Holy Week begins this Monday and the darkest days of the Christian pilgrimage will begin. The Passion story is one of heaviness, betrayal, sacrifice and violence. The seven last words of Jesus spoken from the cross invite us into the intimacy of his last hours. They are a living testament to his life, faith, and the relationships that sustained him and speak to the complexity of believing even when senseless death makes a mockery of good people whose life was focused on selflessness and generosity. We cannot make sense of the senseless and need to accept that shadow, injustice and darkness are a part of living. Following Jesus into his last days and listening to his words from the cross may give us insight as to how we may both live and die.
The holy week hymn, Go to Dark Gethsemane (James Montgomery, 1820, VU 133) has this verse:
Calvary’s mournful mountain view;
there the Lord of glory see,
made a sacrifice for you,
dying on the accursèd tree.
“It is finished,” hear his cry:
trust in Christ and learn to die.
I have accompanied many people at their end of life. The idea that trusting Jesus helps me learn to die is one I like. As I hear his anguish, his letting go, his forgiveness and ultimate hope I want to both live and die in these values and faith Jesus inspires.
Read his last words in a moment of meditativeness.
Begin with a prayer:
Help me God to follow Jesus even to his death on a cross.
Teach me the meaning of living and dying in hope.
May I trust in Christ as I live into the darkness of death.
Pray for those who are experiencing violence, hatred and torture, for those who are dying alone and those who need hope and grace.
1. Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
2. Luke 23:43: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.
3. John 19:26–27: Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother
4. Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34 My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
5. John 19:28: I thirst.
6. John 19:30: It is finished. (From the Greek "Tetelestai" which is also translated "It is accomplished", or "It is complete".)
7. Luke 23:46: Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.
Let us listen to Jesus in his dying words.
Let us follow him into darkness and learn how to die.
image: BRUCE ONOBRAKPEYA, URHOBO, NIGERIA.