| Father James Ruhlin

“Seven Last Words” a series, Part Three

March 8, 2023 | During Lent, we turn our focus to the greatest sermon of all time, the one which Jesus gave from the pulpit of the cross. Since Jesus made seven profound statements while being crucified, his sermon is often referred to as the “Seven Last Words.”

Starting on Ash Wednesday, Gulf Coast Catholic  will publish a seven-part series focused on each of the last seven messages of Jesus from the cross. The series is written by Father James Ruhlin, Pastor of Saint Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Hudson Fl.

Hopefully this reflection will inspire you to contemplate the depths of the Lord’s message of love from the cross. 

Christ’s first word from the cross went out to enemies; his second word to sinners; and his third word to saints. Our Lord’s third word from the cross is: “Woman, behold your son…behold your mother.” Jesus uses the term “woman” to address his mother, Mary. 

“Woman” is a high summons to universal motherhood. This is like a second Annunciation; it was an angel who made the first Annunciation, but it is God’s own Son who makes the second: “Behold your son” points to a second Nativity. Mary brought forth Jesus without labor; she now brings forth John in the labors of the cross. At that moment, at the foot of the cross, Mary was undergoing the pains of childbirth. We can understand why Christ was called her firstborn.

It was not because Mary was to have other children by the flesh, but because she was to have other children by the blood of her heart. Hence, Mary becomes Mother of all Christians. If Mary loved Christ, who died for all humanity, then she must love those for whom Jesus died. Love of neighbor is inseparable from love of God. Christ’s love has no limits; therefore, Mary’s love must have no limits. God the Father did not spare His Son, nor did the Son spare His mother, for love knows no bounds.

Jesus became totally un-fleshed (separated), in order to atone for the abuse of the flesh, by giving away his mother and his best friend. Here is a love that is strong enough to forget itself, in order that others might never want for love. Mary had seen God in Christ; now Jesus was telling her to see her Christ in Christians. She was never to love anyone more than Christ, but he would now be in those whom he redeemed. Jesus was making Mary the custodian not only of the Vine (Christ) but also of the branches. Mary had given birth to the King; now she was begetting the kingdom. At the Annunciation, Mary recognized that her mission was to bring her Lord to humanity; at the foot of the cross, her mission is beginning to reach fulfillment.

Two lessons that we can learn from our Lord’s third word from the cross are:

  1. The only real escape from the demands of the flesh is to find something more than the flesh to love.
  2. Mary is the Refuge of sinners; for only she who raised Christ can raise a Christian.

With his third word from the cross, Jesus is beginning to unite his Church by bringing Mary (saint) and John (sinner) together in his love. The Church consists of saints and sinners who center themselves around the love of God revealed in Christ’s crucifixion. This reminds us that only those who cease to love ever flee from the cross of Christ.

Throughout the Diocese of St. Petersburg, those who have been preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation will be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, thus fully initiating them into the Catholic Church. Through the sacrament, they will be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity. They will also become Soldiers for Christ who will now be expected to live, protect, and defend the faith in a world, which is darkened by sin. May the Holy Spirit guide and enlighten them on their faith journey. As full-fledged members of the Catholic Church, may Mary help to form them in the likeness of her son, Jesus Christ. Congratulations to all who are receiving this great sacrament.

God bless,

Fr. Ruhlin   

Fr. Ruhlin Father James Ruhlin is the Pastor of Saint Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Hudson Fl.