The Seven Words Spoken by Jesus Christ on the Cross
by St. Alphonsus Liguori
by St. Alphonsus Liguori
Taken from THE PASSION AND DEATH OF JESUS CHRIST, Redemptorist Fathers, 1927
with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur
FIRST WORD "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." [Luke 23: 34]
O loving tenderness of Jesus towards men! Saint Augustine says that when the Savior was injured by His enemies, He besought pardon for them; for He thought not so much of the injuries He received from them, and the death they inflicted upon Him, as upon the love which brought Him to die for them.
But some may say, Why did Jesus pray to the Father to pardon them, when He Himself could have forgiven their injuries? St. Bernard replies that He prayed to the Father, not because He could not Himself forgive them, but that He might teach us to pray for them that persecute us. The holy abbot says also in another place: "O wonderful thing! He cries, Forgive; they cry, crucify." Arnold of Chartres remarks that while Jesus was laboring to save the Jews, they were laboring to destroy themselves; but the love of the Son had more power with God than the blindness of this ungrateful people. St. Cyprian writes, "Even he who sheds the Blood of Christ is made to live by the blood of Christ." Jesus Christ, ill dying, had so great a desire to save all men, that He made even those enemies who shed His Blood with torments partakers of that Blood." Look, says St. Augustine, at thy God upon His Cross; see how He prays for them that crucify Him; and then deny pardon to thy brother who has offended thee!
St. Leo writes that it was through this prayer of Christ that so many thousands of Jews were converted at the preaching of St. Paul, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles; whilst [says St. Jerome] God did not will that the prayer of Jesus Christ should continue without effect, and therefore at the very time he caused many of the Jews to embrace the faith. But why were they not all converted? I reply that the prayer of Jesus Christ was conditional, and that they who were converted were not of the number of those of whom it was said, Ye have resisted the Holy Ghost. [Acts 7: 51]
In this prayer Jesus Christ further included all sinners; so that we all may say to God:
O Eternal Father, hear the prayer of Thy beloved Son, Who prayed to Thee to pardon us. We deserve not this pardon, but Jesus Christ has merited it, Who by His death has more than abundantly satisfied for our sins. No, my God, I would not be obstinate like the Jews; I repent, O my Father, with all my heart, for having offended Thee, and through the merits of Jesus Christ I ask for pardon. And Thou, O my Jesus, Thou dost know that I am poor and sick, and lost through my sins; but Thou hast come from Heaven on purpose to heal the sick, and to save the lost, when they repent of having offended Thee. Of Thee Isaiah said, He came to save that which had perished. [Isaiah 61: 1] And of Thee St. Matthew writes, The Son of Man is come to save that which was lost. [Matthew 18: 11]
"Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with Me in paradise." [Luke 23: 43]
St. Luke writes that of the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus Christ, one continued obstinate, the other was converted; and seeing his miserable companion blaspheming Jesus Christ, and saying, If Thou art the Christ, save Thyself and us, he turned and reproved him, saying that they were deservedly punished, but that Jesus was innocent. Then he turned to Jesus Himself and said, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom," by which words he recognized Jesus Christ as his true Lord and the King of Heaven." Jesus then promised him Paradise on that very day; Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be With Me in Paradise." [Luke 23: 39-43] A learned author writes that, in conformity with this promise, the Lord, on that very day, immediately after His death, showed Himself openly, and rendered the repentant thief blessed, though He did not confer on him all the delight of Heaven before he entered there.
Arnold of Chartres, in his treatise on the seven words, remarks upon all the virtues which the good thief exercised at the time of his death: "He believed, he repented, he confessed, he preached, he loved, he trusted, he prayed."
He exercised faith when he said, When Thou comest into Thy kingdom; believing that Jesus Christ, after His death, would enter into His glorious kingdom. He believed, says St. Gregory, that He Whom he saw dying was about to reign.
