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THE SEVEN LAST WORDS OF JESUS

In this series, we meditate on the 'Seven Last Words' of Jesus. Earlier we unpacked the Lord's words: 'Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing' and 'Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise'.

Here we explore another three: 'Woman behold thy Son, Son behold your Mother'; 'My God, my God why have you forsaken me?' and 'I thirst'.


‘WOMAN BEHOLD THY SON; SON BEHOLD THY MOTHER’



‘Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold thy son’. Then to the disciple he said: ‘Behold your mother’. And from that hour the disciple took her into his home’ (John 19:25-27).


When a person receives the terrible news that they are terminally ill, one of their first priorities is to make arrangements so that those they love and are about to leave behind, are cared for. It is a wonderful witness to love: thinking about others and not themselves. Here with Jesus, we see the same love that he shows so poignantly when he looks down from the cross and seeing his mother and the disciple he loved, entrusts one to the other’s care. Throughout his Gospel, St John consistently refers to the ‘beloved disciple’ who is present at the most significant moments of Jesus’ life. He or she is not given a name but merely called ‘the beloved disciple’. Some scholars of Scripture believe that this person

is John himself. However, the majority believe that ‘the beloved disciple’ is none other than you and me or anyone who reads the Gospel and who takes Jesus’ word to heart. If this is true then it is you and I that Jesus entrusts to Mary’s care and it is she who is entrusted to our love too.

If we are entrusted to Mary’s care then she becomes our mother as Jesus asked her to be: ‘Woman behold your son or daughter’. What this means is that each of us have a special place in Mary’s heart. She knows each one of us by name and loves us like only a mother can. For Mary, we were entrusted to her by her Son Jesus so therefore nothing is more important to her than helping us know and love her Son as she came to know and love him with her whole heart. She teaches us how to know him, how to trust him and gently tells us every day: ‘Do whatever he tells you’.

She is also entrusted to our care. She is Jesus’ dying gift to us. The Gospel text tells us that when the Lord said to the beloved disciple: ‘Son behold your mother’, the disciple took Mary into his home. In Biblical times, this was a huge act of trust as Mary would have been considered one of his family from that moment. But that is who Mary is for us: she is one of our family. Taking her into our home is a way of saying that she becomes part of our inner lives, daily lives and is taken into our hearts. Along the path of life, she urges us to persevere in faith as she did and to never lose sight of the promises that God has made to us: ‘Blessed is she who believed that the promises made to her by the Lord would be fulfilled’ (Luke 1:45). From the moment she said ‘yes’ to the angel at the Annunciation, we are told that the angel left her. From then on, the light and clarity of that apparition left her and she was left to trust God as she followed her Son on his way to the cross. As our companion in following her Son Jesus, she urges us not to lose faith but to trust as she did and to rejoice with her in God our Savior.


Lord Jesus, we thank you for the gift of your mother as you died. Give us the grace to welcome her into our lives and our hearts. May we always turn to her as a mother and friend. With her help, may each of us know you better and learn how to love you more. Amen.


‘O GOD MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?’



‘When the sixth hour came there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani’ which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Mark 15: 33-34).


Jesus is now entering his final agony. Bruised, scourged, his hands and feet ripped through with nails and fastened to a cross: the physical pain must have been beyond what anyone could bear. And yet, these words of the Lord that he cried out in agony are not words of physical pain but of mental anguish. Jesus, as he hung on the cross, was lonely. He felt abandoned by God who had been the rock of his whole life. Now, there was darkness and fear as silence reigned when the prayers of his heart received no answer. Then, in solidarity with all of those who would know such torment, Jesus cried out in the words of the Psalm ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Here is the prayer that conveys the depths of sadness, the anguish of the soul of Christ- forsaken, forgotten even by God himself. But what kind of Savior could Jesus be if he had never gone through this pain? How could he then have spoken to those who know what it is like to feel abandoned by God? God did not come to bring an end to suffering nor to explain it. He came to fill it with his presence. In his love, Jesus endured all this suffering in order to reach the lost and most abandoned so that he might offer them the same hope that led him to Easter Sunday that seemed an eternity away from this dark moment.

Also for us, when all is darkness and emptiness and God seems far away, we must not despair because no matter how far we travel down the road of intense suffering, we will find him there with us and before us: Jesus Christ, crucified and forsaken who seeks only our trusting in him, even when that trust is hard to give. But give it, and the emptiness will be filled, inner wounds healed and peace achieved.


Lord Jesus Christ, because of your agony on the cross, I believe that you understand all my troubles and sorrows. I believe that even in my darkest hour, you are there with me even if I cannot feel your presence. By your passion on the cross you entered into the heart of darkness, evil and sin. By your resurrection, your transformed the darkness into light, evil into mercy and sin into grace and blessing. Come Lord Jesus into my heart and shine your light; come into our Church and come into our world. Be with all those in agony of

mind or body and help them to hope beyond their pain and so reach your infinite love. Amen.


‘I THIRST’


‘After this, Jesus knew that everything had now been completed and, so that the Scripture should be completely filled, he said: ‘I thirst’. A jar full of sour wine stood there; so putting a sponge soaked with the wine on a hyssop stick, they held it to his mouth (John 19:28-29).


He had endured so much: the agonising pain of hanging, held only by hands and feet, his body stretched and racked. He was thirsty, his lips dry, his palette parched after the loss of so much blood and sweat. He longed for a drink. But Jesus had a different thirst, not just for water but for love. The Son of God thirsted for love, our love. He had been betrayed by his friend Judas. He had been rejected by his own, those who had supported him. Betrayal hurts more when the one who betrays has received much from the one he seeks to betray. Betrayal hurts and hurts very much. A few days ago they hailed him with hymns and songs. They welcomed him into Jerusalem with shouts of ‘Hosanna, blessed is the King of David, he who comes in the name of the Lord’. Now, they curse him, reproach him and seem to hate him. Yet he loves them and thirsts for their love. Jesus had a human heart that pined for all of us and still does. That heart of his, revealed a divine thirst, God’s thirst, his thirst for you and for me. God thirsts for human love. Christ, who is not only man but God as well, speaks in human words the realities of God known to us only through words and actions we can understand. When Jesus said ‘I thirst’ he expressed his desire and God’s desire for our love. It is as if God’s thirst for us can only be satisfied by our thirst for him: ‘O God you are my God for you long. For you my soul is thirsting like a dry weary land without water like a dry weary land without water’. We can easily betray or at least lose our way by forgetting or ignoring him who thirsts for us. What shall we give to him who thirsts for us? A sweet cooling drink, we call it love, to quench the thirst of him who first loved us.


Lord Jesus Christ, on the cross you thirsted not just for water but for the gift of our love. With the help of your grace help us to contemplate your humanity and to recognise your thirst for our faith and our love. As we contemplate the beauty of your humanity may you lead us into your divine heart of love that thirsts for our love and affection. With your intimate and personal words from the cross ‘I thirst’, we commend to your care all those who crave to love and be loved but who thirst for what they long for and cannot find.

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