Friday, April 02, 2010

Seven Last Words of Christ

Confessions today at Newman Center (my office, 2nd floor): 12 noon – 2:45 pm, 4:15-6 pm.

"There was never a preacher like the dying Christ. There was never a congregation like that which gathered about the pulpit of the Cross. There was never a sermon like the Seven Last Words."
- Arch. Fulton Sheen, The Seven Last Words (the following is taken from Sheen's book and was the subject of discussion Tuesday night here)

The Seven Last Words of Christ
1. "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do"

His executioners expected Him to cry and curse like all those who had been crucified before Him. Instead, He cried out for the Father to forgive those who were executing and mocking Him (soldiers, Pilate, Herod, etc.).

Forgive who? – forgive the soldiers who mocked, scourged, and struck him

Why forgive? Because they know what they do? No, because they know NOT what they do. If they knew what they were doing (killing the Redeemer), they could not be saved. “It is not wisdom that saves; it is ignorance!”

If we knew: how terrible sin is and kept sinning...about the Incarnation and rejected Christ...about Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross and didn’t take up our own...about mercy in the Sacrament of Penance and still refused it..about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and didn’t receive...the Truth of the teachings of Christ’s Church and rejected them like other Pilates...”if we knew all of these things and still stayed away from Christ and His Church, we should be lost!”

2. "This day you shall be with me in Paradise"

The thief (Dismas) next to Christ realized he was next to the Redeemer: “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom”

Christ was losing his life and saving a soul

He wouldn’t speak to Herod, wouldn’t respond to those who jeered and mocked, but strained to say the words that will save him: “This day you will be with me in paradise”

"No one before (the thief on the right of Christ) was ever the object of such a promise, not even Moses, nor John, not even Magdelen nor Mary!"

“God is more anxious to save us than we are to save ourselves”...more than anything, God wants us to give Him our sins...Dismas does and he is promised paradise

3. "Woman, behold thy son"

He had already given away everything – his blood to the Church...his garments to the soldiers...paradise to the thief...soon his body to the grave and his soul to the Father

“to whom, then, could he give the two treasures which he loved above all others, Mary and John?” He gave them to one another.

'Thy son' is John, who represents us (the Church). "Woman!" is the 2nd Annunciation; "behold thy son" is the 2nd Nativity. We are born of Mary in the 2nd Nativity of the spirit; Christ is born in the 1st Nativity of the flesh.

It has been said that Jesus never denies His Mother anything. Do I ask my Mother to intercede to her Son for me, my friends and family...she who is the mother of Him who can do all things?

4. "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"

Darkness covered the earth when spoken...the protest of nature to the Crucifixion
Separated from the Father? No, otherwise how could he cry, “My God, my God...”
Pain and desolation of not being able to see the Father’s when it’s cloudy but sun is still there

While He is still in union with the Father, Christ brings atonement to all those who have abandoned God, doubt God's presence in their lives, or are indifferent towards God.

For all Christians who abandon God when they don’t feel His presence...they identify being good with feeling good...for a doubting world that asks, “why...why...?”

For indifference in the world...last 20 centuries of apathy is more torturing and crucifying than the pains of Calvary

Christ reaches out to all those who have been rejected, are lonely, isolated, hurt, etc...He knows what I'm experiencing whenever I've been abandoned, rejected, lonely, hurt or isolated. If he experienced this and rose from it, anyone in union with Him in these ways will rise with Him

5. "I thirst"

Not said to anyone there at Calvary, or even to God. He says to all mankind, "I thirst...for love!"

Suffering of God without man (5th word); suffering of man without God (4th word)
Creator cannot live without creatures; shepherd cannot love without sheep
Christ has done all he can do for us; “it is no wonder that he thirsts for love having poured forth all the waters of his everlasting love on our poor, parched

Christ thirsts for my love; do I give him only vinegar and gall when he asks for a drink? Do I quench Jesus’ thirst with my love or do I leave him parched with my hardness of heart? Do I thirst for Jesus? For love? For Heaven? Do I thirst for others like Jesus does?

6. "It is finished"

Redemption, the Father’s work, is now accomplished; we were bought and paid for
Christ won in a battle with five wounds (hands, feet, side), torn flesh, a cry (‘forgive them’ not ‘crush and kill them’), and dripping blood

Christ triumphantly says this, like an artist who puts the finishing touches on a masterpiece.

Work of acquiring divine life is finished, but not the distribution. Is our work finished? No. He has finished the foundation; we build on it. It depends on us becoming other Christs and to take up our cross and follow Him

His work of Redemption is finished, but not complete (see Col 1:24). As the Mystical Body of Christ, we complete Christ's work of Redemption (by taking up our own Cross).

Do I accept crosses in my life with faith?