He exercised penitence together with the confession of his sins, saying, We indeed justly; for we received the due reward of our deeds. St. Augustine observes that before his confession he had not boldness to hope for pardon; he did not dare to say Remember me, until, by the confession of his guilt, he had thrown off the burden of his sins. On this St. Athanasius exclaims, O blessed thief, thou hast stolen a kingdom by that confession!
This holy penitent also exercised other noble virtues; he preached, declaring the innocence of Jesus Christ, This man hath done no evil. He exercised love to God, receiving death with resignation, as the punishment due to his sins, saying, We receive the due reward of our deeds. Hence St. Cyprian, St. Jerome, and St. Augustine do not scruple to call him a Martyr; and Silveira says that this happy thief was a true Martyr, as the executioners broke his legs with increased fury, because he had declared the innocence of Jesus; and that the Saint willingly accepted this torment for the love of his Lord.
Let us also in this circumstance remark the goodness of God, Who always gives us more than we ask for, as St. Ambrose says, "The Lord always grants more than we ask; the thief prayed that Jesus would remember him, and Jesus said, Today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise. St. John Chrysostom further remarks that no one merited the possession of Paradise before this thief. Thus is confirmed what God said by Ezechiel, that, when the sinner heartily repents of his sins, God pardons him in the same way as if He had forgotten all the sins he had committed. And Isaiah gives us to understand that God is so urgent for our good, that when we pray He instantly hears us. [Isaiah 30: 19] St. Augustine says that God is ever prepared to embrace penitent sinners.
And thus it was that the cross of the wicked thief, being endured with impatience, became to him a precipice leading to Hell; while the cross endured with patience by the good thief became to him a ladder to Paradise. Happy wert thou, O holy thief, who hadst the fortune to unite thy death to the death of thy Savior.
O my Jesus! henceforth I sacrifice to Thee my life, and I seek for grace to enable me, at the hour of my death, to unite the sacrifice of my life to that which Thou didst offer to God upon the Cross, and through which I hope to die in Thy grace, and, loving Thee with pure love stripped of every earthly affection, to attain to love Thee with all my powers through all eternity.
"Woman, behold thy son ... Behold thy mother." [John 19: 26, 27]
We read in St. Mark [15: 40] that on Calvary there were present many women, who watched Jesus on the Cross, but from afar off, among whom was Mary Magdalen. We believe, also, that among these holy women was the Divine mother also; while St. John says that the Blessed Virgin stood, not afar off, but close to the Cross, together with Mary of Cleophas and Mary Magdalen. [John 19: 25] Euthymius attempts to reconcile this discrepancy, and says that the Holy Virgin, seeing her son drawing nearer to death, came from among the rest of the women close up to the Cross, overcoming her fear of the soldiers who surrounded it, and enduring with patience all the insults and repulses which she had to suffer from these soldiers who watched the condemned, in order that she might draw near her beloved Son. Thus also a learned author, who wrote the life of Jesus Christ, says, "There were His friends, who watched Him from afar; but the Holy Virgin, the Magdalen, and another Mary stood close to the Cross, with John; wherefore Jesus, seeing His mother and John, spoke to them the words above mentioned. Truly it was the mother who not even in the terror of death deserted her Son. Some other mothers fly when they see their children dying; their love does not suffer them to be present at their death without the power of relieving them; but the holy mother, the nearer her Son approached to death, the nearer she drew to His Cross."
The afflicted mother thus was standing close to the Cross; and as the Son. sacrificed His life, so she offered her pangs for the salvation of men, sharing with perfect resignation all the pains and insults which her Son suffered in His death. A writer says that they who would describe her fainting at the foot of the Cross dishonor the constancy of Mary. She was the strong woman, who neither fainted nor wept, as St. Ambrose writes: "I read of her standing, but not of her weeping." The pain which the Holy Virgin endured in the Passion of her Son exceeded all the pains which a human heart can endure; but the grief of Mary was not a barren grief, like that of other mothers who behold the sufferings of their children; it was a fruitful grief, since through the merits of her so great grief, and through her love [according to the opinion of St. Augustine], as she was the natural mother of our head Jesus Christ, so she then became the spiritual mother of us who are His faithful members, in co-operating with Him by her love in causing us to be born, and to be the children of the Church.
