Christ’s last words on the cross help to understand the mystery of salvation

Brother Neri, preacher of the Seven Words of Christ sermon, at Si Cathedral (Photo: Lucini Martins / Or Sao Paulo)

After the liturgical work of the Passion of the Lord, presided over by Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer on the afternoon of Good Friday, the fifteenth, in the Se Cathedral, a procession was organized through the streets of downtown São Paulo, commemorating the burial of Jesus and concluded with the traditional sermon of seven words of Christ on the Cross.

This year’s sermon was prepared by Brother Israel Jose Neri, devout from the Institute of Brethren at LaSalle Christian Schools, theologian and specialist in Christian education.

“The mission of salvation that Jesus received from the Father took place throughout his life among us, that is, from the first moment, as a human being, in the womb of the Mother of Mary of Nazareth. This message reached its climax in the last stages of his earthly life, with his arrest, trial, condemnation, torture, death, burial, and resurrection We celebrate in faith, hope and love, these last moments in the life of Jesus, but we are certain that he, risen from the dead, is alive among us and counts on us for the continuation of his message throughout history,” said Brother Neri at the beginning of reflection.

Read key excerpts from the sermon below:

The first word: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23, 34a).

In complete abandonment, in the case of injustice and pain, the loving heart of the Lord does not think of himself, but thinks of complete mercy of those who condemn, abuse, torment, and kill.

God tells us today that Jesus, who gives us the example of forgiveness, from the top of the cross, teaches us again what he has already conveyed to us, when he gave us a course of how to speak to God, our Father: “If you forgive one another your transgressions, then the Father in heaven will also forgive you. , but if you do not forgive, the Father will not forgive you either (cf. Matthew 6:14-15).He also teaches us that it is necessary to go beyond forgiveness, and it is necessary to reconcile, that is, to begin again in love, generosity and a new life, as he himself explained in a parable The prodigal father of love, his youngest son, the young man who left the house, squandered everything, but the repentant came back.

Let us also remember that mercy, which in Latin means having a heart full of mercy, also means action, that is, mobilizing ourselves for the concrete action of “feeling help and suffering and working for help.” Today, with his gesture of forgiveness, what does Jesus expect, from the height of his cross, from each of us, as individuals, as his community, as his people?

The second word: “I tell you today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

This second word of Jesus completes and enriches the first, the word of forgiveness, because it unequivocally shows us the boundless ocean of His mercy. It was enough for Demas, the good thief, to trust in the merciful heart of the Lord, that the gates of heaven immediately opened for him: “Today you will be with me in heaven!”

Today, we have many reasons to fall into the sin of despair, the sin of believing that life and history are meaningless, and that we can no longer believe in others, in tomorrow, in a better future. We even have many reasons why we should not believe in God, in His forgiveness, in His mercy. Indeed, it is absurd how Jesus himself is being manipulated, how he and his gospel are used to control people and make so much money. It is absurd to have a social, economic and political organization completely hostile to people and multiply the poor (unemployment, hunger, violence, disrespect for minorities and human rights) and also destroy our common home, planet Earth.

Let us take with us this certainty of our prophetic calling that, even in the midst of the greatest despair in this world, Jesus at his side wants us to assure others, in His name: Jesus is in Heaven! “We are prophets and servants of forgiveness, mercy, hope, faith in the other, and we believe in the possibility of another better world.

The third word: “Woman, behold your son. Son, here is your mother!” (John 19, 26-27).

Jesus knew he was about to die. And when Mary of Nazareth was at his feet, at the feet of his cross, the woman whom the Father and the Holy Spirit had given him as a mother, he did not want her to be left helpless. He was with her also – writes Saint John – Mary of Cleopas, Mary Magdalene, and himself the disciple John. And Jesus spoke to his mother and his disciple John, and said to them, Woman, see your son. John, here’s your mom! So the Evangelist hurried to record: “And from that hour the disciple took her to his house!”

In God today, our faith places us at the foot of the cross and leads us to identification with the image of the disciple John. Today, more than until now, let us welcome the beautiful message that Jesus gave us to take his mother into our home and take care of her. And even more, as with John, to learn, and to learn from Mary, the most important thing, which is to learn more and more about her Son Jesus, because Mary’s greatest task is not only to give us Jesus, to reveal to us. We who are his son, and at the same time the son of God, but to facilitate a personal and immutable encounter with him and make us his missionary disciples.