7. "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit"

Like the Prodigal Son who returns to his father's house...33 years ago, left the Father’s eternal mansion and went off to a foreign country of this world...spent himself and being spent...divine riches of power and wisdom spent on his last hour, he gives to “the last drop” of his precious blood

Now on the road back to the Father’s house...sees the face of the Father and lets out the word, “Father, into...”

Mary at the foot of the Cross with crucified body,,,Bethlehem has come back:
-thorn-crowned head was head at her breast (at Bethlehem)
-faded eyes who glanced at her from the manger
-feet with nail marks were once adored with gold, frankincense, and myrrh
-embrace at the foot of the cross = embrace at the side of the crib

At Bethlehem, Mary gave Jesus to man; at Calvary, sinful man gave him back to Mary

Do we entrust our lives to our Father in Heaven? Do we commend our spirits to God? Do we give Him everything we’ve got- heart, mind, soul, and strength? Do we have our eyes on Heaven...think about it regularly?


Anonymous said...

So, in a sense, it's a blessing to be ignorant? Wow. Then where is the motivation to learn about Christ and His teachings?

Matt Shoemaker said...

Sheen's statement only applies to those who are in grave sin. If their sin is committed with full knowledge (wisdom) and full consent, then they cannot be saved.
“It is not wisdom that saves; it is ignorance!"
Also, the motivation to learn about Christ and His teachings comes from Christ's own mouth when He said that He came to give testimony to the Truth and that everyone that hears the Truth hears Christ. Not only that but in the Gospel Christ says that He Himself is the way, the Truth, and the life and that the Truth will set you free. Therefore, if God is Truth itself, then to willfully remain in ignorance and choose to not listen to the Truth is to choose to reject God. If we do our best to learn God's ways and imitate Christ, God knows that we are trying even if we sometimes fail because we are finite beings, but He is always there to give us His mercy.

Anonymous said...

Happy Easter, Fr Greg!

Anonymous said...

I forgot, "HAPPY EASTER!" Christ has risen!

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your response. You got me thinking, and in that process I believe I've answered my own question! Archbishop Sheen's statement is, as you pointed out, one that applies to mortal sin; however, I see his thoughts as applicable to all Catholics, not just those fallen from God's grace. Bishop Sheen's words educate the ignorant and remind the learned of the Catholic religion's stance on sin. Priests are Christi in Persona - they are Christ here on earth in the human form. They live to teach us Christ's ways. Archbishop Sheen teaches Christ's beliefs through Christ's last seven words - a formidable task. Need we wonder why Priests need our daily prayers?

As I see it, Bishop Sheen is fulfilling his vow as a Priest- he's making sure his flock of sheep understand the intricacies of mortal sin, the issue Christ addresses by requesting forgiveness for his crucifiers. Christ's request for forgiveness for His murderers centers on the fact that the three elements necessary for a sin to be mortal (it must be a grave or serious matter; committed with full knowledge, both of the sin and of the gravity of the offense; and committed with deliberate and complete consent) were not present. Christ's murderers didn't know they were committing a serious sin - they simply didn't get what Christ was teaching, they were ignorant. Since by definition they didn't commit a mortal sin Jesus felt they should be offered God's wonderful forgiveness. "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do" (Lk 23:34). By teaching about mortal sin through Christ's final words, Bishop Sheen leaves little, if any room for the, "I didn't know that" response to Catholicism's definition of sin.

Addressing the fact that "ignorance saves" goes hand in hand with "ignorance is bliss" cliché. The state of ignorance, or bliss, if you will, is where Christ's followers become the critical link to change. Christ's followers each have an obligation to teach His word - to believe in Christ requires one to be an apostle of Christ. The state of ignorance or bliss only exists because those living in this state have either no knowledge of an alternate way to live, or, don't believe in the alternate
lifestyle(s)they witness. The motivation to learn about Christ isn't going to come from the ignorant, as I was thinking; it's going to come from the believers! Duhhhh! So, I've answered my own question! If the ignorant are to be enlightened to another way of life, they must believe that which they witness - a formidable task for those living the example. Need we wonder why we need His love and nourishment? It's only through the believer's motivation of living a life according to Christ's teachings that the ignorant, or the not so learned, may stop and think, "Hmmmm, I need to give this Catholic stuff some thought for I like what they live."

Michael Gormley said...

Dear Father,


I would like to start by asking you two questions. One: Can you give an accurate definition of the phrase: "Lamb of God"?

We all know that this is one of the names used for Jesus, like Messiah, Savior, Son of Man, or Christ. But exactly what is the importance of the name "Lamb of God"?

And why is it important to me as a Catholic? The second question I would like to ask you is: Why the Catholic Church would offer The Holy Eucharist every day at every Mass throughout the world in over 3000 languages.

What knowledge do they have that would make them feel compelled to do this for thousands of years? In answering this question, we'll see why the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.'" (CC 1324)

Continue> > >