On the hill at Calvary, from his crucifixion to the moment of his death, Jesus spoke seven different times. These “Seven Last Words,” as they are called, are rich in meaning for us. Here are a few points for meditation on Jesus’ suffering and death as we contemplate the various sufferings we experience in our own lives.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24)
Jesus, as he is being crucified, forgives those who rejected him, sentenced him, tortured him and carried out his execution.
• Do I love even my enemies and bless my persecutors as Jesus instructed me?
• Do I pray that God will forgive those who reject me and hurt me?
• Am I able truly to forgive them within my heart?
“Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
Hanging on the cross, one of the thieves crucified with Jesus admits his guilt for his crime and recognizes Jesus’ innocence. He asks Jesus to remember him when he enters his Kingdom. Jesus promises him Paradise.
• Do I understand eternal life as the ultimate goal of my earthly life?
• Do I know that Christ is the one who shows us the way to eternal life, and so follow him and strive to keep his commandments through the teachings of his Church?
• Do I confess my sinfulness in the sacrament of penance, when it is available, so that he might absolve me of my sins? When penance is not available, do I regularly make an Act of Contrition?
“Woman, behold your son … Behold, your mother.” (John 19:26-27)
Seeing his mother and the apostle John at the foot of his cross, Jesus entrusts them to each other. Symbolically, he makes her our Blessed Mother, the mother of the Church.
• Do I turn to Mary, the mother of God, in prayer and see her as a model of virtue and obedience to God’s will?
• Do I understand that baptism, which makes me a child of God, unites me to all the faithful as one family of God?
• Do I strive to be a truly “faithful disciple” as modeled by the apostle John, “the one Jesus loved”?
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46, Mark 15:34)
Jesus, feeling every bit of human pain and suffering, cries out his sense of abandonment.
• Have I ever felt abandoned, as though God was absent or not hearing my prayers?
• Do I know in my heart, even in these times, that God is indeed with me and sustaining me through my suffering?
• As Jesus does on the cross, do I continue to turn to God during these trials of my life?
“I thirst.” (John 19:28)
As his final moments approach, Jesus asks for something to drink.
• Jesus’ thirst was another sign of his human need. Do I see Jesus in those around me who suffer hunger, thirst, homeless, sickness or other deprivations?
• Do I “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” as Jesus described in the Beatitudes?
• Do I perform works of mercy for those who suffer physically or spiritually?
“It is finished.” (John 19:30)
With his earthly mission accomplished, having sacrificed his very self for the sins of humanity, Jesus acknowledges the end is near.
• Do I stay focused on my true vocation — as a child of God and in the state of life to which God called me?
• Do I practice careful and humble discernment throughout my life so that I stay true to the sacred purpose that God has for my life?
• What unfinished business do I have ahead of me that I must accomplish as a faithful disciple of Christ before my time on earth comes to an end?
“Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit!” (Luke 23:46)
With his last breath, Jesus places himself completely in the hands of his loving Father.
• Do I keep myself in a state of grace, so that I am always prepared for the possibility of death?
• Do I avail myself of the sacraments of the Church and maintain a committed life of daily prayer so that I am ready to meet God?
• If I were to die today, right now, am I ready to commend my spirit to the hands of our heavenly Father?