No Greater Love: Reflections on the Seven Last Words
Divine Mercy Sunday, April 29, 2019 – No Greater Love
Session 5 Sharing
On this Octave day of Easter, the glorious feast of God’s mercy, we gathered to discuss the final session of our study on the Passion. Our topic was the Seven Last Words of Christ, a theme that has long inspired the devotion of Christian authors and mystics.
Dr. Sri had noted that the seven “words” echo other “sevens” in the Bible, such as the seven days of creation in Genesis. One Sister, her imagination piqued, wondered if it were possible to parallel the seven days of the “first creation” with the seven words that inaugurated the “new creation” from the Cross. Her results were striking! For instance, the first day (when the world was “formless and void”) corresponds to Christ’s words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The primordial nothingness is a fit image for the chaos and emptiness wrought by sin, which Christ comes to forgive and conquer. Or, take the sixth day (the creation of man and woman), which lines up with “It is finished” – this applies both to the work of creation and of redemption!
We also discussed some of the seven words individually. For instance, several Sisters were moved by Dr. Sri’s discussion of “I thirst”; following St. Teresa of Calcutta, he interpreted this cry as Christ’s burning longing, His thirst, for the love of each of us as individuals. What a difference this perspective makes for prayer! Rather than being something we initiate, prayer is a response to the One Who first longs for us. It’s an incredible mystery of God’s humility that He allows Himself, in a sense, to “need” our love. In the face of such mercy, what can we do but love Him with our whole hearts?
Another Sister connected the words of the good thief (“Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom”) with our Passionist charism of remembrance. When we remember Christ in His Passion, we can ask Him with humble confidence to remember us. And what is His response? “This day you will be with me in paradise.” Even on earth we can enter into the “paradise” of His Sacred Heart, awaiting the day when He comes to take us to our Heavenly homeland.
A number of Sisters were also impressed by those solemn words of Christ: “It is finished.” What is finished? All of history, all of God’s plan of salvation from the beginning of time – and from all eternity! Throughout the Old Testament God had been preparing for this climactic moment, when His only Son would solemnly declare the consummation of His great work of Redemption. We can only stand in awe at the sheer weight of this moment!
Christ’s final “word” (“Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit”) particularly inspired one Sister. She shared how she was struck by Christ’s great liberty of heart, and His total confidence in the Father, that enabled Him to calmly surrender His spirit from the Cross. Though this is certainly a great example for us, through the Holy Spirit it can become even more: as the Mystical Body of Christ, we can truly enter into His inner freedom and trust as our very own. In all things we can commend ourselves into the Father’s hands, trusting that He is at work through our everyday experiences.
All the Sisters agreed that it has been a wonderful experience to journey through this study as a community, hearing one another’s insights and benefiting from the graces each has received. It’s been our joy and privilege to share this “Biblical Walk through Christ’s Passion” with all of you!