Pastoral Message – April 2, 2023

Pastoral Message – April 2, 2023

Today, the Church to celebrates the final journey of our Lord as He completes His earthly ministry. The joy that we feel in remembering His triumphant entry into Jerusalem will quickly turn to the extreme sorrow of commemorating His arrest, beating, crucifixion and death. Of course, we also have the benefit of knowing that His story does indeed end well. But, that is the subject of next week’s bulletin article. This week, we need to focus on the end of His earthly life.

Sometimes familiar stories lose their impact because the details are no longer surprising or shocking. Our emotional involvement becomes detached from the emotions of those in the story. Other stories, however, jolt us every time we hear or see them. Think of movies that put a lump in your throat or tears in your eyes even if you have watched them dozens of times. The story of the Passion of our Lord should be one of those stories that not only shocks us each time we hear it or see it portrayed, but which also compels us to be emotionally connected to each intimate detail.

As Jesus’ life draws to an end, the Gospel writers give us a detailed understanding of what He is thinking by describing the words that he utters while hanging from the cross. Each of these seven last phrases help us to share this dark moment with Jesus and to more fully comprehend His final message to all of us.

  1. “Father forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” Lk 22:34
    First, and foremost, Jesus forgives those responsible and asks His heavenly Father to do the same. We might consider our own lives and our own willingness to forgive others. Many of us are reluctant to forgive offenses (or perceived offenses) which are far less serious than those committed against Jesus. Yet, His forgiveness has no limits, but often our pride causes us to withhold our forgiveness. Are there people in our lives whom we have not forgiven? Do we need to seek forgiveness from someone whom we have hurt? Is our relationship with God impacted because we are angry at Him due to circumstances that we believe He caused? Jesus seems to be telling us to forgive – early, often and without conditions.
  2. “I promise you, this day you shall be with me in Paradise.” Lk 23:43
    In Luke’s account of the crucifixion, there are two criminals crucified along with Jesus. One is cynical, faithless and self-centered. Jesus speaks these words to the other criminal who repents and demonstrates remarkable faith in Jesus. We all have family members that have abandoned and lost their faith. Are they already lost and condemned? Absolutely not! Until the last moment there is ALWAYS hope. At any moment we can turn to God and seek His unwavering, unlimited mercy.
  3. “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” Jn. 19:26-27
    In the passage, Jesus speaks to His Mother, Mary and to the “beloved disciple,” John. Yet, we know that He is also speaking to us. In the same way that John took Mary in to his home as he would do for his own mother, we must also make a place for Mary in our lives as our mother with whom we can share our doubts, fears, and struggles.
  4. “Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?” “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Mk. 15:34
    Jesus shares with those present (and all of us) His darkest moment. Jesus allowed himself, in his human nature to, ever so briefly, feel abandoned by God the Father – just as many of us feel in our darkest moments. Archbishop Fulton Sheen tells us that one of God’s first gifts to man was the gift of light. Christ’s cry was of the abandonment that He felt standing in a sinner’s place, but it was not of despair. Do we resolve our feelings of abandonment by turning back to God’s loving embrace or do we despair, turn away from God, and reject His love?
  5. “I thirst.” Jn. 19:28
    St. Augustine tells us that Jesus thirsts that we thirst for Him, Jesus hungers that we hunger for Him. Scripture tells us, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Do we hunger or thirst for righteousness? Do we hunger or thirst for the Jesus in the Eucharist?
  6. “It is finished.” Jn. 19:30
    The humiliation of the Son of Man is now at an end. Yet these are not words of thanksgiving. Archbishop Fulton Sheen explains that Jesus is unequivocally stating that His life – from the time of His birth to the time of His death – had faithfully achieved what the Heavenly Father sent Him to do. Are we on a path to achieve what God has sent us to achieve?
  7. “Father, into Your Hands I commend My spirit.” Lk 23:46
    Jesus ends His earthly life by completely giving Himself – body, blood, soul and divinity – to his Heavenly Father. There are no limits to His love for His Father or His trust in His Father. He surrenders EVERYTHING to God. Do we have that same level of love and trust for God?

As we listen to the Passion account at Mass today (or on Good Friday), it is critical that we feel the emotional impact of the words as if we are hearing them for the very first time. As we hear His last words, we must be present with Him at the foot of His cross. Only then can we fully appreciate His unimaginable sacrifice and His incredible love for us.

Fr. Mike

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