Posted by: fvbcdm | April 14, 2014

Monday of Holy Week (14 April 2014)

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is one of the utterances of Jesus while hanging in agony on the cross, and is the one which provokes the largest number of questions from people hearing those utterances. We heard it at Mass this past weekend when the passion narrative according to Saint Matthew was read. Let’s consider it briefly here.

To begin with, it is the first line of Psalm 22. You can find it in the book of psalms in the Old Testament, which has been the prayerbook of Jews and Christians for centuries. If I were to hear you say, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” and then lapse into silence, I would assume that you are continuing that prayer in your own heart, inaudibly. Now, if you read the entire psalm 22, you will find that it contains a graphic description of a man dying of crucifixion: “My bones are all disjointed . . . my heart is like wax melting within me . . . my tongue is stuck to my jaw . . . a pack of dogs surrounds me . . . they tie me hand and foot . . . I can count every one of my bones . . . they divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothes.”

But then the tenor of the psalm changes dramatically. “Do not stand aside, O God. O my strength, come quickly to my help; rescue my soul from the sword, my dear life from the paw of the dog, save me from the lion’s mouth, my poor soul from the wild bulls’ horns . . . then I shall proclaim your name to my brothers . . . praise you in full assembly . . . you are the theme of my praise in the Great Assembly . . . those who seek God will praise him. Long life to their hearts . . . my soul will live for him . . . my children shall serve him.” Thus, what begins on a note of despondency and deep anguish ends with a cry of exaltation, hope, and joy.

So it was with Jesus on the cross. He was suffering horribly, not only in body but in mind and emotions. He was surrounded by malice, hatred, rejection, ridicule, accusation. But he knew perfectly well that he would die and then, some forty hours later, would rise from the tomb to new and eternal life. In his body and his human soul and emotions, there was immense sorrow, pain, grief, and the sense of death encroaching to envelop him. But He who had said, “I am resurrection and life,” could not die permanently.

The fact that he died at all was a miracle of divine mercy so that he could make atonement for our sins.  Shortly after he had cried out those words that we have been contemplating, he said, filled with satisfaction that he had obeyed his Father’s will even to death, and with trust in his Father’s love, “It is finished. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” And with that, Our Divine Lord died for you and for me.

Did he think on the cross that the Father had forsaken him? Of course not. But his sorrow was as great as anyone’s who has felt forsaken and abandoned. Did he know that he would rise? Of course he did. And was he thinking of us during those long hours of misery on the cross? Of course he was; our salvation was the whole reason for his sufferings.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you. Because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago

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