A Reflection on Jesus’ Last Words – Lent 2024


During His Passion, Christ speaks several words to his mother, the Good thief, His Heavenly Father and to each one of us. In this talk Jon Leonetti takes us through meditations on these last words from the cross, shedding light on their meaning for us today.

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Reflective Study Guide Questions

The cross is the school of love.

– St. Maximilian Kolbe

1. Look at Jesus’ last words from the cross. Which one stands out to you the most? What might God want to communicate to you through these words?

  • “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”
  • “Behold your son”
  • “On this day you will be with me in paradise”
  • “Why have you forsaken me?”
  • “I thirst.”
  • “It is finished.”
  • “Into your hands Lord I commit my spirit.”

2. Is there someone in your life from whom you’ve been withholding forgiveness? Have you been open to receiving forgiveness from God and others? What are some ways you can grow in your desire to give and receive Mercy?

3. Do you look at Mary as your mother? How can you grow closer to her?

4.  What can you do to help quench Jesus’ thirst for souls?

5. How can you better follow Jesus’ example of giving everything to the Father?

Text: A Reflection on Jesus’ Last Words

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. A reflection on what Jesus said on the cross, “Father, forgive them. Behold, your Son, on this day, you’ll be with me, in paradise. Why have you forsaken me? I thirst. It is finished. Into your hands, Lord, I commit my spirit.” These last things, Lord Jesus, may you allow them to echo within our hearts. And during this Lent, may these words ever deepen our love and our commitment to you. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Forgiveness Is Really Difficult

I want to reflect a little bit on those phrases from our Lord on the cross. You know, I have to say before we go into anything, and if you heard another talk that I gave on the crucifixion itself, what Jesus was going through here was complete and utter suffering, agony, if you will. It was the worst of the worst for crucifixion that the Romans could inflict on him. And yet he still makes it a point to pray. He still makes it a point to forgive. He still makes it a point to welcome another sinner into heaven. Jesus was always so mission focused, the mission of the Father. And here, here, he completes it. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” You know, forgiveness is a really, really difficult thing. It’s a difficult thing in my own life. But Jesus says that we must forgive, not just those that love us, forgive your enemies. Do good to those who persecute you.

You know, Dorothy Day once said that you only really love Jesus as much as you love the person in your life the least. You only really love Jesus as much as you love the person in your life the least. Look, think of the person in your life. You can’t stand. Now. I’ve got two, so you’re probably doing better than me if you got just one. Think of those people in our lives that we can’t stand. That’s how much we love Jesus. That right there is how much we love Jesus. Mother, Theresa said, you could sum up the gospel in five words. “You did it to me.” “You did it to me.” Imagine the agony that our Lord is going through, and yet he’s forgiving, forgiving from the cross. He’s not just forgiving them, he’s forgiving us, you and me who put him there. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

You know, friends, it’s a lesson, it’s an incredible teaching moment for us. Jesus sets the bar at forgiveness. And I know that might be difficult for us to hear. And look, I know it’s a process, and I know it doesn’t happen overnight, but that’s the bar. That’s the bar that Jesus sets for heaven. We must forgive. How do we know we’re forgiving? I don’t know exactly. I can only speak from personal experience, it’s where, in my thoughts, in my words, I know I only want what’s best for them. That, that’s really how I know I’ve forgiven someone, is in my thoughts and in my words. I truly want what’s best for them. Not gossipy, not, hoping something bad happens, right? Not, looking for them to you know, someone to get back or me to get back at them. No, no, no, no. It’s where all that goes away. It’s where I want what’s best for them. Where I desire that in my thoughts and in my words. You know, Jesus doesn’t require us to be friends with everyone. And by the way, he also doesn’t require us to feel forgiveness. He requires us to forgive. And that’s, really key. You may think, “well, am I going to have this tingly good feeling inside? Once I forgive someone?” Maybe there might be some freedom there, but also maybe not, but we must forgive. It’s a command of the Lord Jesus in our lives. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” The good thief, you know, this has always had a, a special place in my heart. Namely because my father has made it very clear to me that this is the gospel that he wants when he dies at his funeral. And I’ve listened intently to this gospel. Often the good thief, who’s the good thief? Hopefully it’s you and me constantly begging for the mercy of God.

You know, you’ve heard the Jesus prayer, Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me as sinner in a lot of ways. It comes from the good thief, Lord Jesus, forgive me, Lord Jesus, have mercy on me. The disposition of every single one of our hearts, Lord Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom, something we sing constantly during Lent. And Jesus turns to that good thief, and he gave him heaven. You’ve heard it said the good thief stole heaven at that moment. And we pray and we ask for that same forgiveness in our lives. The mercy of God.

Going to the Depths

Why have you forsaken me? Jesus goes to the depths of hell here. He goes to the depths of hell, mind, body, spirit, our Lord Jesus and his humanity and his divinity plunges deep to the depths because he doesn’t want us to go there. Jesus desires none of us to be lost, he wants every single one of us in heaven, but hell, is a choice. You know, you, you may wonder, does God send anyone to hell? Really? He doesn’t, but we choose it. That’s what hell ultimately is. It’s a choice for you and for me. “Why have you forsaken me?” Is what? He goes to the depths there. He goes to the emptiness that the world has, and he’s refocusing us on what’s most important.

