Lent is a time of solemn contemplation of the Passion of Christ. We may choose to meditate, contemplate, or pray on His suffering for us. One way in which me might do this is through devotion to His Seven Last Words—the seven final phrases uttered by Christ as recounted in the Gospels. These Seven Last Words of the Passion of Christ are understood only in light of the true one Word of Life and Resurrection—the phrases uttered by Jesus before His death take on new life and new meaning following the glory of His resurrection. We sit with the pain and loss of crucifixion during Lent, but look forward to the brightness of new life on Easter.
The Seven Last Words
1. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) (link)
2. “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) (link)
3. “Woman, Behold your Son. Behold your mother.” (John 19:26-27)
4. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15:34)
5. “ I thirst.” (John 19:29)
6. “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
7. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
“Woman, Behold your Son. Behold your mother.” (John 19:26-27)
And Mary, His mother, and now our mother, must do the same. The center of her life, her purpose for living, her reason for being, the meaning and core of her existence, has been taken from her in this brutal and ultimate act of sacrifice. She stands broken beneath the cross, a mirror of the brokenness of her Son.
And we must do the same, placing ourselves with John and Mary, standing with them beneath the cross on which hangs our Lord and Savior. We must empty ourselves, as He emptied Himself. We must sever the ties that bind us, as He did. We must feel the loss, the sorrow, the emptiness that His death leaves in our hearts.
25Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," 27and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19: 25-27)
Jesus hasn’t limited His family to those at the foot of the cross at the moment of death. He has extended an invitation to all the people of the world, just as he extended the “good thief” an invitation to paradise. At a time when society-- even the Church-- is split by politics, by judgment of individuals and whole groups of people, by prejudice and ostracism, Jesus’ declaration of a new family is more important than ever. It is a new receptacle of His love, love between brothers and sisters in the faith. It is healing. It is redemptive. It is the rebirth of a people, there beneath the cross.
“The reality brought about by Jesus' words, that is, Mary's new motherhood in relation to the disciple, is a further sign of the great love that led Jesus to offer his life for all people. On Calvary this love is shown in the gift of a mother, his mother, who thus becomes our mother too.”
We gain a family. We gain a mother who advocates and intercedes for us with the Lord. And all of this we gain through the blood of the cross, the blood that flows through each of us, the blood that we are reminded of during the Eucharist. United by the blood of Christ, one with Him and with each other, we dare hope, we dare pray, we dare look to the Resurrection.