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Prologue 2022






Welcome to this year's The Seven Last Words. As a Church, we have journeyed through Lent through prayer, fasting, and penance. Across the world, the journey to this week - Holy Week - has been challenging, stressful, and worrying caused by the Coronavirus as well as the war in Ukraine. In the Philippines, we will soon exercise our right to elect our national and local leaders. 

Our theme this year is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31). Our faith will not be complete without loving our neighbor, especially the least, the last, and the lost. In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis wrote: “Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society.” 

As we reflect on Jesus’ Seven Last Words, may Our Lord renew the love that He planted in our hearts that we may continue to reach out to those in need. A concrete example of reaching out is by supporting those in need spiritually and materially.  Loving our neighbor as ourselves dictates choosing wisely our national and local leaders and teaching others to do the same.


Loving Father, open our hearts once again to listen to the words of Your Son Jesus who offered Himself on the cross as the greatest expression and example of how it is to love. In His Name, we pray. Amen.





First Word 2022

  "Forgive them, Father, they don't know what they are doing."

                                            by Maria Lourdes Scholastica V. Vasquez

Jesus asked His Heavenly Father to forgive those who were ignorant of what was really happening. They believed they were executing  a criminal, a rebel, a blasphemer. They had no idea that they were  crucifying the true Son of God. 

When COVID 19 pandemic started in March 2020, we lost family members one  after the other. We started our daily family zoom prayer for our  deceased/sick family members/friends, and other prayer intentions.  Everybody has the chance to lead the rosary and Divine Mercy ages 10 to  86 years old. Gabriela (a.k.a. Gabby), my only child and daughter, was leading the rosary as often as she could.  I am grateful that she grew close to God. We always pray as a family, going to Sunday Masses and attending church events as a family. 

But life didn't turn out the way we expected. Later that year, we also lost Gabby, aged 26 years old on Sept 14, 2020. There's nothing more devastating that can happen to someone's life when you lose a child unexpectedly. She was full of life, vibrant, compassionate, loving, caring  and so much fun to be with. She is the most accomplished daughter that any parents can ask for. She was our ROCK, our event planner. She  organized personalized decorations, family games, trivia questions for family birthdays, holidays and special occasions. Gabby made special  connections with each and every one of us.  When I lost Gabby, it knocked me down mentally, emotionally, and physically. 

Life is a mystery, we never know when your ticket will get punched. I questioned God, “Why me? Why my  daughter?!” I blamed myself and blamed other people around me. I was angry!

“Forgive them, Father, for they do not know what they are doing”

Yes, forgive me Father for I do not know what I was doing. I prayed to God to help me understand this most difficult suffering. 

I attended a grief share group at Santiago Compostela Church for 6 sessions to process my grief. I am praying hard that I come to see the meaning of our loss someday, that I would know God's comfort and love. This loss is so painful and it is the worst thing that could ever happen to  anyone. But I will survive and eventually recover.  

God has a different plan for all of us. It hurts so deeply that my daughter is  no longer with us. We are called to know that God brings good out of all things, especially our sufferings. He also transforms us into our crosses. We  are called to victory with faith and trust God and surrender everything to  Him. 

I would like to end my reflection, sharing my favorite Bible verse, Jeremiah  29.11:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, plans to prosper  you and not to harm you, plan to give you hope and a future."  

I know for sure that we have our beautiful angel Gabriela watching over us and helping us all get there in Heaven and be all together again.



Personal Prayer: 

Gracious, merciful and loving God, I thank You for the sacrifice of Christ,  the forgiveness He offered to those people who crucified Him and to all who are in need of forgiveness including me. I ask and pray to help me live my whole life for You. I love you. All praise and glory be to You gracious and  merciful God. Amen





Maria Lourdes Scholastica V. Vasquez is currently working at Orange County’s Credit Union in the Lending Department, Santa Ana, California. She and her husband are active parishioners of San Francisco Solano Church. She serve as a Eucharistic Minister on Sunday Masses.



