In this fourth weekly Lenten Reflection we shall listen to Christ's cry from the cross; a cry which offers us hope in our times of abandonment and desperation.
Jesus had hung on the cross for more than three hours enduring the rejection, ridicule and mockery of the crowds, the abandonment of his disciples, and even the taunts of one crucified with him. Yet, he didn’t curse the Jews who accused Him, nor Pilate who condemned Him, nor the soldiers who crucified Him. Instead, seemingly depleted, he cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
These are words which, in fact, were written some several hundred years before Jesus’ own birth. They are words which would have been etched upon Jesus’ soul through years of synagogue worship and private prayer. They were words from Psalm 22. In them Jesus had found a way to express the cry of his heart. He takes the prayer of the psalmist and makes it his own; the prayer of an innocent one who is suffering because of his fidelity to God’s will. Yet, this prayer is not one of despair but, rather, an expression of faith. As a learned Rabi Jesus would have known that Psalm 22 foreshadowed the crucifixion, spoke of the vindication of the one who suffered, and ended with a strong statement of God’s kingdom.
In this the fourth word, could Jesus have been confessing, not only his desperation, but also his unbroken faith in his Heavenly Father?
Did his use of Psalm 22 show his conviction that, in due time, he would be vindicated and God’s rule established over all creation?
Does the fourth word, the word of deepest agony, contain within it a tiny seed of Easter faith?
Did his quotation of Psalm 22 signal something beyond despair?
Today, we hear and share in Christ’s anguish of abandonment and we too in the Church today cry out, “my god, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We can wonder if God was present during the years of abuse and betrayal and struggle to find his presence now amidst the present exodus from the Church. Some may ask us, “where is your God now?” And we may be terrified to find that we have nothing to say. All the pious words that come to our lips sound worse than empty.
Today, more than ever we must listen to God in light of Psalm 22. Jesus wished to send us a message from the cross. In the "why" of Jesus there is no feeling of resentment, there is no criticism towards God. Jesus’ why is the expression of the experience of weakness, of solitude, of abandonment to himself. Similarly today, we must not despair if the Church experiences weakness, solitude, and abandonment. We, as the hands and the feet of his church, are asked to respond like Jesus did from the cross. Like him, we are not asked to complain about those who accuse us, condemn us, or crucify us. We are simply asked to put our response in faith. We must cry out with the same trusting abandonment that Jesus did. All we can do is be present and to trust that God is present too. Jesus asks us to listen and know the words of Psalm 22; that if we trust, we will not be put to shame. That even though the Church is scorned and despised and mocked and taunted, it will be kept safe. That the Church shall eat and be satisfied. That if we seek him, we shall praise him in great congregations. Today, more than ever we must trust that the words of Psalm 22 will be fulfilled.
Prayer for the week:
Read and reflect on Psalm 22.
Come and Join us....
If you live in Dublin why not come and be present for our 'Seven Last Words' Lenten Reflections? The above reflection will be part of a 30 minute meditation held at the Our Lady of the Angels Capuchin Church on Church Street each Friday of Lent beginning at 8:00pm. Music for these reflections will be provided by the CYC chamber choir. You can read the other weeks reflections here: week one, week two, week three, week four and week five.