By Charles Johnston:
I love this traditional meditation, between this and stations of the cross, there’s no better way (in my opinion) to really enter in to the passion of Christ; to meditate and be with Jesus in His last hours.
Bishop Barron conducted a Tre Ore service at Saint Patrick’s cathedral a few years ago, and I would recommend anyone to take the time and listen to it, It’s available on CD on his website, but for those of us that don’t have a couple hours to spare, I wrote down my own 1minute meditation version.
Take one word and pray on it for each hour of Our Lord’s passion (9am-3pm).
- The first word.
Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke 23:34)
Even as He is being nailed to the cross, still He forgives. His whole mission was to reconcile the world to the Father, and here is the climax of that mission. The ignoble death of a common criminal, stripped, beaten, spat upon, mocked, and now nailed to a cross; and yet He forgives.
Jesus, forgive me for all the times I’ve taken your death and forgiveness for granted.
- The second word.
Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)
The entire purpose of the cross was to bring salvation to mankind, and the first beneficiary of this salvific sacrifice was the penitent thief. The grace of God moves this man to seek redemption from his sins, just as it moves us to sorrow for our sins.
It is also an example that no one is too far from redemption. This man asked for forgiveness and salvation, with mere moments left to live, and he was granted it.
Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
- The third word.
Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother. (John 19:26-27)
Through the pain and sorrow He was experiencing on the cross, Jesus looked down and saw His mother. John had brought Mary to the foot of the cross, and she experienced the pain and sorrow of a sword piercing her own heart, just as Simeon had prophesied over three decades earlier.
As she watched her only child slowly die, He made sure that she’d be taken care of by his disciple John.
The same compassion and concern that He had for His mother from the cross, He has for me and you. He knew each one of us by name, and knew every hair on our heads, and he loved us through the pain.
Jesus, thank you for thinking of me, for suffering for me, and dying for me. Help me to die to myself, so like Saint Paul said ‘it’s not me that lives, but you who lives in me.’
- The fourth word.
My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46)
What sounds like despair and abandonment was actually Jesus quoting the opening line of Psalm 22. This Psalm of His ancestor King David begins with a lamentation of a righteous man suffering without cause, but ends in acknowledging that God brings victory from defeat, and life from death.
Jesus was reminding those that could hear Him, and us today, that no matter how bleak a situation may look, God is still in control.
Jesus, help me to see that you are in control. When life looks bleak and desperate, remind me that you are right there with me, and that you’ll never abandon me.
- The fifth word.
I thirst. (John 19:28)
This harkens us back to when Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for a drink of water, it is also a fulfillment of psalm 69 according to Saint John. Another way to see this, is that Jesus is now ready to drink the cup of consummation, the fourth cup of the Passover, the cup that He asked the Father to remove from Him. He had told His apostles that He wouldn’t “drink the fruit of the vine until the kingdom comes,” and now it has come and He asks for a drink.
Jesus also thirsts for souls, just as He told the apostles that His food is “to do the will of Him who sent me,” His thirst is satiated by the souls that he is saving from damnation.
Jesus, help me to hunger and thirst for righteousness, and not be satisfied with spiritual mediocrity. Lead me to the living water that you promised to the woman at the well. Give me that living water, that I may thirst no more.
- The sixth word.
It is finished. (John 19:30)
Tetelestai in Greek, This is Christ’s last word in the gospel of John. Jesus had accomplished, finished, and consummated the mission He’d been sent here for. He had offered Himself as the priest and sacrificial victim. The sacrifice of the Lamb of God was completed.
Jesus, help me to remember that you accomplished everything on the cross. You already defeated death, so that I might live. Remind me that even if I die, I will live in you, and those who believe in you will never die. In accomplishing your mission on earth, you’ve ransomed me from death and saved me from damnation.
- The seventh word.
Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. (Luke 23:46)
All throughout the Gospels we bear witness to the relationship between Father and Son, we see the total trust that Jesus places in His Father, and we see the pleasure that the Father takes on His Son. This is exemplified in the final words of Christ, that He is entrusting His spirit to His Father.
He had said earlier in the Gospel that “no one takes my life from me” but that He will lay it down of His own accord. Now He is willingly giving up His life in the fullest way, because without His consent to death, death had no power over Him.
Jesus, help me to trust in you, as deeply as you trusted your Father. I put my life into your hands, do with me as you will.
Jesus I trust in you.