The Seven Last Words of Christ: Seeking Freedom through Forgiveness
We are fascinated with the last words someone says before dying. We expect them to be profound and encompass the life lived, the legacy left behind and the hope of what is to come.
In Scripture, Jesus speaks seven times during His Passion. These are the seven last words Jesus spoke in His earthly life. Despite the torture and suffering Jesus endured in his Passion, a main cause of His death was suffocation. Thus, uttering these words from the cross took all the remaining strength of our Lord. He loved us to the end.
These phrases offer us a road map for how to live our lives to the fullest. Through the following posts, I hope you can reflect upon them as we await through the suffering of Christ’s Passion in hopeful expectation of the resurrection. As we observe the Triduum, let us make a resolution to live even more fully so that we may reap the reward of eternal life.
THE SEVEN LAST WORDS OF CHRIST: Seeking Freedom through Forgiveness
We are often hurt when someone fails to live up to our unspoken expectations. With my roommate, it seemed like the two of us were constantly failing the other. Instead of sharing how we wanted to be received after a long day, we just assumed the other’s intentions. Eventually the little hurts added up to deeper pains and friendship rifts.
Hurt comes in all sizes, whether as simple misunderstandings or years of miscommunication and abuse. No matter what, forgiveness is challenging, especially when the hurt isn’t acknowledged or recognized. In these moments, we are asked to turn to Jesus on the cross.
1. “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk 23:34)
Even in His most painful moment of rejection, abuse and suffering, God chose forgiveness. In our human weakness, we want to hang on to the hurt and anger. We wait for the other person to come back and admit all the ways they have fallen short of our desires for love.
The apology offered by Jesus on the cross was for all the people executing Him. It extends to us, too, because our sin placed Him there. God desires our repentance so that we can more deeply receive the mercy He so freely gives.
Forgiveness is a path to healing and freedom. Like Jesus, we must offer forgiveness to those around us, even when they aren’t willing to ask for it. We must make the choice to forgive and have the courage to ask others for forgiveness. This is a daily choice — a choice to see others through the merciful lens of Christ.
2. “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Lk 23:43)
While those who sentenced Jesus to death may not have understood the weight of their sin, the thieves crucified with Jesus did. As the Scripture passage continues, the good thief (St. Dismas) admitted they were receiving just punishment.
Whatever your version of this crucifixion-worthy, “deepest, darkest” sin is, it’s the thing that God wants to redeem and eradicate to offer you the most mercy. We too must make this bold act of faith to come back to God so that, instead of being wrapped in shame, we may be freed in mercy and inherit the eternal life He has won for us on the cross.
Letting God heal my own greatest sins has meant overcoming the embarrassment and isolation that surrounds them. Like the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8), these are often the moments of my story I’m most embarrassed to share and that have left me feeling the most broken and most unworthy to accept God’s love.
But this is a lie. God desires more for us. He wants us in Paradise and is continually providing ways out of the isolation of sin to live in His mercy. God is waiting to grant forgiveness; all we need to do is ask. This is the beauty of confession, through which even in our most “crucifixion-worthy” moments are redeemed.
Jesus, show me the way I have rejected Your mercy and the ways I have allowed my sin to let me live in shame. Show me how to gaze mercifully on others who have attributed to my own brokenness. Help me to pray for them, heal my soul and the souls of those who have hurt me. I also ask that you reveal whom I have wounded because of my brokenness and failure to recognize Your face in others.
The good thief was broken, a sinner — yet You created him for more. He trusted in the goodness of God. How often do I think that I need to do more, be more, give more to God for Him to grant me mercy? How much easier would it be to accept this punishment if it was what I thought was just. Even on the cross, Jesus, You meet me where I am, showing me the only way I can be more, give more, even do more, is through Your help and mercy.
Jesus, you have paid the price so that I can partake in the heavenly family. Lord, guide me on the path of faith and courage as You offer my healing and my freedom through forgiveness. Amen.