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Coronavirus and the Seven Last Words of Christ From the Cross

These meditations are dedicated to Cardinal George Pell, a courageous shepherd of the flock and a faithful son of the Church. He has suffered for his fidelity.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.

There is a venerable Good Friday custom, that of the Seven Last Words, made most famous in recent times by the Venerable Fulton Sheen, who preached the Seven Last Words every Good Friday for 58 years. The custom of meditating upon the seven times Jesus speaks from the Cross is older than that, and the preacher often takes up a particular theme, to be looked at in the light of the seven times Jesus speaks from the Cross.

This Good Friday is like none other in anyone’s memory. For we will not gather to mark the solemn hours of the Lord’s Passion. We will not gather anywhere for any reason. The coronavirus pandemic has kept us all at home, our cities empty, our churches closed.

There can only be one theme for this year’s Seven Last Words. Jesus speaks to us today as we are. Jesus speaks to us in this time of global pandemic. For this is His time.

At the beginning of the Easter Vigil, when the new paschal candle is lit, the priest takes the candle and says:

Christ yesterday and today
the Beginning and the End
the Alpha
and the Omega
All time belongs to him
and all the ages
To him be glory and power
through every age and for ever. Amen.

This time belongs to Him. On the Cross Jesus speaks to all the ages, including this one of global pandemic. So this Good Friday we address ourselves to the Seven Last Words in that context. What do the words from the Cross mean for us today, now, in this time of anxiety, of fear, of loneliness and loss, of pain and perplexity, of sickness and death?

I have chosen as the theme words from Matthew 26, which we hear proclaimed on Palm Sunday and was also the Gospel for Wednesday of Holy Week:

The disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Where do you want us to prepare
for you to eat the Passover?”
He said,
“Go into the city to a certain man and tell him,
‘The teacher says, “My appointed time draws near;
in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”’”
The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered,
and prepared the Passover.

In your house I shall celebrate the Passover. In your house

Most years, we would have passed over those words about preparing the Passover. But not this year. For we are largely confined to our homes. We cannot visit the house of the Lord this Holy Week. We cannot celebrate the “Passover” of the new covenant together. And so our prayer is that we might hear those words of Jesus addressed now to each of us – in your house I shall celebrate the Passover. If we cannot go to the house of the Lord, may the Lord come to our house.

So on this Good Friday, this Passover of the Lord Jesus, we beseech Him to come to our home.

Read more at National Catholic Register

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