As a newbie, I did not realize that a reflection of the seven last words of Jesus (really the seven last phrases or utterances) is a part of Good Friday tradition, as we don’t have that at our parish. But what a wonderful way to remember Jesus and to contemplate the Passion.
So much is focused around Jesus’ physical suffering during the Crucifixion, which is of course important to understand and honor, but I think it’s important to also contemplate what Jesus was trying to tell us in those last moments.
Best-selling author Fr. James Martin, S.J., author of “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything” and “The Abbey: A Story of Discovery” (which I reviewed in a previous post), has put together his thoughts on these seven last things in the new book “Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship with Jesus” (Harper One, 2016).
The seven last utterances are:
- “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they are doing.”
- “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
- “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
- “Woman, here is your son… Here is your mother.”
- “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
- “I thirst.”
- “It is finished.”
There are many different ways to interpret these phrases, which are found in the different Gospel accounts, and truly you could spend a lifetime just meditating on these alone. Mother Teresa, for example, centered almost her entire life’s work around “I thirst” in an effort to help quench Jesus’ thirst for souls.
Fr. Martin takes them and applies them to our day-to-day life, helping us to relate to the human Jesus, who experienced pain and suffering — both mental and physical — just as we do. While some of his commentary I disagree with, especially as it relates to Mary (see my previous post on Mary: Unimportant Woman or Faith Perfected?), and “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (which I believe refers to Psalm 22, actually offering hope instead of despair), we can each draw our own conclusions and thoughts with guidance, of course, from Holy Mother Church. The book I recommended that every Catholic read, “New Testament Basics for Catholics,” also does a good job considering some of these utterances.
So spend a few moments this week on each of these phrases and ask the Holy Spirit for the grace to see what He is trying to reveal to you personally about each one.
Have a blessed Holy Week!