Editor’s note: The CatholicMatch Institute is featuring a Lenten series for Catholic married couples. Each reflection will focus on one of Christ’s seven last words on the cross. In addition there will be a Lenten action for married couples to put into practice. This is the last reflection in a seven-week series. Click here to see the full reflection series.
On the night of the Last Supper, after sharing the Passover meal with his apostles, Jesus retreats to the Mount of Olives, aware that his hour is near. He exhorts the disciples, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:40). He withdraws from them a little further, kneels down and prays, “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him” (Luke 22:42-43).
Finally Christ’s hour arrives. His passion begins. He is betrayed with a kiss from one of his inner circle. He is led to trial where he is interrogated, spit on and beaten. In the midst of this abuse, he is denied by the future head of his church despite Peter vowing he will never “fall away.” Christ is scourged at the pillar. The soldiers mock him as they dress him in a purple robe and crown him with thorns. Jesus continues on the road to Calvary, flogged to near-death, unable to bear the weight of the cross on his broken body.
The severe mental and physical suffering of Jesus before he is even put on the cross is harrowing. His hands and feet are then nailed to a cross where he hangs for three hours. His body is in complete trauma and close to death. With every breath, he experiences excruciating pain. He cries out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). The last words of Christ before he descends into darkness are the words of complete trust. Once again calling God “Father,” he breathes his last. Christ crucified.
Through his suffering, Christ loves to the end. In his resurrection, he conquers sin and death, opening the gates to heaven. St. Alphonsus illustrates, “When the Lord realized that this love of his was not sufficient to move us in our coldness to love him, he determined to demonstrate to us by his deeds the love he has for us. It was for this that he showed himself to us dying on a cross and covered with wounds.”
Reflecting on Christ’s passion, the joy of Easter only comes after the desolation of Good Friday. On our marriage journey, life will send us many Good Fridays and Easter Sundays. By remaining faithful through the trials, our love will be transformed. What can we do during times of trial? In Gethsemane, Jesus tells the disciples to pray so that they do not enter into temptation. Christ also prays. Christ, though perfect, still asks that the cup be removed from him. However by accepting his Father’s will, an angel is sent to strengthen him. We should pray always, but especially during times of trial. When you feel the most weak, envision Christ sending an angel to strengthen you. In the words of Christ, “Take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).
A faith-filled, joyful marriage is not without troubles. By working through these hardships faithfully and accepting God’s will in our lives, we merit his eternal reward. As Father Jacques Philippe describes, “The look in his eyes is the purest, truest, tenderest, most loving, and most hope-filled in this world. The greatest gift given those who seek God’s face by persevering in prayer may be that one day they will perceive something of this divine look upon themselves.” On that day, Christ will welcome us into his glory, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).
A marriage that is truly in Christ, a marriage upon which his school of gratitude and openness has left its mark of joy and warmth, is a sign of the Kingdom that is coming. It is a blessing to the couple, to their children, and to everyone who knows them. It offers a sign of hope and a loving witness to human dignity in a world where hope often seems absent and human dignity is often degraded. It is a sign of the Kingdom because the love of Christ moves the married couple to ever greater heights of love. – Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan
1. On Good Friday, we remember Christ’s passion. From 12pm to 3pm, be mindful of Christ hanging on the cross. If you are able, turn off the phone and computer. Engage in quiet meditation on Christ’s suffering.
2. Attend an afternoon service for Christ’s passion and veneration of the Cross. For those who cannot make the service, prominently display a crucifix in your home.
3. Beginning on Good Friday, say the Divine Mercy novena with your family for nine days through Divine Mercy Sunday.