Fourth word: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27,46; Mark 15,34)

In the final stage of his long torment and torment, Jesus, based on Psalm 21, summarizes his life and message, which demanded of him every imaginable annihilation: physical, emotional, psychological, social, moral and spiritual. And he was fulfilling that prophecy of the suffering slave (cf. Isaiah 52,13-15 to 53,1-12), as described, centuries ago, in his early gospel, the prophet Isaiah, emphasizing: our crimes and our crushing in our sins. He bore the sins of many and interceded for sinners” (Isaiah 53:5). St. Paul summarizes this by saying: “He died for me!” (Gal 5.22).

Today, God calls us to a strong act of faith: Jesus died for me! And at the same time, being alert and willing to be resilient in times of helplessness, abandonment, depression and confusion.

Fifth word: I’m thirsty! (John 19, 28b).

The Evangelist John reveals to us another cry for Jesus. In addition to feeling utter annihilation and loneliness, he feels thirsty. And the cry of Jesus is real pain. He is thirsty for water. His body was severely dehydrated. It was without one of the most essential fuels for our body. From the moment he was arrested, after hours of torture and bloodshed. Indeed, hunger and thirst, along with humiliation and pain, were part of the torture. Humanly, there on the cross, Jesus asks for water. And the executioners knew that vinegar, while it could give the sensation of quenching thirst, became torture, because it directly affected the irritated respiratory organs. And the apostle John recorded that they “tied a sponge moistened with vinegar to a stick, and put it in the mouth of Jesus, and he drank the vinegar…

But today God allows us to extend the cry of “I am thirsty” to include other cries, based on the real situation in which Jesus is living: “I am hungry,” “I need respect,” “I need to go and go,” “I need protection,” “I need freedom”, “I need attention, affection and love”…

Indeed, what good is our detached way of being Christian? Our devotion, our effort to “keep on negotiating with God” in exchange for healing, miracles, in exchange for passing exams, to get a job, if we don’t name Jesus exactly where he is: in the person who suffers, who needs help, help with the essentials to be people?

Sixth word: “It’s all over!” (John 19, 30a).

Saint John tells us that after drinking a little vinegar, Jesus cried out loudly: “It is finished!” Despite being at the height of his suffering, Jesus was well aware of his duty done and well done. He has fulfilled his role, “the way, the truth, and the life” through which humanity and the universe come to the Father.

In God today, it is up to us to consume and complete our lives, and to put God first “I love God above all things,” and thus, to do His holy will, so that we may realize that we have fulfilled a duty like Jesus. But, as Saint John teaches in his first letter (1 John 4:20-21), God’s love becomes a lie if we do not truly love our neighbor. And we will never achieve the inner peace with which Jesus faced and suffered everything, if we did not live self-love, as Jesus lived it, that is, in the service of salvation and the happiness of others.

Seventh Word: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46b)

The Apostle Luke mentions that Jesus’ last prayer on the cross is a last cry, so powerful, that the whole world might hear that he gave himself completely and forever to the love of the Father: “Then Jesus let out a resounding cry: Father, into your hands I commend my spirit! And it is expired.” No rebellion, no despair, no hatred. Jesus’ last prayer, at the end of his torment, is the supreme act of love and trust, meaning fullness.

The truth is that we will never acknowledge or accept death. We want life and immortal life. Jesus assumed, in all things, our human condition, except for sin, and in this human condition he would one day die. However, he wanted to live and live well and did everything (within his time) to help people live well. He even raised some people like the son of the widow of Nain, and Lazarus of Capernaum, and a young woman (Aramaic is Talitha, the term that came to define her).

Today, God is giving us the opportunity to remember Easter. We are there at the moment of Jesus’ final transition to the Father and this final death takes place right here, right now. And this day God confirms to us with authority: death is not the final word, but the new life in God. But this new life in God must take place in the present moment of our history, knowing clearly that it will be filled with eternal blissful life.

A procession through the streets of downtown Sao Paulo remembers the burial of Jesus
(Photo: Lucini Martins / Or Sao Paulo)

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