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Pope Francis

PHOTO / ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP / ALBERTO PIZZOLI

 

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis urged the world in his Easter message on Sunday to use the “weapons of love” to combat the evil of “blind and brutal violence”, following the attacks in Brussels.

After a week of sombre religious events commemorating Jesus’ death, Francis said an Easter Sunday Mass under tight security for tens of thousands of people in a sun-drenched St. Peter’s Square.

Afterwards, in his traditional, twice-yearly “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message, he spoke of violence, injustice and threats to peace in many parts of the world.

“May he (the risen Jesus) draw us closer on this Easter feast to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence which continues to shed blood in different parts of the world,” he said, speaking from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.

He mentioned recent attacks in Belgium, where at least 31 people were killed by Islamist militants, as well as those in Turkey, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and Iraq.

“With the weapons of love, God has defeated selfishness and death,” the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholic said from the same balcony from where he first appeared to the world on the night of his election on March 13, 2013.

The 79-year-old Argentine pontiff urged people to channel the hope of Easter in order to defeat “the evil that seems to have the upper hand in the life of so many people”.

The pope condemned the Brussels attacks several times during the past week, including at a Good Friday service where he said followers of religions who carried out acts of fundamentalism or terrorism were profaning God’s name..

The former king and queen of Belgium, Albert II and Paola, who is Italian, attended the Mass and the pope greeted them afterwards.

In other parts of his address, Francis expressed the hope that recent talks could resolve the conflict in Syria in order to end the “sad wake of destruction, death, contempt for humanitarian law and the breakdown of civil concord”.

He urged Europe “not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees – including many children – fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice.”

The European Union and Turkey have agreed to stop the flow of migrants to Europe in return for political and financial concessions for Ankara. Turkey and The Aegean islands have been the main route for migrants and refugees pouring into Europe in the past year.

Francis called for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, and resolutions to conflicts and political tensions in Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Burundi, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and Ukraine.

Security was very tight around the square, which was bedecked with more than 35,000 flowers and plants donated by the Netherlands.

Police checked people several times at various points along the approach the square and subjected those with entry tickets to body and bag searches even before they passed through metal detectors. Security sources said police reinforcements had arrived in Rome from other Italian cities.

Islamic State militants have made threats against Catholic targets in Rome. Last year, a website used by militants ran a photo montage showing the movement’s black flag flying from the obelisk at the centre of St Peter’s Square.

 

This handout picture released by the Vatican press office shows Pope Francis waving to the crowd from the central loggia of St Peters' basilica during the "Urbi et Orbi" blessing for Rome and the world following the Easter Sunday mass on March 27, 2016 at St Peter's square in Vatican. Christians around the world are marking the Holy Week, commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, leading up to his resurrection on Easter.      AFP PHOTO / OSSERVATORE ROMANO/HO  RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / OSSERVATORE ROMANO" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS / AFP / OSSERVATORE ROMANO / HO

 

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good-friday-austriaGospel Reading: John 19:17-30  ( for fuller passage see: John 18:1-19:42)”So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha.  There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.  Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews’.  Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.  The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, The King of the Jews’, but, ‘This man said, I am King  of the Jews’.  Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written’.

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also his tunic.  But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; so they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be’.  this was to fulfill the scripture. “They parted my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots”.  So the soldiers did this.

But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’  Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’  And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.  After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), ‘I thirst’.  A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth.  When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished’; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit”

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 52:13-53:12

53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;  and as one from whom men hide their faces  he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;  yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities;  upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way;  and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth;  like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief;  when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days;  the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand; 11 he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous;  and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;  because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors;  yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:3-12)

Meditation: The cross brings us face to face with Jesus’ suffering. He was alone – all his disciples had deserted him except for his mother and three women along with John, the beloved disciple. And his death was agonizing and humiliating. Normally a crucified man could last for several days on a cross. Jesus’ had already been scourged, beaten with rods, and a crown of thorns pressed into his skull. It is no wonder that he died mid-afternoon. Pilate publicly heralded Jesus “The King of the Jews” as he died upon the cross, no doubt to irritate and annoy the chief priests and Pharisees.

