Franciscan-Clarian Spirituality Committee
The Seven Last Words of Jesus on the Cross
“Amen, I say to you, this day you will be with me in paradise.”
Janet Sullivan, OSF
Franciscan Sister of Allegany
“This day you shall be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43. These words, strong and full of promise, are spoken by Jesus to the good thief on Calvary.
If ever there were words that we want to hear from the Lord Jesus Christ, they are these words. Here in the Gospel of Luke they are among the last words Jesus speaks, revealing the mercy and compassion of a God who wills our salvation. With his strength bordering on zero, Jesus summons the energy needed to bring comfort and hope to another, a manifestation of the self-emptying/poverty that had shaped his life from the beginning.
If we listen to what precedes these words in the Gospel of Luke, we hear from one thief the insidious challenge that drew no audible response from Jesus. The plea of the second thief betrayed sorrow for his sins and sorrow for what Jesus was enduring. It also was a profession of faith and trust in the power of Jesus to save. Jesus, on the threshold of death, is focused on the penitent to whom his consoling words are addressed: self-emptying of superhuman proportions.
St. Francis and St. Clare grasped the significance of Jesus’ self-emptying and embraced a life of poverty in response: a hallmark of Franciscan spirituality.
Fr. Benedict Groeschel once told the story of a homeless man who had said, “Father, I believe in Jesus, I’m sorry for my sins and I’m going to heaven.” Was he not a replica of the thief who asked for remembrance? People like him are among us today and we would do well to embrace their spirit.
Jesus, during this Lenten season, give us the grace to follow you after the example of Francis and Clare: to let go of self, embrace poverty of spirit, and trust in your will to save us. Amen.