Fr. Roger J. Landry
Espirito Santo Parish, Fall River, MA
March 29, 2002
Is 52:13-53:12; Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9; Jn 18:1-19:42
Jesus mounts his pulpit for the last time. Each word would have cost him tremendously. The hands that once accepted the gifts of the Magi have now been pierced with rude nails. That brow on which divine majesty made its throne is now wearing a crown of piercing thorns. Those infant feet that were once too smal to bear the weight of divine omnipotence are now again unable to walk. But he speaks. He speaks seven times. And he has so much to say. They summarize his whole life. Let’s examine them briefly but carefully, because from that Cross this afternoon, Jesus is speaking to you.
Words From the Cross
1) “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” — First word is not what was expected, a curse, but a plea for forgiveness. Everything is about forgiveness. He was asking for the forgiveness of those who preferred Barabbas to him, who were mocking him, who were hammering him to a tree. Men die either proclaiming their own innocent or condemning judges who sentenced them to death or asking pardon for their sins. Jesus asked no pardon, but gave it.
2) “I tell you, this day you will be with me in paradise” — The thief on the left was mocking Jesus, asking Jesus to save himself and them. Then the good thief spoke up, “Have you no fear of God? You are under the same sentence as he. For us it is just; we are paying the price for our misdeeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he turned to Jesus and said, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.” A dying man asked a dying man for eternal life. A man without anything asked a poor man for a kingdom. A thief at the door of death asked to die like a thief and steal heaven. The first to be assured heaven was not a saint but a thief. It was the thief’s last prayer and perhaps even his first.
3) “Mother, behold your son.… “Behold your mother.” — Mary was there at the foot of the Cross. Saying yes to Eve’s no. She had anticipated his hour getting him to work his first miracle. Now the New Adam would give birth to the New Eve from his side, when he would fall asleep, and Mary would be the Mother of all the living. He called her not “Mom,” but “woman.” No enmity between God and that woman. This is her second annunciation. Jesus’ brothers and sisters are “those who do the will of my heavenly Father.” Jesus truly founded his family by the redemption through his Cross.
4) “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” — It got dark on Calvary. The pain began to mount. The Father allowed Jesus the last suffering, to feel abandoned. He called His Father, “God,” in union with Psalm “Ps. 22:13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled; 17 I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me; 18 they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots. 19 But you, O LORD, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid!” Jesus acted as mediator for all those who have felt forgotten by God, and by his trust until the end showed us the way. Jesus was not despairing, because the soul that despairs never cries to God. He knew God could hear him and he made his own all the sufferings of those throughout the years.
5) “I thirst.” — Jesus thirst to fulfill the Scriptures. As the Psalm 22 says, “My mouth is as dry as potsherd and my tongue sticks to my jaws.” Jesus experienced not just a physical thirst, but a spiritual one. Some people have a passion for money; others for fame. Jesus’ passion was for souls! “Give me to drink” meant “give me thy heart.” The tradegy of divine love for mankind is that in His thirst men gave Him vinegar and gall.
6) “It is accomplished!” “It is finished.” First, what is the “it”? It’s his whole mission and especially his passion which began the night before. And we read that he said it crying it out. It wasn’t the cry of someone dejected, murmuring he’s through. It’s someone who has finished the race, rejoicing that the work he had been given to do is done. Christ has won. He had come to die to save us from our sins and he achieved it. As hard as it was, he had done it. “It is finished.” It is consummated. It is over.
7) “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” — Jesus gave out a loud cry and said these words, trusting to the end in his father. His garments are consigned to his executioners, his blood to the earth, his body to the grave, his mother to John and His soul to His heavenly Father. He entrusted all he had left to his Daddy in heaven. This was the prayer that Jewish young people were taught to pray before they went to bed. It is still the prayer that priests and nuns pray every night in night prayer. It is the prayer of complete trust in God.
Today as we come here, we place ourselves in the trust of God, who took care of Jesus and took him home. We pray that we might die in Christ this afternoon, so that we might share in his resurrection.