Second Word 2022

"I promise you that today you will be in Paradise with me."


by: Rose Anne Arriesgado

How beautiful these words from Jesus. How I long to hear these words from Him. As the good thief on His side proclaimed his profound faith and trust in Jesus and allowed himself to become vulnerable and strip away all the pride and guilt he has, Jesus responded to him with this promise. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “It was the thief's last prayer, perhaps even his first. He knocked once, sought once, asked once, dared everything, and found everything. When even the disciples were doubting and only one was present at the Cross, the thief owned and acknowledged Him as Savior.” 

And with the vastness of His mercy, Jesus quickly answered the prayer of the thief looking beyond the sins of this man at His side. I was stunned by how Jesus responded, knowing that Jesus Himself was also going through a lot of suffering and pain while hanging at that cross and being abandoned by His loved ones but Jesus didn’t turn His head away from that man but turn His heart to him and promised him that He will be with him. 

Yes, Jesus will be with me in this suffering, pain, and uncertainties. This was my prayer before going to my work as a nurse especially during the height of this pandemic. Unlike the good thief I don’t have a near death experience but almost everyday I witness that kind of experience. Suffering, pain, and abandonment surrounds me. I, myself carry those fears also, what if while on duty I’ll be contracted with the virus? What if I might carry the virus to my own family when I go home? For how long does this kind of setup in the hospital last? There were times I felt the tiredness of my work, wearing those PPEs, having difficulty catching my breath as I am doing CPR, having nothing to eat nor drink for more than 8 hours and cannot even go for a bladder break. Even if it’s tiring and exhausting and scares me, it is all worth it. 

And as I reflected on the scene between Jesus and the good thief I was reminded of the beauty of the profession I am in. Beyond those fears and uncertainties is a promise that God is with me and will not leave me alone.  I realized that I am blessed to be with these patients as they recover from their illnesses and also at their final moments here on earth. Many of our patients died alone in the hospital; their loved ones cannot be at their side and cannot even hold their hands and give them a hug. And they endure their pain and sufferings alone. When I look into their eyes, what I see is not just a patient that needed some medicine or treatment but also someone else’s father, mother, sibling, friend, and loved ones. That there are people who wish to be at the side of their loved ones who are suffering and be with them as they struggle through life but can’t be with them because of this pandemic. And how beautiful it is that our suffering can lead to our full surrender and trust to God. 

With all the fears, uncertainties, sins, and sufferings that we carry, we can come to Him laying it all and like the good thief who professes his faith and trust in Jesus uttering the same prayer, Remember me, Lord. That In the midst of chaos and difficulties Jesus is suffering with us and He will not turn away from us, we can lean on his promise “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” 

Jesus, My Hope I trust in You. 




Prayer:

Dear Jesus,  When I no longer know what to say, like the good thief may I utter words of faith and trust in You. Amid my suffering, pain, sinfulness, and difficulties may it not hinder me to come to You and learn to utter the prayer of surrender to You: Jesus, I put my trust in You. Take care of everything. And as I gaze in Your loving eyes, may I also learn to see, be present, and accompany my neighbors in their sufferings, pains, and hardships. Amen. 




     Rose Anne Arriesgado, a nurse by profession, is a member of the Lectors and Commentators Ministry of the Manila Cathedral.


Third Word 2022


                 "He is your son… She is your mother." 

by: Garo Tulabut

I could not imagine the kind or sorrow that tormented the Blessed Mother as she witnessed the inhumane and brutal suffering and death of her Son. That’s how tough she was. But no matter how strong she might be then, she needed to be taken care of, something the Church which was represented by St. John the Apostle, lovingly heeded from the words of Our Lord while He was up there suffering on the cross. 

I believe Jesus’ mother, who because of this incident under the cross also became our mother, was given good care physically by the early Church until her old age. Likewise, we continued to take care of her even up to now as we give her the rightful honor due to the mother of our Savior.

We, Filipinos, do have a special attachment to the Blessed Mother as shown by how we address her: Mama Mary. We have embraced her, just like how St. John and the early Church did, as our own mother.

