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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

  I have been a priest for almost 47 years and a traveling preacher for the past 30 years.  During parish missions people often come to me feeling that their faith has been stretched to the limit.  They pray and pray for something--to overcome an illness, to deal with a difficult family problem or life situation and there seems to be no answer.  They wonder, "Where are You God with all that is going on in my life?"

   This past Sunday was Palm Sunday, or also Passion Sunday.  The account of the Passion of Christ from one of the synoptic Gospels is always read, usually by the priest and two other readers.  From the cross Jesus cries out, "My God, My God, Why have you forsaken Me?"  The picture at the top of this article quotes Matthew. This year it was from Mark 15:34.  How can this be?  Jesus, after all, is the eternal Word of the Father, always one with the Father and the Spirit. How then, can He be forsaken by God?

   Over the centuries there have been several attempts at answering this question and all of them are valid.  For one thing it is good to point out that these words are the beginning of a Psalm 22. Jesus is speaking the first line of a psalm that expresses deep lament at the sufferings the writer is going through but it ends on a note of hope.  In verses 25-27 we read, "For he has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, Did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out. I will offer praise in the great assembly:my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him. The poor will eat their fill: those who seek the Lord will offer praise. May your hearts enjoy life forever."

   The psalmist is certainly feeling desperation,, but in the end his prayer is answered.  But what are we to think of Jesus crying out and feeling forsaken by God?  Yes, Jesus is the eternal Word of the Father and in the core of His being always one with the Father,  but He is also so radically and fully human that He experiences this sense of abandonment by God that we humans experience and as He cries out from the cross He cries it out for all of us.  At the same time we need to look at the whole psalm because it gives us hope in two ways.  The first is that the Lord is with us in our moments of feeling abandoned by God. The second is that if we do not abandon hope we, like Jesus in His Resurrection, will find deliverance, and not only personal deliverance, but deliverance from injustice and poverty.

   During the rest of this Holy Week, and especially on Good Friday, let us pray out not only our personal experiences of abandonment and desperation, but also those of the poor, oppressed and marginalized of the world, not in anger and rebellion against God, but with the hope that His Resurrection brings.

   

  

3 comments:

  1. Our pastor delivered a very similar message this past Sunday. One of the things he pointed out was that upon hearing the opening verses of Psalm 22 a faithful Jew would immediately think through (and likely be able to recite) the entire psalm much like a good Catholic would if they heard the opening line of the Hail Mary, Our Father or the Creed. Hearing "Why have you forsaken me?" would be recognized as a sign of his human despair but also a sign of his ultimate hope and trust in God.

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  2. This was so beautiful! Real, substantial food for the soul. Thank you!

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