St. Bernard writes that upon Mount Calvary both of these two great Martyrs, Jesus and Mary, were silent, because the great pain that they endured took from them the power of speaking. The mother looked upon her Son in agony upon the Cross, and the Son looked upon the mother in agony at the foot of the Cross, and torn with compassion for the pains He suffered.
Mary and John then stood nearer to the Cross than the other women, so that they could more easily hear the words and mark the looks of Jesus Christ in so great a tumult. St. John writes: When Jesus then saw His mother and the disciple standing, whom He loved, he saith to His mother: Woman, behold thy son. [John 19: 26] But if Mary and John were accompanied by other women, why is it said that Jesus beheld His mother and the disciple, as if the other women had not been perceived by Him? St. John Chrysostom writes that love always makes us look more closely at the object of our love. And St. Ambrose in a similar way writes, It is natural that we should see those we love before any others. The Blessed Virgin revealed to St. Bridget that in order that Jesus might look upon Mary, who stood by the side of the Cross, He was obliged first to compress his eyebrows in order to remove the blood from His eyes, which prevented Him from seeing.
Jesus said to her, Woman, behold thy son! with His eyes pointing out St. John, who stood by His side. But why did He call her woman, and not mother? He called her "woman," we may say, because, drawing now near to death, He spoke as if departing from her, as if He had said, Woman, in a little while I shall be dead, and thou wilt have no Son upon earth; I leave thee, therefore, John, who will serve and love thee as a son. And from this we may understand that St. Joseph was already dead, since if he had been still alive he would not have been separated from his wife.
All antiquity asserts that St. John was ever a virgin, and specially on this account he was given as a son to Mary, and honored in being made to occupy the place of Jesus Christ; on which account the holy Church sings, "To him a virgin He commended His Virgin Mother." And from the moment of the Lord's death, as it is written, St. John received Mary into his own house, and assisted and obeyed her throughout her life, as if she had been his own mother. [John 19: 27] Jesus Christ willed that this beloved disciple should be an eye-witness of His death, in order that he might more confidently bear witness to it in his Gospel, and might say, He that saw it has borne witness; [John 19: 35] and in his Epistle, What we have seen with our eyes, that we both testify and make known to you.
[John 1: 1]
And on this account the Lord, at the time when the other disciples abandoned Him, gave to St. John strength to be present until His death in the midst of so many enemies.
But let us return to the holy Virgin, and examine more deeply the reason why Jesus called Mary woman, and not mother. By this expression He desired to show that she was the great woman foretold in the Book of Genesis, who would crush the serpent's head: I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel. [Genesis 3: 15] It is doubted by none that this woman was the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, by means of her Son, would crush the head of Satan,---if it be not more correct to say that her Son, by means of her who would bear Him, would do this. Naturally was Mary the enemy of the serpent, because Lucifer was haughty, ungrateful, and disobedient, while she was humble, grateful, and obedient. It is said, She shall crush thy head, because Mary, by means of her Son, beat down the pride of Lucifer, who lay in wait for the heel of Jesus Christ, which means His holy humanity, which was the part of Him which was nearest to the earth; while the Savior by His death had the glory of conquering him, and of depriving him of that empire which, through sin, he had obtained over the human race.
