When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30
Finished! A cry of triumph. Not defeat, but victory. Not the passive voice, but the active. Not “his head slumped and his spirit departed,” but “he bowed his head,” “he gave up his spirit.”
Finished! What do we know of this “finished” feeling, where celebration mixes with relief, where joy bursts into the fatigue and pain, pushing them into the background.?
- The graduation caps flung into the air at Blankenship Field each May. Done!
- The business proposal out the door. Accomplished!
- The marathoner after 26 plus miles. Completed!
- The soldier returning from Afghanistan. Ended!
- The mother reaching for her newborn, wet and red and crying. Finished!
“Finished!” says Jesus. The work You, Father, sent me to do is complete. The work You have been about since the Creation is done, for all time.
In one of our post-Eucharistic prayers, we say, “And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do …”
“The work You have given us to do.” There is a thrill in those words for me, a promise of vocation, of mission, of ministry, of calling. I have spent many hours vocation-seeking, examining aptitudes and interests, predilections and passions. Many years, decades actually, trying to discern that calling, trying to identify, in the words of Frederick Bueckner, “… the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Retirement doesn’t end that search, though it does take the edge off the urgency.
But perhaps I have been looking for the wrong thing. Perhaps I, like those First Century Jews, have been looking for the wrong Messiah. Perhaps I have been led astray by my vision of the Kingdom of God and my place in it. By my ego.
“Finished!” says Jesus. I have completed the work You have given me to do. In solidarity with all of humanity, I have become the victim, the target of all bullying and hatred and evil. In so doing, Father, I have revealed You to the world; lived a life of love and obedience, absorbed all the evil thrown at me and returned only love. So that humans might be changed and come into “mystic sweet communion” with us, I have shown the world how to die, and so, how to live.
Richard Rohr says, “The cross is about how to fight and not become a casualty yourself … about being the victory instead of just winning a victory … how to stand against hate without becoming hate, how to oppose evil without becoming evil ourselves.”
Perhaps in all this is the key to that last line of the hymn we sang earlier, the line that never before quite made sense for me.
“It is finished!” hear him cry;
learn of Jesus Christ to die.