Sixth Word: “Father, Into Your Hands I Commend My Spirit.”

The Shame of the Faithful

Diego Velázquez, “Christ Crucified” (detail), c. 1632
Diego Velázquez, “Christ Crucified” (detail), c. 1632 (photo: Public Domain)

Editor’s Note: The Seven Last Words, taped at EWTN April 11, will be broadcast on Good Friday at 5 p.m. Eastern, hosted by Father Raymond J. de Souza.

The Scandals in the Church and
the Scandal of the Cross
“Father, forgive them,
for they know not what they do.”
“Today you will be with me
in paradise.”
“Woman, behold your Son.
Behold your Mother.”
“My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me?”
“I thirst.”
“Father, into your hands
I commend my spirit.”
“It is finished.

In the sixth word, Jesus speaks again to his Father. It is a Trinitarian word, for, to the Father, Jesus commits his spirit. We are reminded that the redemption is the work not only of Jesus, the Eternal Son, but a manifestation of Trinitarian love and mercy. Jesus puts it all in the hands of the Father. All proceeds under his providence, and so we disciples do as Jesus does, and put all things — even those troubling, twisted and tormented things — into the hands of the Father.

The scandals have demonstrated that consecrated hands can become corrupted, bringing anguish rather than anointing. Yet there remain consecrated hands that do bring anointing; indeed, those Catholics, priests and the faithful baptized also have suffered in the shame brought upon the Church.

You have heard the following, sometimes attributed to St. Teresa of Avila, though it is likely a false attribution. Nevertheless, you have likely heard it:

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands; yours are the feet; yours are the eyes; you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

We should not think that God is dependent upon us to guide his creation. His providence does not depend upon us. His does not need a helping hand, so to speak. Yet he chooses to act through us, certainly through his priests and through all the baptized. It is the reality of grace, by which St. Paul was able to say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

Those who live for Christ, who put Christ at the center of their lives, who love the Church, have also suffered. Christ suffers in his Church, and so too those who belong to him suffer in the Church. Their suffering is another aspect of the scandal. Their fidelity remains part of the remedy to the disease of infidelity.

In his recent essay, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, examines the role of the devil in both the Book of Job and the Book of Revelation. He writes:

“The Creator God is confronted with the devil who speaks ill of all mankind and all creation. … Today, the accusation against God is, above all, about characterizing His Church as entirely bad, and thus dissuading us from it. The idea of a better Church, created by ourselves, is in fact a proposal of the devil, with which he wants to lead us away from the living God, through a deceitful logic by which we are too easily duped. No, even today the Church is not just made up of bad fish and weeds. The Church of God also exists today, and today it is the very instrument through which God saves us. It is very important to oppose the lies and half-truths of the devil with the whole truth: Yes, there is sin in the Church and evil. But even today there is the Holy Church, which is indestructible. Today there are many people who humbly believe, suffer and love, in whom the real God, the loving God, shows Himself to us. Today God also has His witnesses (martyres) in the world. We just have to be vigilant in order to see and hear them.”

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

Glory be to the Father …