In Venerable Fulton Sheen’s classic, The Life of Christ, we read, “He had already said that no one would take away his life from Him, but that he would lay it down Himself. Death did not lay its hand on his shoulder and give him a summons to depart. He went out to meet death. In order to show that he would not die from exhaustion, but by an act of the will, his last words were spoken.”
From the pulpit of the Cross, Christ’s seven last words are proclamations of victory over evil and death. We can profess His words as a weapon of victory in our own spiritual battles. His words from the cross carry the weight of Christ’s self-sacrificing love that defeats the pride of Satan. When we experience demonic temptations or oppression, we can prayerfully echo Christ’s words from Calvary with the authority of a baptized soul.
The First Word: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”(Luke 23:34).
In the first lesson from the Cross Christ gives us the weapon of forgiveness. This spiritual weapon overthrows demonic condemnation and hatred. To believe that Christ redeems our fallen nature, and forgives sinners, is to stand with Christ against the ancient Accuser, Liar and Thief. When we forgive those who trespass against us, we are wielding the weapon of forgiveness (fruit of love) and proclaiming Christ’s victory over evil and death. When we humbly receive His mercy into our hearts, we are defeating human and also demonic pride and rebellion by accepting God’s forgiveness.
Dear Lord, graciously help me to live today as a forgiven person, opening my heart to you, choosing not to sin because the power of sin has been broken by your passion, death and resurrection. Graciously help me to accept your forgiveness, and to be able to forgive others also. Then I extend the blessing and break the curse of unforgiveness.
The Second Word: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise”(Luke 23:43).
In the second lesson from the Cross Christ gives us the spiritual weapon of Divine Mercy.
The executioners cruelly subjected Christ to unrelenting mockery. He was scorned also by one of the criminals being crucified beside him. But the other criminal called the Good Thief, spoke up for Jesus and cried, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus responded to this criminal, “I assure you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Here we encounter one of the most encouraging verses in all of Scripture, a perfect example of Christ’s unfathomable mercy for sinners. Mercy triumphs and Satan is defeated.
Lord Jesus, your infinite mercy embraces, encourages and heals me. When I, a sinner, cry out to you, you hear and answer me with patience and kindness. Though my situation is different from the criminal who cried out to you, I am nevertheless quite like him. My life is in your hands and my heart prays always, “Jesus, remember me and have mercy.” Graciously form me into a vessel of your mercy so I can gather souls unto you.
The Third Word: “Woman, behold, your son … Behold your mother”(John 19:26-27).
In the third lesson from the Cross Christ gives us the spiritual weapon of His Mother! The presence of Mary at the foot of the cross adds honor, humanity and horror to the scene. She is the mother of the Crucified One. Now she also needs Jesus to complete the perfect sacrifice for redemption. Jesus, dying on the cross as Savior of the world, is also a Son who does not neglect His Mother. He turns to John and entrusts Mary to him. He turns to Mary and entrusts John to her. Could this be the first example of Marian consecration? The yes of Jesus and the yes of His Mother defeat Satan who refused to serve and attempted to thwart God’s plan. When we behold our Heavenly Mother, and consecrate ourselves to Mary, we also are God’s weapons against evil.
Lord Jesus, the presence of your Blessed Mother at the Cross engages my heart. You are the Savior of the world but you are also a Son with a beloved Mother. You entrusted her to John, to the Church, to be the Mother of humanity. You tell us to behold Mary so she can behold us too. Lord, please unite me to Mary in a covenant of consecration so that she will accompany me on my journey to the Father. On the way, she will crush the head of the ancient serpent and banish legions according to your divine will.
The Fourth Word: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”(Mark 15:34)
In the fourth lesson from the Cross Christ gives us the weapon of prayer. As Jesus was dying on the cross, He echoed the beginning of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help?” (Psalm 22:1). In the midst of His agonizing death, Jesus, prayed to the Father because He is the God-Man who prays always. This fourth word from the Cross is not so much a question, as it is a prayer from His pierced heart. Whenever we pray, we are turning to God and away from the evil one and his wiles. The prayer of a trusting heart is not only part of the armor of God, it is the holy oil that keeps the armor from corruption.
