The Seven Last Words of Christ: Surrendering
The Missionaries of Charity came to Mother Teresa one day saying there were not enough hours in the day to accomplish all they needed to serve the poor. Their solution: shortening the amount of time spent in prayer each day. Mother Teresa contradicted their request, insisting instead the sisters to pray twice as long each day, reminding them nothing is accomplished without God.
6. “It is finished.” (Jn 19:30)
When Christ said “It is finished” from the cross, He conquered our slavery to death. Our ransom was paid. The world put God to death. It will attempt the same to us. So, we must live in the victory won on the cross and fulfilled through the Resurrection, knowing of the salvation offered to us. Now it’s our turn.
While hiking the Camino de Santiago (a pilgrimage following the path of St. James through the north of Spain), I was positive I would never be able to finish the trek. I started out as a proud Colorado native who thought that, since I had hiked many 14ers, hiking 20 or so miles per day for over two weeks would be easy. I was wrong.
To make it to the end of the Camino, I was asked to surrender my pride by accepting the help of those I was traveling with. This dependency on others taught me how much I need to rely on God to accomplish anything. Like Santiago, our ultimate end of Heaven can seem an impossibly long way off. However, Jesus has already done the heavy lifting and modeled the obedience needed to finish the race. As Christians we are asked daily to choose to pick up our own crosses — the struggles and sufferings of life on earth — and follow Him, knowing that, throughout His entire life, death and resurrection, we are never alone.
7. “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” (Lk 23:46)
While a religious sister I know was volunteering at a children’s home, her job was to assist a little boy in making a tambourine out of a paper plate, some beans and streamers. She had to help the little boy fold the plate in half, help him count the individual beans to place inside the folded plate, staple the plate edges together and put the dots of glue on the edges so he could affix the final decoration of streamers. At the end, the little boy ran around the room shaking his paper tambourine with reckless abandon. And Sister got to relish in his joy.
This is what the Father does for us. He looks upon us with pure delight and encourages us to run toward Him with reckless abandon. Instead I often look at the things in my life that I don’t want to hand over to God’s control. Whether it is because I want to be known for having accomplished the task or because I feel too broken to let God into the wound, I hold on to them instead of handing them over. Eventually, God softens my hardened heart. He accepts the messes I’ve made and uses them to grow the Kingdom. He takes whatever I surrender, making all things new and good.
Jesus, with His final breath, showed us the surrender of love to the Father. Giving all that He had, Jesus offered up His very life to the Father for you and for me. His life wasn’t taken from Him; He surrendered it by choice. He surrendered it in love. As St. Augustine said, this “freedom to die demonstrated his power, not his weakness.” It takes true power to be vulnerable. It is true power to admit that we are dependent on God.
“Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me: I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more.” (St. Ignatius of Loyola)
Jesus, you did not say “I” am finished, but “it” is finished. This was not a cry of devastation, but of triumph. Help me to persevere in this race and understand that You have put me here for a greater purpose. Help me to know how to live in such a way that, when my earthly life is completed, I will also be able to say that I have finished the work You sent me to do.
I know that I can entrust everything to You for greater results than I could ever imagine. It is uncomfortable for me not to recognize how much in my life I have little or no control over — and yet, I still cling to these things. I make a mess out of the things I think I ought to control. Help me to continue to learn how to give these things to You. Jesus, help me not only to die well, but also to live well on this journey back to the Father’s house. Help me not to lose sight of my heavenly home and not to lose zeal of those around me whom I long to bring home with me. Amen.
These seven phrases remind us how Jesus died, but they also shed a light on how He lived — how we are all called to live. We’re called to forgive, trust in the provisions of God and the Church, to thirst for souls and to surrender our own desires for control to the Father. As we wait in hopeful expectation of the coming Resurrection, we also hope in the ways Christ continues to live and guide us in these things through his merciful love.