Here in the Philippines the Seven Last Words are celebrated in para-liturgies throughout the country by Catholics and by Protestants, though not together. Here are some reflections on the Seven Last Words by Fr Jun Mercado, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate based in Cotabato City, Mindanao.
Short Meditation on the Seven Last Words
By Fr Jun Mercado, OMI
"Father Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."Jesus experienced abandonment in his moments of trials and difficulties. His own friends abandoned him and fled for safety. One of his chosen ones betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver. His own people disowned him. And they hauled him to a foreign power to be tried and condemned to die. In all his pains and sufferings, he lovingly looked at them and even as he heard their jeering, he said: "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing." When we feel betrayed and abandoned... may we remember Jesus' words...and learn to forgive.
"Today, you will be with me in paradise..." One of the thieves nailed to the cross with Jesus, exclaimed: "Lord, remember me when you enter into your kingdom." And Jesus replied: "Amen I say to you, today, you will be with me in paradise. "We are all sinners... Paradise is NOT a reward of our hard work our strivings. No, we do NOT merit the kingdom of God! Paradise is NOT earned...! It is a GIFT! We pray for that gift... and like the thief at his side, we cry to God: "Lord, remember me... "Yes, God remembers us always... and God remembers us with loving compassion. Likewise, we are invited to remember God always... May God's name and compassion be always in our lips and hearts.
To his mother, Jesus said: "woman, here is your son". And to his disciple: "here is your mother." In his agony, Jesus saw the pain of his mother... he looked at her withlove and entrusted her to his disciple: "woman, here is your son". And to his disciple standing by the cross, Jesus said: "here is yourmother." Tradition has it that Jesus, on his way to Golgotha where he would be crucified, met his mother. There are three important scenes depicted in the traditional Stations of the Cross. The first was the meeting of mother and son on the way to Calvary. Second was the scene where Mary, the women and his beloved disciple were standing at the foot of the cross. And third was the scene when Jesus was taken from the cross and laid on his mother's lap. This last scene had inspired great artists and the most prominent was the great Michelangelo that gave us the famous Pieta. Yes, Mary was always there in the life and work of her son... In this meditation Jesus is speaking to us and gives us his mother... to be our mother, too! He speaks to her mother and tells her... that we, now, are her sons and daughters! And today, Mary - our mother is always there, too, in our life...
"I am thirsty. "Nailed on the cross, Jesus felt thirst... and he cried out: "I am thirsty." This cry of anguish echoes the cry of the poor. In many places in the world - in urban and rural settings, we find the poor who cry out, as well, in their loud voice: "I am thirsty." Often this is a cry of the real physical thirst - no drinking water, no washing water, no toilet facilities. At times, this is a cry of anguish, because they find "no exit" from the "hole" of poverty that is akin to a quicksand that drowns them. At other times, this is a cry that seeks solidarity from people - looking for a helping hand... an extra shirt or a walk of an extra mile! Jesus in his thirst expresses his solidarity with us... it is the thirst that invites us, also, to be in solidarity with our neighbor... But who is our neighbor? Is this not the very question that the doctor of the law asked Jesus in the parable of the Good Samaritan?
Fifth Meditation: "Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabbactani" My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me. "Towards the end, Jesus experienced a near despair! He was abandoned; He was in extreme pain; and He could not understand the tragedy that was unfolding... He cried out to his father: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me..."This cry reminds of the song, Foot Prints in the Sand. It was thesame experience of being abandoned in times of great pain and difficulty... Speaking to Lord, the person asked: "Lord, why have you abandoned me... for I see only a set of foot prints?" The Lord answered, "no my child, when you see only a set of foot prints... those were the times that I carried you in my arms... "God is there... God carries us in his arms... when we, too, see only a set of footprints... they are God's and not ours...!
"Father, into your hand, I commend my spirit..."The end has come and Jesus, totally trusting his Father, cried out: "Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit." There are things we do not understand... The tragedy and grandeur of life, often, escape us. In fact, to understand life... we need to bend our knees... and like Jesus in the cross, we, too, need to completely put our trust in God. When everything is said and done... it is only God's mercy and love that endure... Yes, we need to make that leap of faith... "Father, into thy hand,s I commend my whole life!"
"It is finished."Before breathing his last, Jesus said: "it is finished." Yes, he completed his mission to the last...! He paid the full price for our freedom to become God's sons and daughters. He was the "ransom" for our freedom! Romans 8: 31- 39, beautifully, expresses that new dignity purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ: "What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress,or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, "for thy sake we are being killed all the day long;we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these thingswe are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth,nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."