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) (link)
4. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15:34) (link)
5. “I thirst.” (John 19:29) (link)
6. “It is finished.” (John 19:30) (link)
7. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
Jesus has been scourged, crowned with thorns, mocked and humiliated. He has carried an unbearably heavy cross up a steep mountain in the blistering heat. He has had his hands and feet nailed to a cross, and has hung upon it for three hours. He has done all of these things willingly, and without complaint. He has done all of these things for us.
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."
44It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23: 44-46)
Jesus died as He lived, in complete obedience to His Father. He died in perfect love and perfect trust in His Father. He died with a prayer on His lips, a prayer for His Father:
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit;
redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth. (Psalm 31:5)
Jesus joyful cry on the cross stands in sharp contrast to our daily lives. He was joyful because His work was done, and He was going home to be with His Father. To rest in Him, as He rests in each one of us. It is in His joy, and at such a cost, that the full measure of Jesus’ trust in His Father’s plan, the full measure of Jesus’ obedience to God’s will becomes perfectly clear. He was going home to rest, as His Father willed it.
We are called to that same rest, eventually in eternity, but in our present lives on earth as well. We are slow to give up our control, to lay down our burdens of anxiety, but that is what the Lord wishes us to do. That is what Father Romanus Cessario declares to be “the only option” for living—the perfect commitment to the will of God. We are reminded of this every time we participate in the Holy Eucharist, when the celebrant raises the transformed body and blood of Jesus Christ high above the alter in an act of surrender. And in the moment, we are called to enact that own surrender in our lives.
For many of us, more difficult words have never been spoken. We wish to remain in control. We forget the gift that obedience to the Lord is—peace, love, rest in Him (and He in us!). As Saint Teresa of Avila said, “ I know the power obedience has of making things easy which seem impossible.”
Prayer of Surrender to the Lord (Saint Ignatius of Loyola)
"Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me. I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more. Amen.