souls that you thirst, not alone for water.
You who said come to me all you who thirst and I will refresh you, and who promised living water to the Samaritan woman, you, Divine Redeemer, are now yourself dying of thirst. The medieval English mystic, Julian of Norwich, saw the passion of Jesus in vision. She tells us “I saw in Christ a double thirst, one physical, the other spiritual. I perceived that because of the tenderness of his sweet hands and feet the wounds grew wider as the body sagged by its weight … Whilst the flesh was still bleeding, the continual pressure widened the wounds, piercing and tearing the head; the hair all baked with dried blood and the thorns amidst the flesh. Hard and grievous was that pain. But much harder and more grievous it was when the moisture failed and all his flesh began to dry and shrink … The vision of Christ’s pain overwhelmed me with pain. Of all the pains that lead to our salvation this is the greatest, to see the Lover suffer. How could any pain be greater than to see him who is all my life, all my bliss and all my joy suffer.”
We offer you our love, O Jesus, to assuage your terrible thirst. How this cry: “I thirst!” pierces our hearts through and through. What must it have done to Our Lady and the little group at the foot of the cross. What suffering, not to be able to give you a refreshing drink or wipe away the blood, sweat and dirt from your precious face.
We cannot give you a drink, O loving Saviour, but did you foresee this hour when you said: “Anyone who gives even a drink of water in my name shall receive his reward … and, whatsoever you do to the least of mine, you do to me …” We can really minister to you, Lord, in those needy people we meet in every walk of life. You accept our effort to help as if we were giving you a refreshing drink.
O loving thoughtfulness of our Saviour you do not deprive us of the consolation of tending you in your sufferings. Praise to you, O Christ, our Redeemer!
“It is finished!” (Jn 19:29-30)
At last the long agony is coming to an end. The great work you came to accomplish, O Lord, is finished. The salvation foretold through the ages is complete. You have done your Father’s will, now the darkness is outside you.
Scripture tells us how the day began to change, and though it was but mid-afternoon, the sun darkened; but in the midst of your anguish the peace and joy of your victory over sin and death invaded your soul. You know now that you have accomplished the work your Father gave you to do.
We thank you, Lord. We offer all the pain and desolation of the passion in union with your own offering to your Father. O loving, all adorable Redeemer, bowing down before you we adore … we praise … we thank you.
O Blood of Jesus I worship you, wash me … pardon me the sins of the far off past, the sins of the present, the sins I remember and those I have forgotten.
For the future, with all its temptations, I beg you to share with me the power of your victory. May I never again hurt you by deliberate sin. Jesus, rock of my salvation, all my trust is in you.
“Into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Lk 23:44 – 47)
Now the supreme moment is upon you, O Jesus. You are now about to give back to the Father the one human life which always gave him supreme glory. What a pure, divine offering. Your holy soul with all its aspirations, beauty and love, you are about to return to the Father. What glory to God!
This great sacrifice you have given to us for all time in the Mass. What an act of reparation and adoration you have placed in our hands. Help us to realise all that your sacred passion has achieved and at what cost.
Now we can unite with you, our sacred Victim and High Priest, and make our own the supreme adoration, reparation, thanksgiving and intercession of Calvary. All the graces you won for us on the Cross are there for us in the Mass. Let us remember this as we offer Mass during Lent.
Soul of Christ, sanctify me, Body of Christ, save me, Blood of Christ inebriate me, Water flowing from the side of Christ wash me, Passion of Christ strengthen me, O good Jesus hear me, Within thy wounds hide me, Do not permit me to be separated from thee, From the wicked enemy defend me, At the hour of death call me, And bid me to come to thee, That with the saints and angels I may praise thee forever and ever. Amen