Now they are crucifying Our Lord, and with him two thieves, one on his right and one on his left. Meanwhile, Jesus says:
Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34).
It is Love that has brought Jesus to Calvary. And once on the Cross, all his gestures and all his words are of love, a love both calm and strong.
With a gesture befitting an Eternal Priest, without father or mother, without lineage (cf. Heb 7:3), he opens his arms to the whole human race.
With the hammerblows with which Jesus is being nailed, there resound the prophetic words of Holy Scripture: They have pierced my hands and feet. I can count all my bones, and they stare and gloat over me (Ps 21:17-18).
My people, what have I done to thee, or in what have I saddened thee? Answer me! (Mich 6:3).
And we, our soul rent with sorrow, say to Jesus in all sincerity: I am yours and I give my whole self to You; gladly do I nail myself to your Cross, ready to be in the cross-roads of this world a soul dedicated to You, to your glory, to the work of Redemption, the co-redemption of the whole human race.
Points for meditation
1. By now they have fastened Jesus to the wooden cross. The executioners have ruthlessly carried out the sentence. Our Lord, with infinite meekness, has let them have their way.
It was not necessary for him to undergo so much torment. He could have avoided those trials, those humiliations, that ill-usage, that iniquitous judgement, and the shame of the gallows, and the nails and the lance... But he wanted to suffer all this for you and for me. And we, are we not going to respond?
Very likely there will be times, when alone in front of a crucifix, you find tears coming to your eyes. Don 't try to hold them back... But try to ensure that those tears give rise to a resolution.
2. So much do I love Christ on the Cross that every crucifix is like a loving reproach from my God: '... I suffering, and you... a coward. I loving you, and you forgetting me. I begging you, and you... denying me. I, here, with arms wide open as an Eternal Priest, suffering all that can be suffered for love of you... and you complain at the slightest misunderstanding, over the tiniest humiliation... '
3. How beautiful are those crosses on the summits of high mountains, and crowning great monuments, and on the pinnacles of cathedrals...! But the Cross must also be inserted in the very heart of the world.
Jesus wants to be raised on high, there: in the noise of the factories and workshops, in the silence of libraries, in the loud clamour of the streets, in the stillness of the fields, in the intimacy of the family, in crowded gatherings, in stadiums... Wherever there is a Christian striving to lead an honourable life, he should, with his love, set up the Cross of Christ, who attracts all things to Himself.
4. After so many years, that priest made a marvellous discovery: he came to understand that the Holy Mass is real work: operatio Dei, God 's work. That day, when he celebrated Mass, he experienced pain, joy and tiredness. He felt in his flesh the exhaustion of a divine task.
For Christ too it cost a great effort to carry out the first Mass: the Cross.
5. Before you start working, place a crucifix on your desk or beside the tools you work with. From time to time glance at it... When tiredness creeps in, your eyes will go towards Jesus, and you will find new strength to continue with your task.
For that crucifix is more than a picture of someone you love —parents, children, wife, sweetheart... He is everything: your Father, your Brother, your Friend, your God, the very Love of your loves.
On the uppermost part of the Cross the reason for the sentence is written: Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews (John 19:19). And all who pass by insult him and jeer at him.
If he is the king of Israel, let him come down here and now from the cross (Matt 27:42).
One of the thieves comes to his defence:
This man has done no evil... (Luke 23:41).
Then, turning to Jesus, he makes a humble request, full of faith: Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom (Luke 23:42).
Truly, I say to thee: This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise (Luke 23:43).
At the foot of the Cross stands his Mother, Mary, with other holy women. Jesus looks at her; then he looks at the disciple whom he loves, and he says to his Mother:
Woman, behold thy son.
Then he says to the disciple:
Behold thy mother (John 19:26-27).
The sun 's light is extinguished and the earth is left in darkness. It is close on three o 'clock, when Jesus cries out:
Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani? That is: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matt 27:46).
Then, knowing that all things are about to be accomplished, that the Scriptures may be fulfilled, he says:
I am thirsty (John 19:28).
The soldiers soak a sponge in vinegar and, placing it on a reed of hyssop, they put it to his mouth. Jesus sips the vinegar, and exclaims:
It is accomplished (John 19:30).
The veil of the temple is rent, and the earth trembles, when the Lord cries out in a loud voice:
Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit (Luke 23:46).
And he expires.
Love sacrifice; it is a fountain of interior life. Love the Cross, which is an altar of sacrifice. Love pain, until you drink, as Christ did, the very dregs of the chalice.
Points for meditation
1. Et inclinato capite, tradidit spiritum, and bowing his head, he gave up his spirit (John 19:30).
Jesus has breathed his last. His disciples had so often heard him say: meus cibus est..., my food is to do the will of him that sent me and to bring his work to fulfilment (John 4:34). He has done so to the end, patiently, humbly, and without holding anything back... Oboediens usque ad mortem (Phil 2:8); he was obedient unto death, even death on a Cross!
2. A Cross. A body fastened with nails to the wood. His side pierced... Only his Mother, a few women and a young man remain with Jesus.
The apostles? Where are they? And the people who were healed of their infirmities: the lame, the blind, the lepers?... And those who had acclaimed him? Not a single one acknowledges him! Christ is surrounded by silence.
You too some day may feel the loneliness of Our Lord on the Cross. If so, seek the support of him who died and rose again. Find yourself a shelter in the wounds in his hands, in his feet, in his side. And your willingness to start again will revive, and you will take up your journey again with greater determination and effectiveness.
3. There is a false asceticism which presents the Lord on the Cross as furious and rebellious. A contorted body apparently threatening mankind: 'You have broken me, but I will hurl down on you my nails, my cross and my thorns. '
Such people do not know the spirit of Christ. He suffered all that he could —and, being God, how much he could suffer! But he was loving even more than he was suffering... And, after dying, he consented to let the lance open another wound, so that you and I might find refuge next to his most loving Heart.
4. Many times have I repeated that verse of the Eucharistic hymn: Peto quod petivit latro poenitens, and it always fills me with emotion: to ask like the penitent thief did!
He recognised that he himself deserved that awful punishment... And with a word he stole Christ 's heart and opened up for himself the gates of heaven.
5. From the Cross hangs Our Lord 's —now lifeless — body. The people, seeing what had been done, went home beating their breasts (Luke 23:48).
Now that you have repented, promise Jesus that, with his help, you will not crucify him again. Say it with faith. Repeat, over and over again: I will love you, my God, because ever since you were born, ever since you were a child, you abandoned yourself in my arms, defenceless, trusting in my loyalty.
From The Way of the Cross, St. Josemaria Escriva