Jesus was crucified for his claim to be King. The Jews had understood that the Messiah would come as their king to establish God’s reign for them. They wanted a king who would free them from tyranny and foreign domination. Many had high hopes that Jesus would be the Messianic king. Little did they understand what kind of kingship Jesus claimed to have. Jesus came to conquer hearts and souls for an imperishable kingdom, rather than to conquer perishable lands and entitlements.

We can find no greater proof of God’s love for us than the willing sacrifice of his Son on the cross. Jesus’ parting words, “It is finished!” express triumph rather than defeat. Jesus bowed his head and gave up his spirit knowing that the strife was now over and the battle was won. Even on the cross Jesus knew the joy of victory. What the Father sent him into the world to do has now been accomplished. Christ offered himself without blemish to God and he put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (see Hebrews 9:24-26).

Augustine of Hippo (430-543 A.D) comments on those who stood at the cross of Jesus:

“As they were looking on, so we too gaze on his wounds as he hangs. We see his blood as he dies. We see the price offered by the redeemer, touch the scars of his resurrection.  He bows his head, as if to kiss you.  His heart is made bare open, as it were, in love to you. His arms are extended that he may embrace you. His whole body is displayed for your redemption. Ponder how great these things are. Let all this be rightly weighed in your mind: as he was once fixed to the cross in every part of his body for you, so he may now be fixed in every part of your soul.” (GMI 248)

In the cross of Christ we see the triumph of Jesus over his enemies – sin, Satan, and death. Christian writers down through the centuries have sung the praises of the Cross of Christ. Paul the Apostle exclaimed, “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).

Hear what Gregory Nazianzen (329-389 AD), an early church father and bishop of Constantinople, wrote about the triumph of Christ’s exaltation on the cross :

“Many indeed are the wondrous happenings of that time: God hanging from a cross, the sun made dark and again flaming out; for it was fitting that creation should mourn with its creator. The temple veil rent, blood and water flowing from his side: the one as from a man, the other as from what was above man; the earth shaken, the rocks shattered because of the rock; the dead risen to bear witness to the final and universal resurrection of the dead. The happenings at the sepulcher and after the sepulcher, who can fittingly recount them? Yet no one of them can be compared to the miracle of my salvation. A few drops of blood renew the whole world, and do for all men what the rennet does for the milk: joining us and binding us together. (On the Holy Pasch, Oration 45.1)

Rupert of Deutz (1075-1129), a Benedictine theologian and abbot, wrote:

“The cross of Christ is the door to heaven, the key to paradise, the downfall of the devil, the uplifting of mankind, the consolation of our imprisonment, the prize for our freedom.”

The Cross of Christ is the safeguard of our faith, the assurance of our hope, and the throne of love. It is also the sign of God’s mercy and the proof of forgiveness. By his cross Jesus Christ has pardoned us and set us free from the tyranny of sin. He paid the price for us when he made atonement for our sins. The way to peace, joy, and righteousness in the kingdom of God and the way to victory over sin and corruption, fear and defeat, despair and death is through the cross of Jesus Christ. Do you follow the Lord Jesus in his way of the cross with joy, hope, and confidence?

“Lord Jesus Christ, by your death on the cross you have won pardon for us and freedom from the tyranny of sin and death. May I live in the joy and freedom of your victory over sin and death.”

Psalm 31:2,6,12-17,24

2 Incline your ear to me, rescue me speedily!  Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!
6 You hate those who pay regard to vain idols; but I trust in the LORD.
12 I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.
13 Yes, I hear the whispering of many — terror on every side! —  as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.
14 But I trust in you, O LORD, I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors!
16 Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love!
17 Let me not be put to shame, O LORD, for I call on you;  let the wicked be put to shame, let them go dumbfounded to Sheol.
24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!

A Daily Quote for Lent: Christ nailed our weakness to the cross, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

“As evening drew near, the Lord yielded up His soul upon the cross in the certainty of receiving it back again. It was not wrested from Him against His will. But we too were represented there. Christ had nothing to hang upon the cross except the body He had received from us. And in doing so He nailed our human weakness to the cross.” (excerpt fromCommentary on Psalm 140,5)

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maundythursdayGospel Reading: John 13:1-151 Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. 5 Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded.

