Friday, April 03, 2015

'A Fulfilment, Not an End' (A Franciscan Reflects on Good Friday)

In his book The Last Words of Jesus, Daniel P. Horan, OFM, reflects on the phrase found in the Gospel of John, Chapter 19, verses 28-30. "It is finished." He pulls excerpts from the book and discusses them in the blog Dating God: Franciscan Spirituality for the 21st Century.

"...The meaning of the Greek word used in the Gospels that captures what Jesus cried out from the Cross is not as clear-cut as we might at first think. Which, I’m sure, is no accident. Reflecting this fine line between beginnings and endings, what is generally translated into English as “it is finished,” might better be translated as “it is fulfilled.”

According to Father Horan, St. Francis of Assisi used the same phrase on his deathbed, with the same meaning and intent.

As Francis came to the end of this earthly journey, he echoes the words “It is finished” proclaimed by Christ on the cross. His words are not helpless, regretful, or empty in their recognition of one chapter in the pilgrimage of life. Instead, he expresses – perhaps in a way more fully than Jesus’s simple “It is finished” – that, while the other friars and sisters were crying about the imminent loss of their leader in religious life, Francis wanted to remind them of what it means to announce a commencement, a completion, a fulfillment, and a beginning: It is not a time of sorrow or loss, but a time to refresh and renew one’s commitment to the Gospel, to live as one in the Kingdom, and to continue to serve the Lord with redoubled intent.

Therefore, we are called on this day both to an insular reflection on the life and the message of Jesus and on an outward reflection on our mission and ministry on this Earth. We are called not only to walk with our neighbors who suffer but also to reflect on capabilities and gifts we have been given to ease that suffering. 

In this way, Francis’s mirrored expression of those from the cross – “let us begin, brothers, to serve the Lord God, for up until now we have done little or nothing” – is an invitation to make Christ’s words – “It is finished” – our own over and over again in life.

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