It is, indeed, his Spirit that matters. “Spirit,” from the same Greek word — pneuma — that gives us “breath,” Jesus is leaving us more than a memory. He is giving us an indwelling of God in our lives. Never again will we be alone, if we are prepared to watch and listen for the Spirit’s gentle movement.
From the manger in Bethlehem to the cross on Calvary, the Incarnate Word of God visited earth and lived among us so that God might draw us all to himself. That experiment in divine interaction was coming to a close, and none of us would ever be the same. Bowing his head, Jesus handed over his spirit.
If we have any doubt of Jesus’ humanity — and that he is truly suffering — this simple and natural urge to slake his thirst ought to set us straight. Throughout his life, Jesus shows us over and over again the emotions, traits and urges that make him human. He weeps and cries, he mourns, he gets angry, he becomes tender, he eats and sleeps and thirsts. It is his incarnation — Word of God into flesh and bone —that binds and attracts us to him.
It was perhaps Earth’s darkest three hours ever, from noon to three o’clock on that first Good Friday, when the world was draped in a gray veil and Jesus hung heavy and nearly lifeless on the cross, his life slowly ebbing away and his breathing labored and weak. It is the man Jesus — the human just like us — who cries out loudly these words of hopelessness and utter dejection: “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
As we walk our Christian life, we are called to be more aware of one another. We are asked to “behold” one another, for certainly there are those in our life — whether we are aware or not — who are suffering and in need of our attention. Indeed, perhaps what they most need is for us to simply see — behold — them.
What kind of response the penitent thief was expecting we can only guess, but I can’t believe he thought for a moment he would hear this from Jesus: “Okay, I will,” Jesus says. “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Paradise — another world, another day, another chance.
Jesus, instead, turns away from hatred, denial and retribution and toward love, acceptance and forgiveness: “Forgive them, Father…”
Last night, sitting in church for the Good Friday service, what kept running through my mind were those words we are asked to shout out, as if we, too, bear some responsibility for his death: “Crucify him! Crucify him!” And I wondered what it must have felt like to hear your own death proclaimed, your fate sealed by a mob…
Matthew 26:30-56 is a deathwatch, the story of Jesus’ last night with his disciples and his time of intense prayer and, ultimately, betrayal. In between the lines of description and dialogue, I imagined what might have been going through Jesus’ mind and heart…
I need them to remember me in a special way, and I think this simple and special meal is just the thing. It is sacramental ritual, of course, a physical sign of my invisible truth, but it is also ordinary. It is the most common activity of human life – eating and drinking, drawing sustenance from the fruit of the vine and the work of human hands.