Praying And Dying with Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Good Friday Recipe, 19 April 2019
Isaiah 52:13-53:12//Hebrews 4:14-16;5:7-9//John 18:1-19:42
Crucifix at the Fatima Square in Portugal. Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, October 2018.

The Evangelists tell us that Jesus died on the Cross on a Friday at about 3:00 PM. And they tell us too that our Lord died praying, exactly what most of the Seven Last Words have expressed.  But from the gospel we have heard this afternoon written by the beloved disciple John, we discover something very beautiful: Jesus was very calm and peaceful in his prayer unto death.

After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.”  There was a vessel filled with common wine.  So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth.  When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.”  And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

John 19:28-30

When we are deep in suffering, in severe pain like Jesus on the cross, what do we usually pray? 

Most often, we pray that the terrible ordeal we are going through would finally end or be finished.  And sometimes, due to desperation, we even pray for death, of how we wish God would finally end our life to be free from all the problems and pains we are going through. And we feel death is the solution.

One of the things I have realized about death came from the 1990’s movie “House of Spirits” when the mother played by Meryl Streep told her daughter played by Winona Ryder that “you do not pray for death because death surely comes.” I always tell that to patients I visit who are in deep pain and suffering. I know it is easier than done. But when we reflect on the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, we discover how he had made death an offering, a gift of self in love. Clearly we find here that his darkest hour is also his finest hour because of love.

Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches. Photo by author, 2016.

In the original Greek text of St. John, the word used to express Jesus Christ’s final prayer “It is finished” is “tetelestai” from the root word “telos” meaning the final end and direction.  It is not just an ending but a direction too. At the start of this year’s Lenten season, we have reflected that life is more about direction than destination. Direction leads to growth and maturity because it is about persons. Destination is just about place and location. 

From the very start, Jesus was clear with His mission, of how it would be accomplished.  He has always been sure of himself, of who he is.  Notice how St. John repeated many times in his account of the Last Supper how Jesus was “fully aware” of everything that was going to happen: he was so composed and serene that he even gave bread to his betrayer Judas Iscariot during their supper.  Last night we heard how Jesus knew everything was coming to end that he washed the feet of his disciples.

When his “hour” had come, Jesus was “fully aware of everything” that he was never left to the whims and powers of his enemies when he went through his Passion, calmly and courageously facing his death on the Cross. He always had the upper hand that he was able to pray “It is finished” because he was so sure of his Resurrection on Easter. In praying “It is finished,” Jesus consecrated not only himself but also all humanity to the Father so that we are able to bear and face death squarely like him.   

Mt. St. Paul Retreat House, Baguio. Photo by author, June 2017.

In the Mass after the consecration of the bread and wine into Christ’s Body and Blood, we proclaim “Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.” We call it as “the mystery of our faith” because when we say “Christ has died,” we admit that truly, the Son of God went through all kinds of sufferings in life we all go through like betrayal, rejection, loneliness, sickness, hunger, thirst, and yes, even death.  And His sufferings continue as we suffer more in this world marred by evil and sins, making us cry, asking when would these end and be finished. And there lies the mystery of our faith on the Cross that led to Easter: when we look at Jesus Christ on His Cross, we see our own pains and agony as God’s pains and agony too.  Jesus joined us in our anguish and death so that we could experience all the more his immense love for us.  Without Jesus and his Cross, we would never be able to bear or even face the many deaths we go through daily.  May we recognize God’s immense love for us again this afternoon when we venerate the cross and see it as the merging point of human and Divine suffering.  Keep praying with Jesus who has the final say with death at Easter. Amen.

*This is an updated version of my Good Friday reflection last year.

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