Give anything to God that might be concerning you and let it rest
The reflective content of this session has been edited based on Chapter 6 of Fr James Martin’s book, Seven Last Words. Used with permission from HarperOne.
- Begin to settle yourself as you move into a time of prayer today. Get into a comfortable position, something that feels most natural to you. Let any tension you might be holding onto, fall away. Relax your shoulders particularly (we carry a lot of tension and stress there). Give anything to God that might be concerning you and let it rest…Then stay in his presence for a moment or two.
Crucifixion was one of the most painful deaths imaginable
- Jesus underwent many kinds of sufferings on Good Friday. In general, Christians focus on his physical sufferings. And it is obviously true that he suffered a great deal physically. As mentioned, crucifixion was one of the most painful deaths imaginable, perfected – if you could use that word – by the Romans for that purpose.
- Jesus may have been stripped of his garments and left naked, completing the shaming intention of crucifixion. It was a public spectacle calculated not only to warn but also to magnify the shame for the victim, who suffered an agonising death. All were invited to watch and comment.
- Today’s reading from the Gospel of John is just one short line, but it contains the immensity of Jesus’s task…
When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
In his death on the cross, Jesus reveals who he really is: the revealer of the Father
- Think about the days, months and years that Jesus poured into his ministry. First, think of his decades-long preparation, as he prayed about his vocation as a young man, decided to seek our baptism from John, and then underwent his grueling testing in the desert. Think of all the effort that went into choosing the apostles and patiently teaching them as well as the incredible energy expended in travelling, healing and preaching to people throughout Judea, Galilee and beyond – all work undertaken to help people understand what it meant to be invited into the reign of God.
- Now think of Jesus on the cross, knowing now only that he had done all that he could for the Father, but perhaps wondering what would happen to his circle of followers after his death and whether his “project” would continue. So, as he hung on the cross, what might he have thought?
- Most of us are aware of the physical pain that Jesus underwent, which is the theme of a great deal of Christian art, with a focus on Jesus’s face contorted in pain and the mutilated body writhing in agony. We have already described the emotional pain of abandonment by his friends and the spiritual pain of feeling abandoned by God. So we cannot underestimate the combined physical, emotional and spiritual pain that Jesus experienced.
- Father Stanley Marrow SJ writes: “In his death on the cross, Jesus reveals who he really is: the revealer of the Father.” Why? Because at that moment, Jesus shows us the depth of his love for us. “Thus, in his death on the cross, in the totality of his obedience to the will of the one who sent him, he reveals his privileged identity as the only Son.”
- In his classic text The Spiritual Exercises, for example, Saint Ignatius invites us, as a way of praying, to picture ourselves at all the important moments of Jesus’s life, including the Crucifixion, and ask ourselves: What was it like for him?
Talk to God
We may feel that our dreams are ending, but God has other dreams for us
- All of us have seen things come to a sad end, seen a project fail. You poured your heart and soul into something you planned for, saved for, hoped for. You had such high hopes and now, apparently, it has all come to naught. It’s a terrible feeling. Maybe you didn’t get into the college you wanted. Maybe you had hopes for a career that never materialised. Maybe your dreams for a lasting marriage have been dashed. Maybe your desire to get married at all was never fulfilled. Maybe your dreams for your children, or even to have children, never came true. Maybe you’ve lost the health you once had. So one day you say to yourself, with infinite sadness, “It’s over,” or, “It is finished.” Can you bring to mind a particular painful hope that came to an end in your life? Let Jesus be with you in this.
- We may feel that our dreams are ending, but God has other dreams for us. We may feel that things have not worked out, but God has other workings in mind. We may feel that hope is dead, but God is the source of all hope. “All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” as the Blessed Julian of Norwich, the fourteenth-century English mystic, once wrote. Or as the contemporary saying goes, all will be well in the end. And if all is not well, then it is not the end. In these closing moments, ask God about the dreams he has for you, and share with him the hopes you have at the moment.