“Father, into thy hands, I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
The Seventh of the Seven Last Words of Jesus on the Cross.
Shared by Bro. Froilem Bonn Barreto, CSsR, on Good Friday, Siete Palabras
When I was informed to be the seventh sharer for this Siete Palabras, I asked myself silently, why me? What will I say since it is going to be live-streamed on Facebook. However, my formator told me that the seventh, which is “Father, into thy hands, I commend my spirit,” fits me well. Trusting in the support that was given to me by my formator, I accepted this task to courageously speak in front of you about my reflection and to share something about my life.
One of the most challenging and difficult times in our life is when we get into an experience where seemingly life does not allow us to breathe, and when life seems so unfair. When this thing happens, it does not meet our expectations. It does not let us see the beauty of life. This experience only brings us pain and misery instead of joy and comfort.
Like the rest of you, I too, have my own share of life’s ups and downs. I joined the seminary right after I graduated from high school. I enjoyed my seminary formation. However, as the old saying goes, “life is not a bed of roses.”
It was in 2002 when my life started to change. I was then a fresh graduate from college, working as a faculty member in a college institution when my mom passed away. She died of cancer at the age of 43. With my mom’s untimely death, things changed. Her death would mean missing a lot of things: her, waking us up early in the morning and cooking our meals. For me, I would surely miss her putting a hand towel on my back when I would sleep because I sweat a lot.
I was not done yet in grieving over my mom’s death when another unpleasant surprise beset my family. In December of 2006, while on a mission exposure, around 2 a.m., I received a phone call. A woman on the other line was crying, and it took her a while until she was able to tell me the reason for her call – my aunt said that my father died of cardiac arrest. I was speechless. I did not know how to react. The first thing that I thought was my siblings. What I remembered then was that I caught myself picking and packing up my stuff because I wanted to go home. With my parents’ death, life will never be the same.
Growing up without my parents was a life filled with uncertainties. It felt like groping in the dark. I was anxious most of the time but I pretended to be strong. As the eldest in the brood of six, I was forced to take up a responsibility that was too heavy for me. I left the seminary and embraced anxieties and the responsibility to become a mother and a father not only to my siblings but myself as well.
It was difficult growing up without those people who are supposed to be there for their children. I was faced with a whole lot of concerns and issues ranging from personal, psycho-emotional, financial, and a lot more. And so, I braced myself. I worked hard from being a faculty member to being a customer service representative to being a resto-bar singer. On my rest days, I sang at weddings and other occasions just to augment the salary that I was receiving from the company.
But often, I caught myself complaining to God. In my moments of solitude, I kept on telling myself, had only my parents lived, we would never have experienced this kind of life. This particular experience created in me a feeling of resentment towards God.
In my prayer, I questioned him, “What kind of God are you?”, “What have we done, Lord, to deserve this?” Is the offering of my life to follow you not enough that in exchange, you are treating me like this? It is unfair!
In other words, I blamed God. I blamed him for everything. I was at the brink of losing my faith. I stopped going to church. And, what I disliked the most during those times was when people would come to us and comfort us by saying, “God has a purpose for doing this” and “God has a reason for everything.” Such insensitive comments!
I would react by saying, “kindly stop over spiritualizing things.” But like any other telenovelas, the story continues, the drama anthology continues. In 2006, a sister of mine, closest to me, was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease that has no cure at all. A health condition that is slowly killing her. She has been in and out of the hospital. She has two lovely and adorable kids. And thinking about her health condition bothers me a lot. In my prayer, I asked God, “Lord, please don’t allow her children to experience what we have experienced growing up without a mother.” I even shared this with my formator in one of our colloquiums. I expressed to him my fears and anxieties over the things that are beyond my control.
My dear brothers and sisters, Jesus’ last words are very powerful and compelling, I asked myself, why despite his agony, the humiliation he experienced, and unbearable pain on the cross, Jesus never blamed his Father. He instead uttered these words like a perfect prayer from the depths of his heart “Father into your hands, I commend my spirit.”
“Into your hands, I commend my spirit” is part of the psalm traditionally believed to be written by David and prayed by devout Jews. No wonder Jesus himself uttered these words before he breathed his last. It is a prayer of complete surrender, a prayer of unwavering trust to his Father. Jesus entrusted himself to his Father. “Father, into your hands, I commed my spirit” speak of a deep level of intimacy of Jesus with his Father. This line demonstrates what it is to be in a relationship with God. We see here that trust is such an essential element in a relationship. It is where a relationship should be anchored. We can only entrust something when we trust the other. There can be no genuine relationship when trust is absent. Trust brings a relationship to a deeper level and we see this concretely in the life of Jesus. No amount of pain, humiliation, and persecution prevented him from fulfilling his mission. This is because Jesus trusted his Father wholeheartedly.
Oftentimes, when we are faced with problems and difficulties, when we are carrying heavy crosses, our human tendency is that we lose track of our faith. We rely much on our human capacities and strengths. We become too focused on our suffering and pain, on what we can do to the extent that our energies are depleted, and we become exhausted. We start to complain, self-pity, regret, become anxious about what the future holds, and perhaps blame others, or even blame God. Jesus has given us a glorious example of total surrendering to God.
I believe that the words of Jesus “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit,” invite us to re-examine our relationship with God.
Do we trust God wholeheartedly? It is so easy to say I believe in God, and I trust in Him when everything that happens is favorable to us. The real test of faith is when life offers us exactly the opposite, “Do we still manage to say, Yes Lord, I trust in you?
Trusting God does not remove our pains and suffering but transforms the meaning of these things in our life. Our faith and trust in God will sustain us as we go through this life, like Jesus whose trust in God sustained him in and through his sufferings even up to death, his death on the cross.
We continue to ask for the grace of God to strengthen our faith, to trust in His words, “come to me, all who labor and are heavily laden, and I will give you rest. .. for my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” God is indeed faithful to His promises.
Let me end this sharing with a song that speaks about total surrender to God and putting our life in Him. Let this be my prayer for you and your prayer for me as we continue this journey called life.
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