The Tree of Life

“Behold your son, behold your mother.” I’m going to talk about this in another talk on Mary and Joseph, but I’ll say briefly, Jesus here is giving us an incredible gift. He’s giving us the gift of his own mother. You know, of course, to understand Mary, you got to understand Eve and Eve said no. Mary said yes. Mary loosens the knot that Eve had tied so tight in God’s plan for salvation. And here at the cross where Eve stood underneath the tree of death, Mary stands underneath the tree of life. And God reestablishes that relationship with her as queen, as mother to you. And to me, not just a theological figure, but as our mama, as a mother, and just like any good mother, she only wants what’s best for us.

A Desire For Everyone

“I thirst.” You know, I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of the missionaries of charity. Mother Theresa and I try to visit a lot of their houses whenever I go to different places. And you’ll notice if you ever visit a, a house of the missionaries of charity, that wherever there’s a big crucifix in their chapel, there’s always two words next to it. And you guess what those two words are. “I thirst.” Those two words are the words that mother heard when she was, going from one train ride to another one, meeting to another. She heard the words from Jesus Christ, steep within her soul. I thirst. And to go quench the thirst, the quench, the thirst, and the poorest of the poor. Jesus here is not thirsty. Literally, he’s thirsting spiritually for souls. Jesus desires every single one of us. He thirsts for you. He thirsts for me. I think of the prodigal son story when the Father runs to his son. You know, it was unheard of for a first century Jewish man, head of the household to ever be caught running because running was a great sign of desperation in Jesus’ day. And the Father wasn’t desperate for anyone. Everyone else should have been desperate to give the Father what he wanted. And yet, the Father looking out, waiting for his son, a sinner, thirsts for his son, looks for his son, and runs desperately for his son. That’s God’s love for you and me. A God who is desperate, A God who is thirsting every single day for a deeper relationship with us.

The War is Won

“It is finished.” It is, God won. Isn’t that the beautiful thing? See, see the story and the battle is still going on, and we are going to choose which side we want to be on. But God won. The war is won. Do we want to win with God? I don’t want to lose with the devil. See, we have to put everything into perspective here, it’s not God and the devil. It’s not God and the devil at all anymore. the devil’s a creature of God. God far surpasses his creature here. God is the victory. Now the devil, like any sore loser, you’ve heard it said, misery loves company is what he wants. And he could still claim victory in little battles with souls. And the same thing for us. So we need to be on guard. We need to have that proper perspective, I want to win with God. And finally,

Commitment Is Powerful

“Into your hands, Lord, I commit my spirit.” Commitment is a really powerful thing. You know, when you commit yourself to someone, you’re given everything you think of marriage, right, right here. I will love you, I will honor you all the days of my, I commit to you when you’re sick, I commit to you when we’re poor, I commit to you when we’re suffering, I commit myself entirely to you. Have you ever made a commitment to Jesus Christ? It’s not, it’s not one of those, I’m saved sort of commitments, right? But to commit ourselves daily is a really powerful thing. I think of the, I think of a commitment is a prayer that I pray every single morning. And that’s a morning offering where I’m committing my day. I’m committing everything of who I am. I’m committing my thoughts. I’m committing my words. I’m committing my joys. I’m committing my sufferings to Jesus Christ. I just commit myself here. Jesus models that for us into your hands, Father, I commit my spirit. I’m giving it all. I’m giving everything that I’ve got. Everything that you’ve given me to you, Father, that’s the heart of the Spirit right there working within us. And what God desires for each and every one of us. “Father, forgive them. The good thief into your hands. Lord, I commend my spirit. Behold your son, behold your mother. I thirst and it is finished. The war is one.” Which side are we on?

Closing Prayer

In the name of the Father and the Son of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Jesus Christ, son of the Living God. May those words on the cross be our words. We thank you and we praise you Lord Jesus, like the good thief. Be merciful to us. Run to us as desperate as you are thirsting for us, and allow us to commit ourselves ever deeper to you, Mother Mary, pray for us. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

About Jon Leonetti

Jon Leonetti is a nationally known Catholic speaker, best-selling author, and radio host who conveys a message of lasting fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Through Jon’s keynote presentations and parish missions, thousands of Catholics each year discover the freedom Christ offers by way of his life and love.

Jon believes that our deepest longing for happiness and wholeness is fulfilled in the encounter with Jesus Christ. Through prayer, the Sacraments, family life, and the help of Mary and the saints, Jon wants to cultivate an intimate relationship with Jesus and help others do the same.

With this message Jon has been featured and interviewed by the nation’s top Catholic websites, blogs, and radio shows, helping Catholics in all walks of life to fall in love and stay in love with the living God.

At home, Jon enjoys reading, sports, exercising, coffee, and, most of all, spending time with his wife Teresa, and their three children.  Jon has a master’s degree in moral theology.