The Last Words of Jesus - Part I

by Thomas Sitio of Jesus (Gene Boehmann)

I remember a quote from the English author, Sir James Barrie. He began a famous story of his with, "all this has happened before, but this time it happened in a house on a quiet street in Bloomsbury. (London)".

This, that I write, has all been said and prayed before but this time it was prayed in a quiet house in Kentucky.

"To foster a more contemplative prayer life, each member is encouraged to engage in a minimum of fifteen minutes of meditation prayer daily, frequently focusing on the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord." Passionist Oblate Companion

In thirty-odd years of nursing, I have been around much death. It is awesome and a privilege to hear the words spoken to the dying by loved ones and the words spoken by the dying to their loved ones.

People cling to every syllable of word spoken by the dying. These words are remembered, repeated, treasured, and passed down in families.

The Gospels have done this for the Church. Those who stood at the foot of the cross and heard the last words of Our Lord clung to them and remembered.

Within these last words of Our Lord was a treasure. Words filled with the Heart of Jesus. A last precious gift.

"Always bring with you to prayer some mystery of the most holy life and Passion of Jesus Christ. Then, if the Holy Spirit draws you to a deeper recollection, follow the breath of the Holy Spirit, but always though the means of the Passion. This way you will avoid all deception." St. Paul of the Cross to Thomas Fossi I, 791

"Jesus prayed three hours on the cross, which was a truly crucified prayer without comfort within or without. Oh, God! What a magnificent teaching! Pray Jesus that I imprint it on my heart. Oh, how much there is to mediate on here. I have read that when Jesus was in agony on the cross, after the first three flames of love, that is, after his first three words, he remained in silence until the ninth hour, praying all the time." St. Paul of the Cross to Agnes Grazi (33)

"The soul is plunged into the Heart and into the holy sorrow of her Beloved Spouse, Jesus....This is difficult to explain, and it seems to me to be always something new." Spiritual Diary of St. Paul of the Cross

Our Lord desires that we hear and listen to his last words. Not just as part of a scenario that unfolds before us with all its heartrending tragedy but to enter into His intention and intuit His Heart. His words allow us to enter.

"He opens and no man closes, He closes and no man opens."  Advent O Antiphon

"This . . . is the door which leads the soul to intimate union with God, to interior recollection and to the most sublime contemplation." St. Paul of the Cross (Vol I, 582)

My prayer on the Passion has led me to the Seven Last Words of Our Lord from the cross. At this point in my Passionist journey, this is where I pray, but the Spirit blows where it will.

"I want you to go fishing sometimes. How? I will tell you. The most holy Passion of Jesus is a sea of sorrow, but at the same time, a sea of love. Pray to God that He teach you to fish in this sea; then dive into [its depths]. No matter how deep you go, you will never reach the bottom. Allow yourself to be penetrated completely by sorrow and  love....Fish for the pearls of the virtues of Jesus. This divine fishing is done without words. Faith and love will teach you this." (Letter to the Carmelite, Sr. Rosa Marie Teresa of Vetralla)

"This participation in the love and the pain of the Passion of Jesus, however, may not be acquired through a person’s own effort. Neither does it depend on a certain technique of meditation, nor is it a necessary consequence of contemplation. Rather, it is a pure gift of God, a gift freely given." (Martin Bialas, C.P.: Passion Centrism of the Spiritual Doctrine, p. 202)

When I fish in this sea, it seems sometimes my net is filled to bursting and a banquet is set before me. At other times, more often than not, it is a little fish, and a piece of barley loaf, just enough to take the edge off my hunger.

Remember the story of St. John Vianney and the old man of his parish? He sat in church for hours. When the saint asked him, "What do you pray so long"? He replied, "I don’t say anything, He looks at me and I look at Him."

"The eyes of the Lord are ever upon us, His glance seeks out the children of man." Psalm 10

"Towards you in the sanctuary I gaze, O Lord, and see your goodness." Psalm 62

The word in English, "gaze", is translated from the Latin word, "contemplor", from which comes "contemplation".

The point where the "look" of God meets the "gaze" of man is the mystery of prayer.

"One shall be born, on whom the Spirit of the Lord will rest; a Spirit wise and discerning, a Spirit prudent and strong, a Spirit of knowledge and of piety, and even fear of the Lord shall fill his heart" Isaiah 11:2-3

At the time of our Baptism, the Holy Spirit bestows His gifts, and St. Thomas Aquinas says that these spiritual seeds make possible "a full contemplative awakening" in anyone who yields himself completely to God’s grace.

Pray, that in the soul, there will be a deep fusion of the last words with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Some of my most beautiful memories are those times when I sat by Margaret, my wife, while she nursed our babies. Though joined at the breast, there was a much deeper joining between mother and child through the eyes, mother and baby looking deep into each other’s eyes.

St. Paul of the Cross frequently expressed in his direction, "the bosom of God", "resting on the divine breast", "drinking from the breasts of God", "drinking the holy milk of love from God’s breasts".

Drinking from the breasts of God was the same as drinking from the open side of Jesus on the cross, drinking the mixture of love and suffering.

O Lord, my heart is not proud nor are my eyes haughty;
I busy not myself with great things,
Nor with things too sublime for me.
Nay, rather, I have stilled and quieted my soul.
Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap:
so is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord, both now and forever.     Ps 130

"This secret (understanding the Passion) is learned at the foot of the crucified, since it is revealed only to little ones and is hidden from the learned and clever of the world." St. Paul of the Cross (III, 90)

As we stand at the foot of the Cross, Christ looks at us and we gaze at Him. There is prayer.

Listen to His words. Realize and be aware of what happens to us. As we pray the last words, a spiritual cross appears within us. Three of the last words are directed toward the head of the cross; three of them are directed downward toward the foot of the cross; one is directed laterally.

We enter the Cross of Christ. We see our Lord crucified in our own lives, He hangs upon the cross within our daily activities and experiences, His Passion penetrates our lives and we are one with it.

We do not live in a room of space and time; in Him we live, in Him we move, in Him we have our being within the eternal sacrifice.

Poem to Christ Crucified

This following poem is a jewel of Spanish Passion spirituality and a gem of Spanish literature.

Do not move me, my God, to love you
Because of the Heaven you have promised me,
Do not let the fear of Hell move me
To quit offending you
Let me be moved, my God, moved
By the sight of you nailed and torn
On the cross.
Let me be moved by the sight of your
Wounded body,
The agony of your death.
Let me be moved, lastly, by your love,
In such a way that, even if there were
No heaven, I would love you, and
Even if there were no hell, I would fear.
You do not have to give a reason
Why I should love you.
For, even if I did not hope for that
Which I hope,
I would love you the same as
I have loved you.

Anonymous but attributed to St. Teresa of Avila