Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reflection: "My God, My God..."

"My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?"

Did Christ lose His faith?  Did the Son of God call out in agony not simply because of physical pain, but also because He no longer believed in His Father?

Read superficially, this despairing cry seems embarrassing for Christians.  The Messiah appears to be admitting that He was not really the one, after all.  When He most needed His Father's divine intervention, it was not forthcoming.

Yet these words have never been a source of scandal to the Church.  Why?  There are several reasons, the foremost of which may be that they are the first line of Psalm 22.  When we read the whole text of Psalm 22, we see that Jesus is not expressing His disbelief in His Father; rather, He is expressing His profound trust in the Father.  Psalm 22 may begin with an expression of abandonment, but it ends with joy and triumph.

The 22nd psalm is a prophesy that details the suffering and triumph of the Messiah.  Like the Song of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13 through chapter 53), it details His torture at the hands of those who hate Him and His eventual victory.  Psalm 22 ends with a declaration that all nations will know and serve the Lord, and that all who have died will be raised again so that they can bow down to Him.  These thoughts dovetail well with Christ's teaching of the resurrection of the body and the mandate He gives to the apostles to "baptize all nations."

Yet, to deny that Jesus felt no separation from His Father is to deny His full humanity.  He was afraid in the Garden.  He did not want to die, but He chose to do His Father's will, albeit with a heavy heart.  Perhaps that is what makes Him so wonderful; even when He feels completely abandoned by His Father, He still does His Father's will.

There is a great comfort for us in that.  When we feel cut of from God and utterly alone, when we feel as if there is no one else in the world who stands beside us or has compassion for us, we can remember Jesus' example.  He did His Father's will when everything within Him and everyone around Him told Him to abandon His mission.  His love for His Father was deeper than those feelings.  That should tell us something about the nature of real love.

There will be times when we feel abandoned by God.  There will be times when we can detect no trace of His Presence anywhere.  Indeed, some of us will endure long periods of this feeling of being forsaken.  But we must not give up.  We must not abandon our mission.  Christ persevered to the point of death for our sake.  Can we not do the same, for His sake?

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