Guest post by Warren Jewell
I have five Crucifixes on my walls. They represent my favorite icon of my God, as Son and Savior, as Brother and Servant. In my suffering of one thing and another, the Crucifix reminds me just how much suffering God Himself bore for me. No simple cross, without a corpus, is enough, for a simple cross is but a marker, as in a graveyard. The Cross is His most evocative throne. Now, you tell me: what good is the throne without the King?
In praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of my Rosary one day, I was reminded in the last mystery, of Jesus, God and man and our Christ, humbly accepting His sin-conquering Crucifix and lovingly sacrificial death, of the last words of Jesus from His cross. It struck me just how forgiving He is that He would so suffer for us to save us from our sins. His words came to me as not just as summation of His loving life among us, but actual words in immediacy of absolving us from our sins. So, read on about Jesus’ seven last acts of absolution. Oh, and yes, permitting the Crucifix to remind you: “Go, and sin no more.” (One reason that wherever I look I see the Crucifix!)
Of course, Jesus’ first very memorable words are “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) They are addressed to His heavenly Father about us lost in our world in absurd madness of our sins – so much as to fail to recognize Jesus – Jeshua – Whose very Name means “God is with us”. So, even in the fresh agonies and horror of accepting crucifixion, Jesus thinks of us, all of us, first; to absolve us for not recognizing Him, and our greatest sin of taking the giving human life of our very loving God.
Look closely upon that good thief, Dismas: And he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43) The very King of glory, as Dismas saw and acknowledged, and of Whom he begged for forgiveness, addresses absolution to Dismas – and, what an absolution! “You die a thief; you will live again, and forever, a saint.” That very day the thief who stole heaven would enter accompanied by very God made man. Christ with Dismas shows us that we can die in unimaginable, unmentionable suffering, some of which is ignominy, and yet have absolution that we can live forever. We can beg in prayer much as Dismas did: (Remember me, my Lord, in Your love; absolve me of my sins and take me Home with You.)
Can our good Lord be any plainer in His absolution than to give us His holy Mother, Mary, as our holy Mother? The exact words seem to indicate He looked for her, and to her and John, to do just that, to so absolve us as give us to her, and her to us. When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:26-27) Mary as our holy Mother powerfully symbolizes all the love Christ invests in us in giving us our other Holy Mother, His Church, through His Spirit. Mother Mary lived among us to tell us: “See? You need not sin!” Mother Church lives on and on to tell us: “Ah, but you will sin; and I am here to offer you Jesus’ absolution.” In our Holy Mother, Christ’s Church, the gentle father who is our pastor is in his confessional, of daily absolution from Jesus Christ, our Lord, Who waits, beckons, exhorts, calls, and answers our repentance with His absolution.
“I thirst.” (John 19:28) These words were as signal touchstone to Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Christ so thirsts for our souls living with Him forever, He calls out to us: “Quench My thirst by accepting the graces of My salvation.” More than just an offer, it is His absolution for us as His desire. “Come – follow Me – let Me forgive you – I will absolve you – I will save you – I have always loved and will always love you – I thirst to love you, and for your love for Me.” How can we resist responding with our own prayer: (O my Savior, I thirst for You, now and forever, and seek Your Way from out of Your absolution. In Your Way, grant me every grace to follow You to Your end in glory.)
Then, the most terrible instant in all time: all sin has been taken on by Jesus Christ, and God His Father, though never less than completely loving, simply must glance away from His sin-laden Son. In this greatest anguish, so vital that two evangelists relate the event, Christ prays Psalm 22, and cries out: “E’lo-i, E’lo-i, la’ma sabach-tha’ni?”—“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 22:46, Mark 15:34) Jesus is never so close to us as in this moment, when He so embraces us in loving absolution that He takes all the penalty of guilt for our sins upon Himself – our most giving, sacrificing, absolving Brother. (And who of us would not appreciate having the King of kings as our Brother?) It is the paramount moment when all of heaven shares in His anguish over sin. (O, my God, forsake me not to my sins and death as result of my sins. I beg of You in Your love to have mercy, forgive me, absolve me. And, lead on that I follow You with my own cross.)
His absolution is our Lord’s completion of our repentance, as Jesus tells us when He declares from His Crucifix that “It is finished.” (John 19:30) We cannot forgive ourselves so completely as Christ can; maybe, not at all until He absolves us. His absolution is complete and His loving mission to absolve us is ‘finished’ in saving us by His Crucifix, giving His human Body and Blood and bringing His Soul and Divinity for us.
Jesus, our Christ, gives us His last act of absolution in turning us over to our most loving Father in heaven. He prays, “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.” (Luke 23:46) He offers us with Himself, and offers us as His and our Father’s children who are given absolution so easily now, by faith and repentance out of hope and love.
No, there is never a ‘wrong time’ to look to Christ in His passionate Crucifixion. But, don’t let killing Him as He chose and willed for us to do to Him, to be able to have and accept salvation, go to waste. He calls you and me to repentance, confession and absolution from His very Cross, and in His last words. As well, accept His suffering as His demonstration that He knows suffering, your suffering, and can help you through your suffering to share His Resurrection with Him. You see, Jesus Christ, Son of God, loves no one more than He loves you and wants you Home with Him forever.