And likewise, she was there for us, guiding the Church in the Philippines and our country, time and time again in many special events in our history.

As all mothers will attest, all they want is what is good for their children. Therefore, let us not be shy or afraid to ask Mama Mary to join us and pray with us to the Father for whatever may be in our hearts, especially in these critical times in our history.



Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank You for entrusting us Mama Mary, Your mother, as our own.

Mama Mary, pray for us. Amen.




Edgardo Tulabut, Garo as he is fondly known, is a College Professor at Holy Angels University in Pampanga, an entrepreneur and a personal finance coach. He serves with the media ministry and as worship leader in Feast Pampanga (a Catholic charismatic community founded by Bo Sanchez)

Fourth Word 2022

        "My God, my God, why did you abandon me?"


                                      by Marienella Pisueña Galit

These words of Jesus reveal a deep feeling of loneliness and being forgotten, not only by His friends, disciples... but more so of God! At first, I also do not understand these words. Had God forgotten Jesus, whom He love, and now hanging on the cross?!

But as I again listen to these words carefully with my heart, I heard a different expression of call…not of despair but of trust. As His frail human body hung on the cross, Jesus had to cry out to God, not complaining, but seeking the assurance of companionship amidst suffering. Yes, He knew God was with Him. He was just expressing words of faith that God will carry Him through this most difficult ordeal.

Aren’t we like this too? When we have grave problems in life, don’t we utter similar words: “Lord, are you there? Please help me, I need you now.  Please hear my prayer, make me strong. Give me courage and strength.” These are all expressions of FAITH - revealing our trust and confidence in God who will always say: “Be not afraid!”

Each of us walk different paths in life and given different types of struggles in life. Some may have a bit easy one and others may complain that it is too much. Each of us is also given different strength to go through and overcome such trials. However, there are times in our lives that we could somehow think that God has forsaken us… that life is unfair, that our sufferings are too much, that we can’t surpass it anymore, that our resources are not enough, and that God is not helping us at all.

Despite of all those doubts, all those questions, and all the skepticism, surely God will send an angel to make us realize that whatever stumbling block we are thrown at, there is a blessing in disguise. You and I, can be that blessing in disguise!

It's been two years now, yet we are still battling with this COVID-19 pandemic. Many lives have been afflicted… a lot of people lost their jobs, opportunities and even their loved ones. Reach out by sharing our blessings, be it a material one or morale support will help a lot to those who are needy, helpless, or alone. Our compassion with our neighbor shows that we are truly our brother’s keeper. In fact, very often we abandon Him (God) when we reject suffering people. Many things have changed as we face the new normal, but God will always be the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is there watching, guiding and giving us the graces to stand the test of time.  

Our nation is deeply wounded with so much pains caused not only by natural calamities but of divisions and hatred among people as we come closer to our national and local elections. Instead of bringing conflict by using nasty words to uplift one’s candidate or engage in vote-buying, we should pray for our candidates that they may have a good heart and real intention to serve our county. Pray and reflect on the right person to vote; the leader that God chooses to build a better nation. We never want our next generation to suffer (once more) because of our wrong choices. Show kindness to our fellowmen because at the end of this, we are still one nation, one Filipino.

Let us remember that suffering is part of human life and it remains for us a mystery. Then when we suffer, in doubt or in darkness, let us not lose hope in the Lord Jesus who suffered for our sake. Let us pray that in His resurrected glory at the right hand of the Father, He will give us His kind assurance that in the end all will be well! As the well-known saying goes, "There’s a rainbow after the rain." This happens if we continue to trust and believe in the power of His love. God never leaves us!




Prayer
Lord Jesus, I am undergoing a lot of difficulties in my life at the moment. Sometimes, I feel the burden is too heavy to bear…that I cannot surpass these trials. I need Your help. Dispel all the anxieties and fear I feel in my hearts. Do not abandon me at this time for You are my only hope.
Give me courage and strength to handle all these problems. I know that I can do nothing without You. Grant me the gift of faith to rely on Your Divine Providence amidst this seemingly unsolvable crisis situation. I lift my spirit to You in filial trust and confidence that Your love and grace is enough for me. Amen.




