Good Friday is always an intense day at the Catholic Church of Divine Mercy, Lekki. It starts with the Tenabrae at 9am and the Seven Last Words of Jesus and then we go through the Stations of the Cross, the Divine Mercy Prayer and then the Passion Mass which ends with the veneration of the Crucifix. This year, the Assistant Father had advised us during the Holy Thursday sermon that we should pay keen attention to the events of the Tridum as it showed the last will and actions of a dying man – Jesus’ Testament.
I choose to focus on the 4th, 5th and the 6th last words of Jesus because they are what struck me in a different way this year but for those who are not aware of the 7 last words, I will list them below. Perhaps, in your own quiet time of reflection, these words may touch you in a deeper way allowing you to enter into the passion of Christ.
- “Father forgive them; they know not what they do.”
- “Amen I say to you: This day you will be with me in paradise.”
- “Woman, there is your son…There is your mother.”
- “My God, my God, why you have you foresaken me?”
- ” I thirst”
- “It is finished”
- “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.”
4TH LAST WORD
I have great difficulty watching the Mel Gibson adaptation of the Passion of Christ. I actually experience an indescribable pain during the scene of the scourging and crucifixion. When I heard the words of Jesus crying out to God the Father, I tried to place myself in the anguish he felt. It dawned on me that this moment was the FIRST TIME EVER that Jesus had been separated from God; that he had been separated from His loving father since the creation of time.
Why was Jesus separated? Because of sin. God had laid the iniquity and chastisement of us all since time began upon His only beloved son; ALL OUR iniquity. God the Father cannot dwell in a place of sin. as Habakkuk 1:13 reminds us that His “eyes are too pure to behold evil and thou canst not look on iniquity.” We are reminded again in Isaiah 59:2 that “It is your sins, rather that separate you from God. It is your iniquities that veil His face so that he does not hear you.” Indeed Galatians 3:13 echoes the words in Deuteronomy 21:23 that “cursed is he who hangs on a tree.” Jesus became cursed for our sake when he carried the wood of the cross and was hung on a tree.
The priest guiding us through the meditation on these words, stated that we owe a debt we cannot pay and Jesus paid a debt he did not owe. Jesus must have felt this anguish because for the first time he experienced sin which separated him from the presence of God. I can imagine the anguish of God the Father who was also separated from His son for the first time. As a mother, I cannot even try to imagine the sacrifice God made for us; giving up His only beloved son and knowing that he would be unable to render any assistance whatsoever or be anywhere near Him during His dying hours when he needed Him most.
It is interesting to note that even nature hid its face from Jesus during noon and 3pm when Jesus died. This total blackness of the sun is supported by several historical accounts which recorded the strange phenomenon which took place when Jesus bore our sins and the heavens were closed to Him; when God had foresaken His only child for our sake. During these 3 hours, nature itself knew that Jesus who was true man born without sin was MADE SIN and it could not help itself but cover the heavens to this tragedy.
“My God, my God, why have you foresaken me?” God the Father, thank you for allowing your son to bear the torture and weight of our sins. Thank you for allowing Jesus to be foresaken so that we in turn, would never be. Today and now, I recommit myself to you and give you my all. Strengthen me so that I will never foresake you or cause you again to foresake the ones whom you love in Jesus name, I pray. Amen.
5TH LAST WORD
“I thirst.” It struck me that Jesus who created the waters and vegetation in Genesis 1 was powerless. As he hung on the cross, the creator was subject to the things he created. He needed water which he created to survive but instead was given sour wine. This was the same man as the Fountain of Life who spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well. He was the provider of the Living Water as he said in John 4:14 “those who drink of the water that I shall give, will never be thirsty; for the water that I shall give will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” It was this same person who now beckoned for water after loosing so much water through the gallons of blood shed and the sweat lost for our sake.
When I meditated upon these words, I was drawn to the mantra of Saint Theresa of Calcutta who has these words inscribed in all her missions. It serves as a reminder to us all of Jesus’ thirst for souls; his thirst for us to show love to others and draw nearer to Him. Indeed, when we fail to satisfy this spiritual thirst of Jesus, then we are just as bad as the soldier who gave him wine vinegar. No, dare I say that we are worse than the soldier who gave Jesus wine vinegar because of the torture and agony which we know Jesus had to undergo for our sake. The soldier was ignorant but we are not. We know what we are called to do to quench Jesus’ thirst. How do we satisfy Jesus’ thirst or do we simply keep on drinking from the Living Water without feeling the need to do as the Samaritan woman did when she brought others to Jesus?
Lord Jesus, please give me the grace to always remember and never relent to quench your thirst. May I take heed to your dying words and quench your thirst for love to abound in Jesus name. Amen.
6TH LAST WORD
“It is finished.” 3 simple words ends it all. 3 simple words brings God’s plan mapped out lovingly from when Adam and Eve rebelled, to its fulfillment. Whenever I meditate upon these words, greater insight is revealed. My most recent rhema is the understanding on what the “it” is. What exactly is finished? One thing that I am sure of, is what is NOT FINISHED. This always brings me to a head-on with my non-Catholic brethren who are not so keen to accept the way of the Cross.
Suffering is not finished.
We are to take up Jesus’ cross and follow him. What is finished is our separation from God. What is finished, is the process to restore us as sons and daughters of God. What is finished is Jesus’ fulfillment of his mission to restore us to our dominion over all things. What is finished is the fulfillment of every facet of the law and prophets through Jesus’ death. These are indeed what is finished and we are to arm up and embrace ourselves for the journey ahead which is not devoid of the cross or suffering.
We must constantly keep Jesus’ suffering in mind and seek to alleviate the pain He still endures by those who still crucify Jesus everyday and give Him wine vinegar. We must be prepared to share in His suffering and drink His cup to bring His Kingdom forth. We must be prepared to die to self.
Lord Jesus, we thank you for fulfilling God’s plan to restore us to our dominion and affinity with the Trium God. We thank you for re-opening the gateway to heaven and ask that you empower us to walk with you in your constant thirst for the salvation of souls in Jesus name we pray. Amen.