6 He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “You are not all clean.”

12 When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one anothers feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 12:1-8,11-14

1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month they shall take every man a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household; 4 and if the household is too small for a lamb, then a man and his neighbor next to his house shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old; you shall take it from the sheep or from the goats; 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs in the evening.

7 Then they shall take some of the blood, and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat them. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste.  It is the LORD’s passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. 14 “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance for ever.

Meditation: Does your love waver when you encounter bitter disappointments and injury from others? As Jesus’ hour of humiliation draws near he reveals to his disciples the supreme humility which shaped the love he had for them. He stoops to perform a menial task reserved for servants – the washing of smelly, dirty feet. In stooping to serve his disciples Jesus knew he would be betrayed by one of them and that the rest would abandon him through disloyalty. Such knowledge could have easily led to bitterness or hatred. Jesus met the injury of betrayal and disloyalty with the greatest humility and supreme love.

Jesus loved his disciples to the very end, even when they failed him and forsook him. The Lord loves each of us unconditionally. His love has power to set us free to serve others with Christ-like compassion and humility. Does the love of Christ rule in your heart, thoughts, intentions and actions?

Saint Augustine of Hippo in his sermon for this day, wrote:

“He had the power of laying down his life; we by contrast cannot choose the length of our lives, and we die even if it is against our will. He, by dying, destroyed death in himself; we are freed from death only in his death. His body did not see corruption; our body will see corruption and only then be clothed through him in incorruption at the end of the world. He needed no help from us in saving us; without him we can do nothing. He gave himself to us as the vine to the branches; apart from him we cannot have life.Finally, even if brothers die for brothers, yet no martyr by shedding his blood brings forgiveness for the sins of his brothers, as Christ brought forgiveness to us. In this he gave us, not an example to imitate but a reason for rejoicing. Inasmuch, then, as they shed their blood for their brothers, the martyrs provided “the same kind of meal” as they had received at the Lord’s table. Let us then love one another as Christ also loved us and gave himself up for us.”

“Lord Jesus, your love conquers all and never fails. Help me to love others freely, with heart-felt compassion , kindness and goodness. Where there is injury, may I sow peace rather than strife.”

Psalm 116:12-13, 16-18

12 What shall I render to the LORD for all his bounty to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
16 O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your handmaid.  You have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.
18 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

A Daily Quote for Lent: Christ chose to be a servant who offered himself for us, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

“Even though the man Christ Jesus, in the form of God together with the Father with whom He is one God, accepts our sacrifice, nonetheless He has chosen in the form of a servant to be the sacrifice rather than accept it. Therefore, He is the priest Himself Who presents the offering, and He Himself is what is offered.” (excerpt from City of God, 10,20)

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Gospel Reading: Matthew 26:14-25

14 Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. 17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, `The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. 20 When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples; 21 and as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. 24 The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Is it I, Master?” He said to him, “You have said so.”

Meditation: Why did Judas betray his Master? Was his treachery motivated by greed, bitter disappointment with Jesus, or hatred because of disillusionment? It may be that Judas never intended for his Master to die. Maybe he thought Jesus was proceeding too slowly and not acting aggressively enough in setting up his messianic kingdom. Perhaps Judas wanted to force Jesus’ hand by compelling him to act. Nonetheless, his tragedy was his refusal to accept Jesus as he was.

Jesus knew beforehand what would befall him. As Jesus ate the passover meal with his twelve apostles he put them under trial and suspicion (one of you will betray me) to teach them to examine themselves rightly, lest they be high-minded and think themselves more strong than they were. We, also must examine ourselves in the light of God’s truth and grace and ask him to strengthen us in faith, hope, and love that we may not fail him or forsake him when we are tempted. Do you pray with confidence in the words Jesus gave us to pray: Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:13)?