Marienella Pisueña Galit, a wife and a mother of 4, is currently working as a Quality Manager at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Department of Health. A former AP – Youth president in St. Joseph Parish, Tondo, Manila, she is currently serving as Core Head at the Mary Help of Christians Chapel in their community.


Fifth Word 2022

 

“I am thirsty!”


by Ara Fernando
    

A remarkable trait that Jesus had was His human side — His vulnerability, which always reminded me that though He is the son of God, He died on the cross as a man to atone for our sins.  He was parched, in pain, and exhausted.  He needed to quench His thirst before He uttered His final words.  


I want to honor the soldier who took a sponge and gave Jesus a bit of bitter wine — it’s an excellent example of conversion and compassion.  Though he may be one of those who tortured and put Him on the cross, he had the heart to help Him out.  In our lives today, we may be able to relate with this Roman soldier. How many times have we done something to hurt others but experienced forgiveness and love during our time of need? 


Somehow this scenario of Jesus being given wine on the cross reminded me of how I became an NPA when it comes to my life — No Permanent Address.  All my life I’ve always had a hard time fitting in because I was different.  I had different interests than my peers and focused a lot on my extracurricular activities I had no time to hang out and make friends. I’d jump from one group of friends to another, and as years went by I seem to have accumulated many but not deep friendships. I’d have one best buddy every year, depends on who I was with in class.  I’d jump from one organization to the other depending on my fleeting interests.  This has trickled on to my job and relationships...even in church!  I was moving forward so fast I had no time to grow roots anywhere. 


But there are instances where I have no idea where to go and I can clearly remember how God sent me angels who saved me in the weirdest and insane situations of my life. From a stranger randomly changing my flat tire for me, to a client who booked me spontaneously on a day when my bills are due, to people sending over food during the pandemic when I was on isolation. I clearly remember that time when I was at my lowest and spent days crying in bed, not eating…not even showering!  I wondered if this was how my life was going to end. I had problems in community, my career was going nowhere, I had a failed relationship, I had debts — the list goes on and I had no fight left in me.  


It was when, one by one, God introduced people who changed the course of my life.  I felt like I didn’t deserve it — as I have done so many mistakes and no matter how much I try to right the wrong… I still spiral back down.


But God had other plans. I slowly got back up with the help of friends - old and new - who made sure I got out of bed, praised and worshipped God in church no matter how painful it may be, and  kept me busy with charity work, self-help classes, and even forced me out of my house to get a quick coffee or merienda (snack in Filipino).  Slowly, and even if I didn’t notice it, I started to become a normal human again, and life became brighter and more bearable.


These random acts of kindness made me feel like God has always been with me in every challenge I faced in my life.  I never felt alone and I was so grateful that I vowed to be that kind of “angel” to someone else because we don’t know what other people are going through unless we ask — and we never know how thirsty they are of love unless we try giving it to them.


You don’t have to donate a million dollars to make a huge impact in a person’s life.  It’s not just about money. I remember a friend messaging me that he was having a panic attack in a supermarket and I was just there to answer his texts.  It was only a couple of days later when he posted on Facebook that that moment saved his life and to me it was just a simple thing for one to do — to reply to text messages and acknowledge that you are there.


There was this one moment that a client paid me triple my rate and at first I thought it was weird and refused to accept but she insisted.  Later in the day I realized this extra money I had was the exact amount a friend needed for her COVID medication.  I sent it to her in a heartbeat, I felt it was God’s way of sending a miracle to my friend in need.


During typhoon Ulysses, Marikina was flooded and a lot of people needed essentials. Though work was not doing so well I couldn’t donate money, I knew I had the power of social media to get enough donations for several evacuation centers so I spent weeks just coordinating with donors and centers through my phone.


