"> February 2024 – Prince of Peace

The Seven Last Words of Christ #2

Today, we reflect on the second of Our Lord’s final words from the Cross. They were spoken to St. Dismas, the Good Thief, as he and Jesus hung dying side by side on Good Friday We find these words only in the Gospel of Luke.

Dismas and his fellow-thief had, like Christ, been condemned to death by crucifixion. Unlike them Jesus was innocent, suffering His punishment due to others.

The bad thief reviled Christ and demanded that He save Himself and them, if He be truly the Son of God. Dismas rebuked him for his impiety, proclaiming that they–as criminals–deserved their punishment, but that Christ had done no wrong.

Dismas than made a rather strange request of Jesus: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

He did not ask to be saved from the cross. He did not ask to escape the punishment for his crimes. He did not even ask for mercy. He simply asked to be remembered. The request is stunning in its simplicity and its profound humility.

Even more stunning is the response of Our Lord, Who does far more than simply remember the repentant. “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me Me in paradise.”

Dismas will not only be remembered. He will be forgiven, and the gates of Paradise will be open to him, once his (and Our Lord’s) agonies are complete. The Just Man hanging beside Dismas has taken the crimes of Dismas and all of humanity upon Himself, so that we can escape the punishment we deserve.

Dismas’ reaction is left to the imagination of the reader, but one can surmise that he died filled with joy and hope. Perhaps he offered up his suffering–in union with Christ–in reparation for his sins and those of humanity. what a beautiful and extraordinary thing, to suffer in such perfect imitation of Christ! What a grace–to rise from being a common thief to being the chosen companion of Jesus in His final hours! How superabundant is the mercy of God!

The Seven Last Words of Christ-#1

The seven last words of Christ–the final phrases that Our Lord spoke during His passion have been the subject of Christian meditation since His death, particularly on Good Friday. Bishop Fulton Sheen preached on these seven sacred words every Good Friday for over a half a century.

On the first Friday of Lent, we consider the first word: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

The words are stunning upon impact. It wasn’t enough for Jesus to say to us, “Love your enemies.” He showed us how to do it. He forgave the friend who betrayed Him, the chief priests who falsely accused Him, the cowardly judge who condemned Him, the vicious crowd that called for His crucifixion, the callous soldiers who scourged Him nearly to death, nailed Him to a cross, and left Him to asphyxiate. All when He was perfectly and clearly innocent.

It doesn’t make forgiving our enemies seem so difficult. Though we, too, suffer hurt, betrayal, and other wounds from those who challenge our charity in this life, Christ has gone before us in all these sufferings-and we have His grace to assist us.

But there’s something else. Jesus wasn’t addressing the individuals responsible for His death. He was asking His Father to have mercy on all of us. On you and me. Sure, we can say that we aren’t the historical Judas, or the soldiers that nailed Him to the Cross. But our sins were the reason for His Passion–it was our sin that He atoned for with His precious Blood. Our sin tormented Him far more than any physical torture. And strangely, paradoxically, mysteriously the very Blood that our sins shed was the cause of their forgiveness. The Blood of Christ, which, as St. Paul says, “speaks more eloquently than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24),, cries out to His Father for mercy, rather than for the justice that Abel’s demanded. Not only His words, but His Blood, His whole being, supplicate His Father on our behalf.

It makes sense that these words would be the first of His seven last words. They encapsulate the entire purpose of His Passion. They are, as it were, the opening words of the final act of His Passion, His death upon the Cross.

One of the Church’s most beloved devotions in honor of Our Lord’s Passion is the Stations of the Cross, which many parishes pray together on the Fridays of Lent. Join us each Friday at 7:00 pm for Stations of the Cross followed by Benediction.