God said to the serpent, I will put enmities between thy seed and the woman. This shows that after the fall of man, through sin, notwithstanding all that would be done by the redemption of Jesus Christ, there would be two families and two posterities in the world, the seed of Satan signifying the family of sinners, his children corrupted by him, and the seed of Mary, signifying the holy family, which includes all the just, with their head Jesus Christ. Hence Mary was destined to be the mother both of the head and of the members, namely, the faithful. The Apostle writes: Ye are all one in Christ Jesus; and if ye are Christ's, then ye are the seed of Abraham. [Galatians 3: 28] Thus, Jesus Christ and the faithful are one single body, because the head cannot be divided from the members, and these members are all spiritual children of Mary, as they have the same spirit of her Son according to nature, Who was Jesus Christ. Therefore, St. John was not called John, but the disciple beloved by the Lord, that we might understand that Mary is the mother of every good Christian who is beloved by Jesus Christ, and in whom Jesus Christ lives by His Spirit. This was expressed by Origen, when he said, "Jesus said to Mary, Behold thy son, as if he had said, This is Jesus, Whom thou hast borne, for He who is perfected lives no more himself, but Christ lives in him."
Denis the Carthusian writes that in the Passion of Jesus Christ the breast of Mary was filled with the Blood which flowed from His Wounds, in order that with it she might nourish her children. And he adds that this Divine mother by her prayers and merits, which she especially acquired by sharing in the death of Jesus Christ, obtained for us a participation in the merits of the Passion of the Redeemer."
O suffering Mother! Thou knowest that I have deserved Hell; I have no hope of being saved, except by sharing the merits of the death of Jesus Christ; Thou must pray for me, that I may obtain this grace; and I pray thee to obtain it for me by the love of that Son Whom thou sawest bow His head and expire on Calvary before thy eyes. O queen of Martyrs, O advocate of sinners, help me always, and especially in the hour of my death! Even now I seem to see the devils, who, in my last agony, will strive to make me despair at the sight of my sins; oh! abandon me not then, when thou seest me thus assaulted; help me with thy prayers, and obtain for me confidence and holy perseverance. And because then, when my speech is gone, and perhaps my senses, I cannot invoke thy name, and that of thy Son, I now call upon thee; Jesus and Mary, I recommend my soul unto You.
St. Matthew writes that Jesus uttered these words with a loud voice. Why did He thus utter them? Euthymius says that He thus cried out in order to show us His Divine power, inasmuch as, though He was on the point of expiring, He was able thus to cry aloud, a thing which is impossible to dying men, through their extreme exhaustion. Also, He thus cried out in order to show us the anguish in which He died. It might, perhaps, have been said that as Jesus was both God and man, by the power of His Divinity He had diminished the pains of His torments; and in order to prevent this idea, He thought fit in these words to declare that his death was more bitter than that which any man had endured, and that while the Martyrs in their torments were comforted with Divine sweetness, He, the King of Martyrs, chose to die deprived of every consolation, satisfying the utmost rigor of the Divine justice for all the sins of men. And therefore Silveira remarks that Jesus called His Father God, and not Father, because He was then regarding Him as a Judge, and not as a son regards his father. St. Leo writes that this cry of the Lord was not a lamentation, but a doctrine, because He thus desired to teach us how great is the wickedness of sin, which, as it were, compelled God to abandon His beloved Son without a comfort, because He had taken upon Him to make satisfaction for our sins. At the same time, Jesus was not abandoned by the Divinity, nor deprived of the glory which had been communicated to His blessed soul from the first moment of His creation; but He was deprived of all that sensible relief by which God is wont to comfort His faithful servants in their sufferings; and He was left in darkness, fear, and bitterness, pangs which were deserved by us. This deprivation of the sensible consciousness of the Divine presence was also endured by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemani; but that which He suffered on the Cross was greater and more bitter.
"Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani? that is, My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" [Matthew 27: 46]
O Eternal Father, what offense had this Thy innocent and most obedient Son ever given Thee, that Thou shouldst punish Him with a death so bitter? Look at Him as He hangs upon this Cross, with His head tortured with thorns, as He hangs upon the three iron nails, and is supported by His Own Wounds! All have abandoned Him, even His own disciples, all deride Him upon the Cross, and blaspheme Him; and why hast Thou abandoned Him, Who hast so greatly loved Him? We must understand that Jesus had taken upon Himself the sins of the world, although He was Himself the most holy of all men, and even sanctity itself; since He had taken upon Himself to satisfy for all our sins, He seemed the greatest of all sinners; and having thus made Himself guilty for all, He offered Himself to pay the price for all. Because we had deserved to be abandoned forever in Hell to eternal despair, therefore He chose to be given up to a death deprived of every relief, that thus He might deliver us from eternal death.
Calvin, in his commentary on St. John, blasphemously asserts that Jesus Christ, in order to appease His Father, experienced all the wrath which God feels towards sinners, and felt all the pains of the damned, and particularly that of despair. O blasphemy and shocking thought! How could He satisfy for our sins by committing a sin so great as that of despair? And how could this despair, which Calvin imagines, be reconciled with the other words which Jesus uttered, Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit? [Like 23: 46] The truth is, as St. Jerome and others explain it, that our Savior uttered this lamentation to show not His own despair, but the bitterness which He endured in a death without consolation. And, further, despair could only have been produced in Jesus Christ by a knowledge that He was hated by God; but how could God hate that Son Who, to obey his will, had offered Himself to satisfy for the sins of men? It was this very obedience in return for which the Father looked upon Him, and granted Him the salvation of the human race, as the Apostle writes, Who in the days of His flesh, offering with loud crying and tears, prayers and supplications to Him Who could save Him from death, was heard because of His reverence. [Hebrews 5: 7]
Further, this abandonment of Jesus Christ was the most dreadful suffering in all His Passion; for we know that after suffering so many bitter pangs without complaining, He lamented over this; He cried with a loud voice, and with many tears and prayers, as St. Paul tells us. Yet all these prayers and tears were poured forth in order to teach us how much He suffered to obtain the Divine mercy for us; and to enable us at the same time to comprehend how dreadful a punishment it would be to a guilty soul to be driven from God, and to be deprived forever of His love, according to the Divine threat, I will cast them forth from My house, I will not further love them. [Osee 9: 15]
St. Augustine also says that Jesus Christ was agitated at the sight of His death, but that He was so for the comfort of his servants; in order that if ever they should find themselves disturbed at their own death, they should not suppose themselves reprobates, or abandon themselves to despair, because even He was disturbed at the sight of death.
Therefore, let us give thanks to the goodness of our Savior for having been willing to take upon Himself the pains which were due to us, and thus to deliver us from eternal death; and let us labor henceforth to be grateful to this our deliverer, banishing from our hearts every affection which is not for Him. And when we find ourselves desolate in spirit, and deprived of the sense of the Divine presence, let us unite our desolation to that which Jesus Christ suffered in His death. Sometimes He hides Himself from the souls that He most loves, but He does not really leave their hearts; He aids them with His inward grace, He is not offended, if in such an abandonment we say, as He Himself said in the garden to His Divine Father, O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me. [Matthew 26: 39] But at the same time we must add, Yet, not as I will, but as Thou wilt. [Ibid.] And if the desolation continues, we must continue the same acts of conformity to the Divine will, as He Himself repeated them for the three hours during which He prayed in the garden. [Ibid., 44] St. Francis de Sales says that Jesus is as worthy of love when He hides Himself as when He makes Himself seen. Further, he who has deserved Hell, and finds himself out of it, should say only, I will bless the Lord at all times. O Lord, I do not deserve consolations; grant that through Thy grace I may love Thee, and I am content to live in desolation as long as it pleases Thee. If the damned could thus in their pains unite themselves to the Divine will, Hell would be no longer Hell to them.