Being Jesus does not require divine intervention or a fireworks display kind of effect.  It doesn’t have to be a big thing — even a simple “How are you?” can make a person with self-worth issues feel important. Sharing your blessings - be it monetary or a type of talent or service can make a person feel God’s presence through you.  Search deep in your heart and see what good you can offer to this world of exhausted people thirsty for love. Just look around for those who need help. It could be anyone from a member of the family to the person sitting next to you right now. And whenever you wake up in the morning, ask yourself: To whom can I bring joy and happiness today? 




Prayer


Father in heaven, thank You for always being here with us through our pain and challenges.  A lot of people thirst for Your love and we hope that in our little ways, we may be able to help them.  Use us as a vessel so that they can feel You through our words and actions.  May we always remember to be Jesus to everyone around us so we can continue His mission here on Earth. Amen.





Ara is a US trained beauty expert and has been in the industry for 17 years doing makeup and hair for events, commercials, and celebrities. She is also an NLP Master Practitioner with a certification from the American Union of NLP.  Currently, she teaches Hair and Makeup Design at De La Salle College of Saint Benilde and continues to spread God’s love on her Tiktok account which focuses on self-love through beauty. 

Sixth Word 2022


                            "It's Finished!"


by: Fr. Joel O. Jason


We now come to the penultimate word of the 7 Last words of Jesus. We can read it in the account of the Gospel of John:


Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:28-30).


"It is finished".


This is the English rendition of Greek word tetelestai. Tetelestai comes from the verb teleo - to bring to an end, to complete, to accomplish. Reading that Jesus uttered the word on the cross as He breathed His last may seem to imply the agony of defeat. On the contrary.


Tetelestai points to the glorious completion of an important endeavor like finishing a race, reaching the top of a mountain, passing a board exam, or a mother giving birth to her child. Yes, tetelestai designates the end but the end can be seen in two ways.


One way to see the end is as a deadline. A deadline always evokes fear and anxiety, especially if you are not prepared, ill equipped, or falling short of what is expected of you. Another way to see the end is a finish line. A finish line evokes excitement, accomplishment, and victory. A lazy student is terrified by the deadline of submission of an important paper. A zealous student on the other hand is excited with anticipation, eager to see the fruits of his labor.


When Christ said, “It is finished.” He did not say it in a spirit of despair, defeat, or resignation. “It is finished" is Jesus’ cry of victory. It was a declaration of “mission accomplished.” And the fruits of that mission is not finished. It goes on and on.

The Greek tetelestai is in the perfect tense. It designates an action which has been completed in the past with results continues on unto the present. The perfect tense implies the idea that what was accomplished in the past goes on until today.


The Christian writer Rick Warren cleverly suggested that on the cross, Jesus did not say “I am finished.” He said, “It is finished.” “It is finished” means mission accomplished. “I am finished” means mission failed.


When your time comes, can you say like Jesus “It is finished” or would you say “I am finished”?


This reminds me of a parable.


An honest and decent man died suddenly and was met by an angel guarding the check in counter of the pearly gates of heaven. The angel was a substitute for the day so he was quite unfamiliar with the ins and outs of entrance into heaven. 


After asking for the man’s name, he inquired about when he died. “Just this morning,” the man quipped. So the angel took out a black book called Liber Defunctorum (Latin for “Book of the Dead”) and searched for the man’s name. Not finding it, he asked again, “Did you say you died today? Your name is not in this book. Neither is it on the other dates prior to today.”


Noticing the commotion, Jesus approached the angel and inquired. The angel explained, “I couldn’t find this gentleman’s name in our Liber Defunctorum


Jesus clarified, “You will not find his name there. That is the book of the dead. Those bound for heaven are in this book Liber Vivorum - the Book of the Living. They are forever alive in my presence.” 


With that, the man was ushered into the Pearly Gates.


Those who lived godly lives are to savor the presence of the Lord. We read this blessed assurance, in the book of the prophet Isaiah: “their names will never be cut off or blotted out from my presence” (Is 48:19).


Christian theology recognizes two kinds of death. There is what we call terminal death


As the name implies, terminal, it is the end of everything. It is the end of a life that is wasted, spent for less than significant things. It is a kind of death where the only thing people attending the wake ask and talk about is “What did he die OF?” Not only is it the end of one’s earthly life, it could also be the end of a possibility of life lived with God’s beatifying presence. It is an eternity of separation from God’s beatitude. 


