The Fourth Word of Jesus on the Cross: A Reflection
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
This is an anguished cry of a person being forsaken by God, of a person whose complaint, or prayer, has not been heard. A cry that makes him feel ignored, rejected, and therefore being isolated and alone.
But wait, is it not from the mouth of our Lord Jesus, the beloved Son of God that these words come from? This cannot possibly happen. How can the Father forsake His Son who many times has said “I and the Father are one. . . . I am in the Father, and the Father is in me”?
The cry of Jesus is not really what we may think it is.Definitely it is not one of resentment, or despair, or lack of hope. These words are actually the first line of Psalm 22 which every pious Jew was very familiar with. By saying this line, Jesus is proclaiming Himself as the Suffering Servant described in the Psalm.
"My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish? But I am a worm, not a man,scorned by men, despised by the people.All who see me mock me;they curl their lips and jeer;they shake their heads at me:
The sufferings now being endured by Jesus are also the fulfilment of the words of the prophet Isaiah, describing the Suffering Servant so vividly in Chapter 53:
"He was spurned and avoided by men,a man of suffering, knowing pain,Like one from whom you turn your face,spurned, and we held him in no esteem.Yet it was our pain that he bore,our sufferings he endured.We thought of him as stricken,struck down by God and afflicted,But he was pierced for our sins,crushed for our iniquity.He bore the punishment that makes us whole,by his wounds we were healed."
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
From these words, Jesus, who is divine, reveals Himself as truly human, who can experience physical and even emotional suffering that human beings do. When we experience suffering, or see others experiencing suffering, we often cry out ourselves in anguish and ask God about the reason for it all. Like:
My God, why do you allow tragic things to happen to people, like calamities, typhoons, floods, fires, earthquakes? Why do allow the senseless killings of innocent people, like the nuns in Yemen, the bombings in Paris, in Brussels, and the beheading of Christians in many parts of the world?
Why do you allow mostly the poor to be victims of calamities, whose fragile houses are torn down by the harsh winds and shattered by strong waves, and whose meager source of living is destroyed? Why do you abandon us when you allow serious sickness to afflict some of our family members, with cancer and other diseases, some of which the cure has not been found?
Why do you abandon us when you take away our loved ones through death? We cannot understand, Lord. There are those who have been accused of a crime that they did not commit and were thrown to prison because of poverty to languish there unjustly. Why Lord?
There are children who were abandoned by their parents because they could not fulfill their responsibility, or children who are waiting to be born but whose lives are cruelly terminated because no one is willing to care for them. Why do you allow then to be abandoned, Lord?
Why do bad things happen to good people, Lord?
Sometimes we question if God is truly abandoning us.
But many things happen because of sins of people. There are tragedies in the lives of people due to the sins that they or other people have committed. In brief, it seems the Father abandoned Jesus because Jesus took upon Himself our sins and the penalty for sin, a penalty that we sinners only rightfully deserve.
When Jesus agonized for three hours on the cross, He actually went to the dark places of lives, bearing the weight of our sinfulness. The Father allowed His dearly beloved Son to experience sufferings -- for the salvation of us all.
How great that love is! God the Father sending His Son to reconcile us with Him. “Greater love than this no man has, than to offer his life for his friend.”And so, in the cry of Jesus, the Father hears our cries.Jesus unites with us at every cry of people when they ask for help from God.
That is why Jesus’ cry: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” is a cry that is full of faith in the Father, a cry of hope, a cry that is full of trust, in God.
This cry is a cry of prayer, which we direct to God when we say: “My God, my God.”
God never withdraws His face from those who are crying out to Him. He hears every cry of the poor and the abandoned and the victims of even man’s inhumanity to man. The prophet Isaiah in Ch. 49 assures us this:
"I will never forget you, My peopleI have carved you on the palm of My handI will never forget youI will not leave you orphanedI will never forget My own.Does a mother forget her baby?Or a woman the child within her womb?Yet even if these forget,Yes, even if these forget,I will never forget my own."
If Christ unites Himself with us so that we will be like Him, as sons and daughters of God, is it not proper that we also unite ourselves with Jesus? It is easy to cry in union with Christ because we do this often enough whenever we include those cries in most of our prayers. But what is difficult is to listen to the cry of other people who are also loved by God. Listening to the cry of the poor means we are united with them in their situation of being abandoned, feeling their hunger and deprivation due to poverty.
There are many who are deaf to the silent screams of babies in the womb who are trying to fend off their attackers, with forceps and other instruments of death, who just want to vacuum them out of existence because they would make others’ lives uncomfortable.
But like Christ who showed His love for humanity through the sacrifices and sufferings from the cross, we are called upon to make certain sacrifices, give of ourselves, make acts of self-denial, so that we can relieve even in a small way the sufferings of the poor and the oppressed, and allow the innocent and the vulnerable to see the light of day and experience the love of those who can love them.
All of us, like Jesus at the end of these three hours on Calvary, will also die. But if in our lives we only think of ourselves, our dying would be meaningless. But if we have denied ourselves, if we have given of ourselves in order to fill the lives of others, just like what Jesus did on the cross, such a death would be a meaningful one.
The cry of Jesus on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” makes us focus on God’s infinite mercy.
And so we pray: Dear Jesus, I am here, I am with you in your cry. Do not abandon me to my sins, to my unfaithfulness, do not abandon me whenever I cry to you. Do not abandon me in my death, but be with me, stay with me, and in your great mercy, hear and answer me!#