But Thou, O Lord, remove not Thy help to a distance from Me; look towards my defense. [Psalm 21: 20] O my Jesus, through the merits of Thy desolate death, deprive me not of Thy help in that great struggle which, in the hour of my death, I must maintain with Hell. At that hour all things of earth will, have deserted me and cannot help me; do not Thou abandon me, Who hast died for me, and canst alone help me in that extremity. Do this through the merits of those pains which Thou didst suffer in Thy abandonment, by which Thou hast merited for us that we should not be abandoned by the Divine grace, as we have deserved through our sins.
"I thirst." [John 19: 28]
St. John writes, Jesus then, knowing that all things were accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said: I thirst. Scripture here refers to the words of David, They gave Me gall to eat, and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink. [Psalm 68: 22]
Severe was this bodily thirst, which Jesus Christ endured on the Cross through His loss of Blood, first in the garden, and afterwards in the hall of judgment, at His scourging and crowning with thorns; and, lastly, upon the Cross, where four streams of blood gushed forth from the Wounds of His pierced hands and feet as from four fountains. But far more terrible was His spiritual thirst, that is, His ardent desire to save all mankind, and to suffer still more for us, as Blosius says, in order to show us His love. On this St. Laurence Justinian writes: "This thirst came from the fount of love."
O my Jesus! Thou hast thus desired to suffer for me; and I, when my sufferings at all increase, become so impatient that I am insupportable both to others and to myself. O my Jesus! through the merits of Thy patience, make me patient and resigned in the sicknesses and crosses which befall me; make me like Thyself before I die.
"It is consummated." [John 19: 30]
St. John writes, Jesus, therefore, when He had taken the vinegar said, It is consummated. [Ibid.] At this moment Jesus, before breathing out His soul, placed before His eyes all the sacrifices of the old law [which were all figures of the sacrifice upon the Cross], all the prayers of the patriarchs, and all the prophecies which had been uttered respecting His life and His death, all the injuries and insults which it was predicted that He would suffer; and, seeing that all was accomplished, He said. It is consummated.
St. Paul encourages us to run generously and encounter with patience the struggle which awaits us in this life with our enemies, in order to obtain salvation: Let us run with patience to the contest which is set before us, looking to Jesus the author and the consummation of faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross. [Hebrews 12: 1] The Apostle thus exhorts us to resist temptations with patience unto the end, after the example of Jesus Christ, Who would not come down from the Cross while life remained. On this St. Augustine says, "What did He teach thee, Who, when He hung upon the Cross, would not come down, but that thou shouldst be strong in thy God?" Jesus thought fit to complete His sacrifice even to death, in order to convince us that the reward of glory is not given by God except to those who persevere to the end, as He teaches us in St. Matthew: He that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved. [Matthew 10: 22]
Therefore, when, through inward passions, or the temptations of the devil, or the persecutions of men, we feel ourselves disturbed and excited to lose our patience, and to abandon ourselves to displeasing God, let ut cast our eyes on Jesus crucified, Who poured forth all His Blood for our salvation, and let us reflect that we have not yet poured forth one drop of blood for love of Him: Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. [Hebrews 12: 3. 4] When, therefore, we are called to yield up any point of human esteem, to abstain from any resentful feeling, to deprive ourselves of any satisfaction, or of anything we are curious to see, or to do anything which is unpleasant to our tastes, let us be ashamed to deny this gift to Jesus Christ. He has treated us without holding anything back; He has given His own life, and all His Blood; let us, then, be ashamed to treat Him with any reserve.
Let us oppose to our enemies all the resistance that we are bound to make, and hope for victory from the merits of Jesus Christ alone, by means of which alone the Saints, and especially the holy Martyrs, have overcome torments and death: In all things we overcome through Him Who loved us. [Romans 8: 37] Therefore, when the devil points to our thoughts any obstacles which, through our weakness, seem extremely difficult to overcome, let us turn our eyes to Jesus crucified, and, wholly trusting in His help and merits, let us say, with the Apostle, I can do all things through Him that strengthens me. [Philippians 4: 13] By myself I can do nothing, but by the help of Jesus I can do everything.