Prayer
“God our Father, we are exceedingly frail and indisposed to every virtuous undertaking. Strengthen our weakness, we beseech you.” (Prayer of Thomas a Kempis)

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holyspiritGospel Reading: John 13:21-33,36-38

21 When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus; 24 so Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, “Tell us who it is of whom he speaks.” 25 So lying thus, close to the breast of Jesus, he said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast”; or, that he should give something to the poor.30 So, after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night.

31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified; 32 if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, `Where I am going you cannot come.’ 36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why cannot I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied me three times.

Meditation:
Jesus’ disciples were put to the test. What was the difference between Peter and Judas? Judas deliberately betrayed his Master while Peter, in a moment of weakness, denied him. Judas’ act was calculated. Peter, however, never meant to do what he did. He acted impulsively, out of weakness and cowardice. Jesus knew both the strength of Peter’s loyalty and the weakness of his resolution. He had a habit of speaking with his heart without thinking through the implications of what he was saying.

The Holy Spirit will give us grace and strength in our time of testing. If we have Jesus in our hearts, we will walk in the light of his truth and love. If we turn our backs on him we will stumble and fall in the ways of sin and darkness. Are you ready to follow Jesus in his way of the cross?

Prayer:
“Bestow upon me, O Lord my God, understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you, and a faithfulness that may finally embrace you; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” (Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas)

Taken and Partly Edited from:
http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/mar22.htm

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Gospel Reading: John 12:1-11

1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. 8 The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” 9 When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came, not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus also to death, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. 12 The next day a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.

Meditation:
As Jesus dines, Mary does something which only love can do. She took the most precious thing she had and spent it all on Jesus. Mary’s action was motivated by one thing, and one thing only, namely, her love for Jesus and her gratitude for God’s mercy. In humility she stooped to anoint Jesus’ feet and to dry them with her hair. Her lovely deed shows the extravagance of love – a love that we cannot outmatch.

Why was Judas critical of Mary’s deed? Judas viewed her act as extravagant wastefulness because of greed. A person views things according to what is inside the heart and soul. The greatest temptation we can face will often come in the area of our greatest strength or gifting. Judas used money entrusted to him for wrong and hurtful purposes. He allowed greed and personal gain to corrupt his heart and to warp his view of things. He was critical towards Mary because he imputed unworthy motives. Do you examine your heart correctly when you impute wrong or unworthy motives towards others?

Prayer:
“Give us, Lord, fervor and delight in thinking of you and your grace, your tender compassion towards me. The things we pray for, good Lord, give us grace to labor for: through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Prayer of St. Thomas More)

Taken and Partly Edited from:
http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/mar21.htm

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Christ Jesus died on the Cross to redeem mankind, to save us from our sins because of his love for us. As recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Holy Bible, Jesus Christ was mocked, scorned, and tortured in the praetorium. He carried his cross up the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem to Calvary, was nailed to the Cross and hung between two common criminals, and suffered an indescribable end, recalled by the Church on Good Friday of Holy Week.
One may meditate on the Passion of Christ by reflecting on his Seven Words on the Cross or by a devotion known as the Way of the Cross.
When religious pilgrimages to the Holy Land ended with military occupation of Jerusalem in the Middle Ages, a popular devotion known as the Way of the Cross arose during Lent retracing the Passion, Crucifixion, and Death of Jesus. The fourteen Stations of the Cross are (1) Pilate condemns Jesus to death; (2) Jesus takes up his Cross; (3) He falls the first time; (4) Jesus meets his sorrowful mother Mary; (5) Simon helps carry the cross; (6) Veronica cleans his face; (7) He falls the second time; (8) Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem; (9) He falls the third time; (10) Jesus is stripped of his garments; (11) Jesus is nailed to the cross; (12) Jesus Christ dies on the cross; (13) He is taken down from the cross; (14) Christ is laid in the tomb.

Here are his Seven Words, the last seven expressions of Jesus Christ on the Cross recorded in Scripture. 

