Bishop Eric Menees
“It is finished.”
This week we have come to the penultimate of the Last Words of Jesus. “It is finished,” speaks volumes – theologically, spiritually, and physically. Jesus utters these three words as his life ebbs away. He’s endured so much pain, sorrow, and anguish that his heart just cannot take it any more. St. John describes it simply this way: “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30)
Physically, Jesus’ body could just take no more. I can’t begin to imagine what this could have been like – no living soul could, I suppose. However, I recently read Unbroken, the story of Louie Zamperini. In it he describes an experience in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, where a particularly sadistic guard forced him to hold aloft a heavy beam. He was told that if he dropped the board, he would be shot. After a long period of time, with scores of other prisoners looking on, the guard just walked away and Lt. Zamperini was able to drop the beam. The relief that he must have known would have been an, “It is finished,” moment. The physical and mental pain had ended – at least for the time being. When Jesus uttered the words, “It is finished,” it was a factual statement – his last breath proclaimed that he was done; spent; emptied.
Spiritually, Jesus’ statement proclaimed that he had completed his assignment on earth. Jesus was the Word made flesh in order to bridge the gap - created by the Fall of Adam and Eve, and experienced by everyone following - between God and mankind. “It Is finished,” spiritually represented a sense of satisfaction – the only begotten Son of God perfectly fulfilled the will of his Father. Jesus is the only one to have experienced complete emptying and fulfillment at the very same moment.
Theologically, Jesus’ statement speaks to the new reality that you and I are allowed to experience as the Father’s adopted sons and daughters. “Finished” (in the Greek, tetelestai) only occurs twice in the New Testament – both times it’s in chapter 19 of the Gospel of John. The first use is in verse 28: “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, (tetelestai) said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’”
And, of course, the second is in verse 30, quoted above. Biblical scholars tell us that tetelestai was used in the first century with regards to having paid a bill – i.e. paid in full! That is exactly what occurred - Jesus paid to the Father, in full, what was and is owed on our part; namely, justice for sin. Jesus paid, with his own flesh and blood, the price that we should pay. What more can be said beyond – IT IS FINISHED!
I pray you all a truly blessed Holy Week.
Catechism Questions 91 - 93
91. Why is the Church called the Body of Christ?
The Church is called the Body of Christ because all who belong to the Church are united to Christ as their Head and source of life, and are united to one another in Christ for mutual love and service to him. (1 Corinthians 12: 12-27)
92. What are the “marks” or characteristics of the Church?
The Nicene Creed expands on the Apostles’ Creed to list four characteristics of the Church: it is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” (see Articles of Religion, 8).
93. In what sense is the Church “one?”
The Church is one because all its members form the one Body of Christ, having “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.” The Church is called to express this unity in all relationships between believers. (Ephesians 4:5-6)