They serve as an excellent Holy Week meditation, focusing on one word a day, or for a longer meditation on Good Friday. The sayings would have been originally spoken by Jesus in the Aramaic language, but only one of the last seven words of Jesus is preserved for us in the original Aramaic, “Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani” or “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” This is actually a direct quote of the opening verse of Psalm 22. The rest of the seven last words of Jesus are found in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) after having been translated into Greek by the four Evangelist.
The following reflection excerpts are taken from Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s book, The Last Seven Words. Words in italics are my own reflection questions.
The Seven Last Words of Christ
1. “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
His executioners expected Him to cry and curse like all those who had been crucified before Him. Instead, He cried out for the Father to forgive those who were executing and mocking Him (soldiers, Pilate, Herod, etc.).
How do I react towards others when they mistreat me? Do I cry out? Do I forgive? Do I pray for them?
2. Woman, behold your son.” … “Behold, your mother” (Jn 19:26-27)
‘Thy son’ is John, who represents us (the Church). “Woman!” is the 2nd Annunciation; “behold thy son” is the 2nd Nativity. We are born of Mary in the 2nd Nativity of the spirit; Christ is born in the 1st Nativity of the flesh.
What is my relationship with Mary? Do I act as though she is my own mother? Do I ask Mary to intercede for me her Son?
3. “Amen, I say to you, Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43)
“No one before (the thief on the right of Christ) was ever the object of such a promise, not even Moses, nor John, not even Magdalene nor Mary!”
Like the thief, do I seek forgiveness from Christ? Do I allow Him to forgive my sins? Do I trust in Jesus’ word that I will be with Him one day in Paradise?
4. “Eli Eli, lema sabachthani?” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34)
While He is still in union with the Father, Christ brings atonement to all those who have abandoned God, doubt God’s presence in their lives, or are indifferent towards God.
When are the times in my life when I have felt God has forsaken me? Do I question God’s decisions to allow me to suffer?
3.” I thirst” (Jn 19:28)
Not said to anyone there at Calvary, or even to God. He says to all mankind, “I thirst…for love!”
Do I thirst for things of the world? Do I thirst to be with God? Do I thirst for God’s love? Do I thirst for holiness?
6. “It is finished” (Jn 19:30)
Christ triumphantly says this, like an artist who puts the finishing touches on a masterpiece. His work of Redemption is finished, but not complete (see Col 1:24). As the Mystical Body of Christ, we complete Christ’s work of Redemption (by taking up our own Cross).
Do I accept the crosses in my life? Do I live my life so that when I die, I can say with confidence that my work for God “is finished”?
7. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (L 23:46)
Like the Prodigal Son who returns to his father’s house, Christ is on the road back to His Father’s House after spending His divine riches of power and wisdom on all humanity for 33 years.
Do I have faithful confidence in God’s Divine Providence and timing in my life? Do I give myself fully to God, dying to myself and offering the whole of who I am- body and spirit?
“There was never a preacher like the dying Christ. There was never a congregation like that which gathered about the pulpit of the Cross. There was never a sermon like the Seven Last Words.” – Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen from The Seven Last Words