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THE FIRST WORD
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”Gospel of Luke 23:34

Jesus is looking down from the cross just after he was crucified between two criminals. He sees the soldiers who have mocked him, scourged him and tortured him, and who have just nailed him to the cross. He probably remembers those who have sentenced him – Caiaphas and the high priests of the Sanhedrin. Pilate realized it was out of envy that they handed him over (Matthew 27:18, Mark 15:10). But is Jesus not also thinking of his Apostles and companions who have deserted him, to Peter who has denied him three times, to the fickle crowd, who only days before praised him on his entrance to Jerusalem, and then days later chose him over Barabbas to be crucified?
Is he also thinking of us, who daily forget him in our lives?
Does he react angrily? No! At the height of his physical suffering, his love prevails and He asks His Father to forgive! Could there ever be greater irony? Jesus asks his Father to forgive, but it is by His very Sacrifice on the Cross that mankind is able to be forgiven!
Right up to his final hours on earth, Jesus preaches forgiveness. He teaches forgiveness in the Lord’s prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12). When asked by Peter, how many times should we forgive someone, Jesus answers seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22). At the Last Supper, Jesus explains his crucifixion to his Apostles when he tells them to drink of the cup: “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:27-28). He forgives the paralytic at Capernaum (Mark 2:5), and the adulteress caught in the act and about to be stoned (John 8:1-11). And even following his Resurrection, his first act is to commission his disciples to forgive: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:22-23).

 

THE SECOND WORD
“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”Gospel of Luke 23:43

Now it is not just the religious leaders or the soldiers that mock Jesus, but even one of the criminals, a downward progression of mockery. But the criminal on the right speaks up for Jesus, explaining the two criminals are receiving their just due, whereas “this man has done nothing wrong.” Then, turning to Jesus, he asks, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). What wonderful faith this repentant sinner has in Jesus – far more than the doubting Thomas, one of his own Apostles. Ignoring his own suffering, Jesus responds with love and mercy in His second word.
The second word again is about forgiveness, this time directed to a sinner. Just as the first word, this Biblical expression is found only in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus shows his Divinity by opening heaven for a repentant sinner – such generosity to a man that only asked to be remembered!
This expression offers us hope for salvation, for if we turn our hearts and prayers to Him, we will also be with Jesus Christ at the end of our lives.

 

THE THIRD WORD
“Jesus said to his mother: “Woman, this is your son.”
Then he said to the disciple: “This is your mother.”
Gospel of John 19:26-27

Jesus and Mary are together again, at the beginning of his ministry in Cana and now at the end of his public ministry at the foot of the Cross. The Lord refers to his mother as woman at the Wedding Feast of Cana (John 2:1-11) and in this passage, recalling the woman in Genesis 3:15, the first Messianic prophecy of the Redeemer, and anticipating the woman clothed with the sun in Revelation 12.
What sorrow must fill Mary’s heart, to see her Son mocked, tortured, and crucified. Once again, a sword pierces Mary’s soul: we are reminded of the prediction of Simeon at the Temple (Luke 2:35) . There are four at the foot of the cross, Mary his Mother, John, the disciple whom he loved, Mary of Cleopas, his mother’s sister, and Mary Magdalene. He addresses his third word to Mary and John, the only eye-witness of the Gospel writers.
But again Jesus rises above the occasion, and his concerns are for the ones that love him. The good son that He is, Jesus is concerned about taking care of his mother. In fact, this passage offers proof that Jesus was the only child of Mary, because if he did have brothers or sisters, they would have provided for her. But Jesus looks to John to care for her.
St. Joseph is noticeably absent. The historic paintings, such as Tondodoni by Michelangelo and The Holy Family by Raphael, suggest Joseph was a considerably older man. St. Joseph had probably died by the time of the crucifixion, or else he would have been the one to take care of Mary. Early Christian traditions and the second-century apocryphal Protoevangelium of James held that Joseph was a widower, and his children by his former wife were the “brothers and sisters of Jesus.”
Another striking phrase indicating Jesus of Nazareth was an only child is Mark 6:3, referring to Jesus: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” Now if James, Joses and Judas and Simon were also natural sons of Mary, Jesus would not have been called the “son of Mary,” but rather “one of the sons of Mary.”

