By Sister Margaret Taylor 

“Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.”

Luke 23:48 

What most moves me as I consider these words of Jesus is the context in which they were spoken? Matthew and Mark record only one “saying” of Jesus on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” That is their terrifying recollection of Jesus’ experience of torture and death on the cross. It is in this overwhelming sense of abandonment that Jesus still affirms his trust that God is faithful to him, despite all appearances. 

Jesus had spent his life in deep communion with his “Abba.” In these final moments of life, he cries out to “Eli” asking why he has been abandoned. We all have periods when we might experience a loss of God’s presence, but it pales in the face of what Jesus’ experience would have been. 

Jesus’ physical suffering is accompanied by the experience of desertion, not only by God, but by those he had loved and mentored during his public life. The companions who had laughed and cried and broken bread with him professed their faith in him – all scattered. The mission that he believed he had received from the One who had spoken at his baptism now seemed in tatters. What had his life meant?  What had he accomplished? What would become of those he had invited to follow him? 

Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Jesus, in the most profound act of faith of his life, trusted that the God who had been the source of his life and mission would receive him with infinite love. From an unimaginable place of terror and despair, the words come: “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.” 

What a profound example for us, especially those of us who are aging, losing our ability to serve the mission as we once did, watching some of our treasured ministries flounder. We question what we have accomplished, whether we have done what we were commissioned to do. Jesus gives us an example of hope that beyond all appearances, in the midst of our own diminishment, suffering and death, that God will receive our spirits into infinite Mercy. Our efforts to build the Reign of God will be enfolded in seeds watered by God’s gracious wisdom. 

Catherine McAuley held a great devotion to Jesus’ suffering and death, evidenced by her conviction that “The Institute is in a special manner founded on Calvary, there to serve a crucified Redeemer.” She often encouraged the imitation of Jesus in both the petty trials of every day and the larger crosses of illness, misunderstanding, and loss of family and dear confidants. In the midst of her devotions, she must have often pondered the last words on the cross, particularly when events in her life prompted a similar sense of profound loss and confusion.  

Her Suscipe is so well known to us: praying for acceptance of God’s plan, the ability to cast ourselves entirely into the arms of God’s Providence, no matter the circumstances. May we experience this prayer as truly a call to imitate Jesus as he spoke his final words of trust.