On the other hand, there is also what we call a paschal death


Paschal suggests dying to self which is Jesus’ invitation to carry one’s cross. It suggests a life lived in self-donation and self-giving. It is that kind of death where people attending the wake do not ask “what did he die of?” Instead they speak of “what he died FOR”. It is a life of purpose, meaning, and significance. 


Those whose death is of the paschal kind are “never cut off or blotted from God’s presence.”


When your time comes to be before the Lord, what will it be for you? 





Prayer:


Lord, You are not done with me yet. As I continue to journey in this life, continue to mold me into the person You want me to be. May I live a life of self-giving, faithful to Your Word. Amen.




Fr Joel O. Jason, M.A., SThL, currently heads the Commission on Family and Life of the Archdiocese of Manila. He is also a professor of Moral Theology, Bioethics and Sexuality at the San Carlos Seminary Graduate School of Theology, the Archdiocesan Seminary of Manila. He is also a Theology of the Body speaker and advocate and is parish priest of Mary Mirror of Justice Parish in Comembo, Makati City.


Seventh Word 2022

    "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."

  by Ana Balla


What a magnificent ending! Humble, courageous, trusting.

But to have a better appreciation of the ending, I went back to the beginning of the Seven Last Words. I was hoping to see a different perspective as I go though each words again and the Lord did not fail me.

 

Even in pain, Jesus remained true to His nature as a loving God, forgiving His tormentors. Sinful acts did not change Him nor cause Him to curse or exact revenge.

Instead of raining down punishments, He offered “paradise” to the repentant criminal. He rose beyond the insults and offered salvation.

Nearing His end, He found a way to continue “caring” for His mother and disciples. He bound them together as mother and son.

When He was done “looking after” others, He turned to the Father to cry out His agony and then to His tormentors to help relieve His thirst. Others first before Himself even when it hurts so much.

Then He ended it Himself, paid for our sins and completed His mission on earth before going back to the Father to entrust His Spirit.


What more can I say? It was clear from Jesus’ Seven Last Words that despite being restricted on the cross and deprived from all physical comfort, His Spirit remained free and ardent to forgive and to love, even those who persecuted and insulted Him. He was free to entrust Himself fully to the Father. He was victorious!


It may not be easy for us to follow His lead. We are humans after all, some will say. But who said it’s going to be easy. It’s not. But it doesn’t mean that it cannot be done. It can. We can. If we want. This Holy week. Forgive and give love to those who hurt us, who offend us and those who make our life difficult. God will always be there to help us love and forgive others, to endure the pain even when it hurts so much. He knows it well, He went through it Himself.






Prayer:

Oh Jesus, help us to celebrate a meaningful Easter. Help us to rise above our human nature so that like You, we can be victorious in loving and forgiving others. Help us to humble ourselves and fully trust our all-powerful and ever loving merciful Father. This we pray in Your mighty name. Amen.





Anabelle “Ana” Balla is an active member of Anluwage since its inception. Married and blessed with four smart daughters. She works as a Human Resource Manager in a semiconductor company and a long time plantita. She’s constantly in awe of God’s marvelous creations and finds joy in looking after them. 


Epilogue 2022

 




Beneath the cross, we bow in adoration before You, Lord Jesus.

Your whole life was a life spent in love. In Your hidden life, You allowed that love to be nurtured. In Your public ministry, You courageously proclaimed it to all without exception. 

Thank You for Your Seven Last Words, O Christ. May they give us consolation in these challenging times. May they also wake us up from the long sleep of apathy, selfishness, and lack of discernment. 

In Your love, save our world, our country, Your people.

One with Mary, we make this prayer. Amen.

***

Thank you, sisters and brothers, for joining in our Holy Week special. Thank you also to our writers from across the world who contributed their reflections in our Holy Week special this year. Refreshed and nurtured by Jesus' Seven Last Words, let us proclaim His love to all. God bless!



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