Thus let us animate ourselves to endure the tribulations of the present life, by the sight of the pains of Jesus on the Cross. Behold, says the Lord from this Cross---behold the multitude of the pains and the wrongs which I suffer for thee upon this tree. My body hangs by three nails, and rests alone upon My very Wounds. The people who surround Me blaspheme Me and afflict Me, and My spirit within Me is more afflicted than My Body. I suffer all for love of thee; behold the affection I bear thee, and love Me; and be not wearied at suffering anything for Me, Who, for thee, have lived a life so afflicted, and now am dying so bitter a death.
O my Jesus! Thou hast placed me in the world that I might serve Thee and love Thee; Thou hast given me so many lights and graces that I might be faithful to Thee; but, in my ingratitude, how often, in order that I might not deprive myself of my own satisfaction----how often have I been willing to lose Thy grace and turn my back upon Thee! Oh, through Thy desolate death, which Thou didst accept for my sake, give me strength to be grateful to Thee for what remains to me of life, while from this day forth I intend to drive from my heart every affection which is not for Thee, my God, my love, and my all.
Mary, my mother, help me to be faithful to thy Son, who has so much loved me.
"Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit."
Eutychius writes that Jesus uttered these words with a loud voice, to make all men understand that He was the true Son of God, calling God His Father. But St. John Chrysostom writes that He cried with a loud voice to teach us that He did not die of necessity, but of His own free will, uttering so strong a voice at the very moment when He was about to end His life, This was in conformity with what Jesus had said during His life, that He voluntarily sacrificed His life for His sheep, and not through the will and malice of His enemies: I lay down My life for My sheep ... No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. [John 10: 15]
St. Athanasius adds that Jesus Christ, in thus recommending Himself to the Father, recommended at the same time all the faithful, who through Him would obtain salvation, since the head with the members form one single body. On which the Saint remarks that Jesus then intended to repeat the prayer that He had before offered: O holy Father, keep them in Thy name, that they may be one, as We are one. And then He added, Father, I will that those whom Thou hast given Me should be where I am, and that they should be with Me.
This made St. Paul say, I know in Whom I have believed, and I am sure that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him until that day. [2 Timothy 1: 12] Thus the Apostle wrote, while he was in prison, suffering for Jesus Christ, into Whose hands he committed the deposit of his sufferings and of all his hopes, knowing how grateful and faithful He is to those who suffer for his love.
David placed all his hope in the future Redeemer when he said, Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit, for Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. [Psalm 30: 6] And how much more ought not we to trust in Jesus Christ, Who has now completed our redemption? Let us say with great courage, Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord; into Thy hands I commend my spirit. Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit. Great comfort do these words bring to the dying at the moment of death, against the temptations of Hell, and their fears on account of their sins.
But, O Jesus, my Redeemer! I would not wait for death to recommend my soul to Thee; I commend it to Thee now; suffer me not to turn my back upon Thee again. I see that my past life has only served to dishonor Thee; suffer me not to continue to displease Thee for my days that yet remain. O Lamb of God, sacrificed upon the Cross, and dead for me as a victim of love, and consumed by all griefs, grant by the merits of Thy death that I may love Thee with all my heart, and be wholly Thine while life remains. And when I shall reach the end of my days, grant me to die glowing with love for Thee. Thou hast died through love of me: I would die for love of Thee. Thou hast given Thyself wholly to me; I give myself wholly to Thee: Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit; Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. Thou hast poured forth all Thy Blood; Thou hast given Thy life to save me; suffer not that through my fault all should be lost unto me. O my Jesus, I love Thee, and I hope through Thy merits that I shall love Thee forever. In Thee, O Lord, I have hoped; I shall not be confounded forever.
[Psalm 30: 2]
O Mary, mother of God, I trust in thy prayers; pray that I may live and die faithful to thy Son. To thee I would say, with St. Bonaventure, "In thee, O Lady; I have hoped; I shall not be confounded forever."