THE FOURTH WORD
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34

This was the only expression of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. Both Gospels related that it was in the ninth hour, after 3 hours of darkness, that Jesus cried out this fourth word. The ninth hour was three o’clock in Judea. After the fourth Word, Mark related with a horrible sense of finality, “And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed his last” (Mark 15:37).
One is struck by the anguished tone of this expression in contrast to the first three words of Jesus. This cry is from the painful heart of the human Jesus who must feel deserted by His Father and the Holy Spirit, not to mention his earthly companions the Apostles. As if to emphasize his loneliness, Mark even has his loved ones “looking from afar,” not close to him as in the Gospel of John. Jesus feels separated from his Father. He is now all alone, and he must face death by himself.
But is not this exactly what happens to all of us when we die? We too are all alone at the time of death! Jesus completely lives the human experience as we do, and by doing so, frees us from the clutches of sin.
His fourth Word is the opening line of Psalm 22, and thus his cry from the Cross recalls the cry of Israel, and of all innocent persons who suffer. Psalm 22 of David makes a striking prophecy of the crucifixion of the Messiah at a time when crucifixion was not known to exist: “They have pierced my hands and my feet, they have numbered all my bones” (22:16-17). The Psalm continues: “They divide my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots” (22:18).
There can not be a more dreadful moment in the history of man as this moment. Jesus who came to save us is crucified, and He realizes the horror of what is happening and what He now is enduring. He is about to be engulfed in the raging sea of sin. Evil triumphs, as Jesus admits: “But this is your hour” (Luke 22:53). But it is only for a moment. The burden of all the sins of humanity for a moment overwhelm the humanity of our Savior.
But does this not have to happen? Does this not have to occur if Jesus is to save us? It is in defeat of his humanity that the Divine plan of His Father will be completed. It is by His death that we are redeemed. “For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as ransom for all” (I Timothy 2:5-6).

 

“He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross,
so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.
By his wounds you have been healed.”
I Peter 2:24
 

THE FIFTH WORD
“I thirst.”Gospel of John 19:28

The fifth word of Jesus is His only human expression of His physical suffering. Jesus is now in shock. The wounds inflicted upon him in the scourging, the crowning with thorns, and the nailing upon the cross are now taking their toll, especially after losing blood on the three-hour walk through the city of Jerusalem to Golgotha on the Way of the Cross. Systematic studies of the Shroud of Turin, as reported by Gerald O’Collins in Interpreting Jesus, indicate the passion of Jesus was far worse than one can imagine. The Shroud has been exhaustively studied by every possible scientific maneuver, and the scientific burden of proof is now on those who do not accept the Shroud as the burial cloth of Jesus.
Jesus thirsts in a spiritual sense as well. He thirsts for love. He thirsts for the love of his Father, who has forsaken him during this dreadful hour when He must fulfill his mission all alone. And he thirsts for the love and salvation of his people, the human race. Jesus practiced what he preached:

 

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Greater love has no man than this,
That he lay down his life for his friends.”
John 15:12-13

 

THE SIXTH WORD
They put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth.
When Jesus had received the wine, he said, 
“It is finished;”
and he bowed his head and handed over the spirit.
Gospel of John 19:29-30

John recalls the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb in Exodus 12 in this passage. Hyssop is a small plant that was used to sprinkle the blood of the Passover Lamb on the doorposts of the Hebrews (Exodus 12:22). John’s Gospel related that it was the Day of Preparation, the day before the actual Passover (Pesach in Hebrew, Pascha in Greek and Latin), that Jesus was sentenced to death (19:14) and sacrificed on the Cross (19:31). John continues in 19:33-34: “But when they came to Jesus and saw he was already dead, they did not break his legs,” recalling the instruction in Exodus 12:46 concerning the Passover Lamb. He died at the ninth hour (three o’clock in the afternoon), about the same time as the Passover lambs were slaughtered in the Temple. Christ became the Paschal or Passover Lamb, as noted by St. Paul: “For Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed” (I Corinthians 5:7). The innocent Lamb was slain for our sins, so that we might be forgiven. It is now a fait accomplit. The sixth word is Jesus’ recognition that his suffering is over and his task is completed. Jesus is obedient to the Father and gives his love for mankind by redeeming us with His death on the Cross.