O Lord Jesus, forgive me for the times that I have abandoned you by deafening my ears, closing my eyes, turning my back, and distracting my self from your call to prayer. Help me to be a person who loves to commune with you in prayer. Grant me to cry out from the depths of my heart in prayer of praise, gratitude, reparation, intercession, and petition. When the evil one tempts me to sin or sends oppressive darts of discouragement, please help me to pray and trust more.
The Fifth Word: “I thirst.”(John 19:28)
In the fifth lesson from the cross Christ gives us the spiritual weapon of thirst for living water. John notes that Jesus said, “I thirst,” not only as a statement of physical reality, but also to fulfill the Scripture. Psalm 69 includes this passage, “Their insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair. If only one person would show some pity, if only one would turn and comfort me. But instead, they give me poison for food; they offer me sour wine for my thirst. We thirst also for the living water that Jesus supplies (John 4:10; 7:38-39). Baptism plunges us into the life of the Trinity so Satan has no more claims on us. When we thirst for God, we abide near streams of living water and avoid the parched wastelands of demonic fire. Then we can be attentive to the Lord’s thirst.
Dear Lord, I hear the cry of your Sacred Heart of love in the words, “I thirst”. I hear the cry of my own heart also. Please allow me to give you a drink from the stream of my love. I thirst also for the new wine of your kingdom where living water flows in abundance. May our mutual thirst keep us in the communion of love. In the refuge of your Sacred Heart that thirsts, I am protected from the evil one who would like to carry me off to his wasteland where no living water flows. Thank you, Lord.
The Sixth Word: “It is finished!”(John 19:30)
In the sixth word from the Cross Christ gives us the spiritual weapons of faith and fortitude. When Christ said, “It is finished,” it meant so much more than the mission is complete. With these words he announced and inaugurated the kingdom of God. We can live now in the confidence of Jesus’ cry of victory: “It is finished!” We know nothing can separate us from God’s love. Satan’s knows this too. The ancient Serpent is banished to the lowest netherworld from which he comes forth only as God allows, tempting and testing humanity for a time, only to return to his dark hole of nothingness.
Dear Lord Jesus, you finished the mission for which you had been sent, faithful in life, faithful in death. By your passion, death and resurrection, I am healed of the original sin wound. Lord, please help me to grow in the virtues of faith and fortitude so that I can complete the mission you entrusted to me. Please help me to fearlessly proclaim your victory.
The Seventh Word: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”(Luke 23:46).
In the seventh word from the cross Christ provides the spiritual weapon of surrender to Divine Providence. Two of the last seven “words” of Jesus were quotations from the Psalms. Earlier Jesus echoed Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” to express his anguish. Later he echoed Psalm 31, which comes to us from Luke as “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” By quoting a portion of Psalm 31, Jesus not only entrusted his future to his Father, but also implied that he would be delivered and exonerated. Beyond this horrific death lay something marvelous. “Into your hands I commend my spirit,” points back to the suffering of David in Psalm 31, and forward to the resurrection.
Gracious Lord, as you once entrusted your spirit into the hands of the Father, so I give my life to you. For love of you, I submit to your sovereignty, and seek to live for your glory alone. Here I am, Lord, available to you. As you entrusted your spirit into the Father’s hands, you did so in anticipation of the glory to come. We reflect upon your death, not in despair, but in hope. Easter Sunday is on the horizon.
Venerable Fulton Sheen penned,
“It is difficult for man who thinks of dying as the most terrible crisis in his life, to understand the joy that inspired these words of the dying Christ. Man thinks that it is his dying that decides his future state. It is rather his living that does that. Some of the choices he has made, the opportunities that were in his hand, the graces that he accepted or threw away are what decides his future. The peril of living is greater than the peril of dying. So now it was the way he lived—namely, to ransom man that determined the joy of his dying and his union with the heavenly Father. On this day, the Lamb of God was slain and all the prophecies were fulfilled. The work of redemption was finished. There was a rupture of a heart in a rapture of love. The Son of Man bowed his head and willed to die of love.”
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