 

The above painting is meant to capture the moment.
What was the darkest day of mankind became the brightest day for mankind.

And the Gospels as a group captured this paradox. The Synoptic Gospels narrated the horror of the event – the agony in the garden, the abandonment by his Apostles, the trial before the Sanhedrin, the intense mockery and torture heaped upon Jesus, his suffering all alone, the darkness over the land, and his death, starkly portrayed by both Matthew (27:47-51) and Mark (15:33-38).
In contrast, the passion of Jesus in the Gospel of John expresses his Kingship and proves to be His triumphant road to glory. John presents Jesus as directing the action the entire way. The phrase “It is finished” carries a sense of accomplishment. In John, there is no trial before the Sanhedrin, and gone are the repeated mockeries and scourging. But rather, Jesus is introduced at the Roman trial as “Behold your King!” (John 19:14). Jesus is not stumbling or falling as in the Synoptic Gospels, but the way of the Cross is presented with majesty and dignity, for “Jesus went out bearing his own Cross” (John 19:17).
And in John, the inscription at the head of the cross is pointedly written “Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews” (John 19:19). The inscription INRI at the top of the cross is the Latin Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum. The loved ones of Jesus are with Him, and He decisively gives his Mother Mary to the disciple who loved him.
When Jesus died, He “handed over” the Spirit. Jesus remained in control to the end, and it is He who handed over his Spirit. One should not miss the double entendre here, for this may also be interpreted as His death brought forth the Holy Spirit.
The Gospel of John gradually reveals the Holy Spirit. Jesus mentions living water in John 4:10-11 when he meets the Samaritan woman at the well, and during the Feast of Tabernacles refers to living water as the Holy Spirit in 7:37-39. At the Last Supper, Christ announces he would ask the Father to send “another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth” (14:16-17). The word Advocate is also translated as Comforter, Helper, Paraclete, or Counselor. “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (14:26). The symbolism of water for the Holy Spirit becomes more evident in John 19:34: “But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water.” The piercing of his side fulfills the prophecy in Zechariah 12:10: “They will look on me whom they have pierced.” The piercing of Jesus’ side prefigures the Sacraments of Eucharist (blood) and Baptism (water), as well as the beginning of the Church.

 

THE SEVENTH WORD
Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
Gospel of Luke 23:46

The seventh word of Jesus is from the Gospel of Luke, and is directed to the Father in heaven, just before He dies. Jesus recalls Psalm 31:5 – “Into thy hands I commend my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.” Luke repeatedly pleads Jesus’ innocence: with Pilate (Luke 23:4, 14-15, 22), through Dismas (by legend), the criminal (Luke 23:41), and immediately after His death with the centurion” “Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent” (Luke 23:47).
Jesus was obedient to His Father to the end, and his final word before his death on the Cross was a prayer to His Father.
The relationship of Jesus to the Father is revealed in the Gospel of John, for He remarked, “The Father and I are one” (10:30), and again, at the Last Supper: “Do you not believe I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works” (14:10). And He can return: “I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (16:28). Jesus fulfills His own mission and that of His Father on the Cross:

 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
So that everyone who believes in him
may not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

REFERENCES
1 The Revised Standard Version of The Holy Bible. Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2005.
2 Bishop Fulton J Sheen. The Seven Last Words – The Message from the Cross. Garden City Books, Garden City, New York, 1952.
3 Pope John Paul II. The Gospel of Life – the encyclical Evangelium Vitae, Times Books, New York, March 25, 1995.
4 Ignace De La Potterie. The Hour of Jesus: The Passion and the Resurrection of Jesus. Alba House, Staten Island, New York, 1989.
5 St. Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, Third Part – The Passion of Christ. Translation by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province, 1920. Christian Classics, Allen, Texas.
6 St. Alphonsus Liguori. The Way of the Holy Cross. Mother of Our Savior Publishing, Pekin, Indiana, 2007.
7 O’Collins, Gerald. Interpreting Jesus. Geoffrey Chapman, London, and Paulist Press, Mahwah, New Jersey, 1983. 

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