March 28, 2021
Jesus is citing Psalm 22 from the cross. This Psalm shows the extreme trial of feeling abandoned by God. We also may experience that feeling; but this Psalm, from the agony of abandonment, leads us with Jesus to trust and hope in our God.
- “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” is the only and last scriptural passage quoted before Jesus’s death.
- Psalm 22, authored by King David, was a powerful prophetic sign that Jesus was the King of Israel.
- The Psalm speaks of abandonment from God and extreme suffering, but further expresses praise, trust and hope in God.
- So even when Jesus felt abandoned, He recognizes that the Lord was still active and God was still present.
- If we lose our faith in God during our abandonment and suffering, we are allowing the devil to destroy us and separate us from God.
“My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” Jesus is in extreme pain on the cross. To say anything just increases excruciatingly that pain, and so every word cost Him a lot. When he says those words, a Jew would recognize that He is quoting the first line of Psalm 22. This is the only scripture passage that the gospel says Jesus quoted on the cross.
This Psalm, which speaks of abandonment and extreme suffering, then turns to praise, trust, hope and expresses Jesus’s experience of abandonment and is also a supreme witness, to trust and to hope. We often see suffering as a sign that God is absent, that we’ve been abandoned by God, but God is often especially present in suffering. Jesus shares the suffering, the abandonment, that we can feel to help us persevere, to help us hold on. The last line, “These are the things the Lord has done,” expresses this path of suffering and abandonment that we experience and can become, with Jesus, the path to union with Him forever in the infinite joy of His kingdom.
“My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” Jesus is in extreme pain on the cross. To say anything just increases excruciatingly that pain, and so every word cost Him a lot. When he says those words, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” A Jew would recognize that He is quoting the first line of Psalm 22. This is the only scripture passage that the gospel says that Jesus quoted on the cross, in fact I guess it’s the very last passage of scripture that He quoted before His death. So I think it’s worth paying attention to what was so important about this, that Jesus made that effort, increased His pain to speak these words. A biblical scholar, a catholic biblical scholar, Tim Gray, ( and I’m going to be following some of his insights ) pointed out that for the Jews at that time the way they referenced a Psalm was by the first line. They didn’t have the numbers, they referenced that kind of like the title, the first line of the Psalm ( and a Jew would know all that followed ) many of them had all the Psalms memorized, and so they would know all that Jesus was speaking, not just the first line but in the center is referencing the whole Psalm 22. So this is a very important Psalm, the Psalm that Jesus is calling our attention to and crying out from the cross. And so it’s a Psalm that speaks of the suffering of Jesus, and it begins, “My God, My God, why have You abandoned Me?” “Why are you far from saving me? So far from the words of anguish, Oh My God, I call by day and You do not answer, I call by night and I find no reprieve, but I am a worm and no man scorned by everyone, despised by the people.” It goes on, later on to say, “Many bulls have surrounded Me, against Me they open wide their mouths, like a lion rending and roaring, like water I am poured out, disjointed are all my bones.” There’s something very surprising in this Psalm that we just heard in the gospel, Jesus is accused of making Himself the king of the Jews. He is mocked for pretending to be the king of the Jews, in fact, that’s the inscription of His condemnation, it’s on the cross itself, King of the Jews. And again that’s used as a mockery against Him. So think about this, the scripture passage that Jesus is quoting on the cross. Who is that scripture passage from? It’s from King David, the great King David, the beginning of the whole lineage, the whole royal lineage which goes down all the way to Jesus. And so there’s a first sense of that Psalm, that king David is speaking about himself, his own suffering. One of the things that shows is the fact that the suffering that king David is speaking of, the sufferings that Psalm speaks of, do not exclude a person from being the king of Israel, because King David himself spoke them of his own struggles. But the Psalm has an even deeper sense, because it has a prophetic sense not only about king David but even more so, the Psalm refers to Jesus. For instance, the Psalm will go on to say, “They tear holes in My hands and in My feet.” As far as we know that never happened literally to David but it happened literally to Jesus. Or when it says, “They divide My clothing among them, they cast lots for My robe.” And so this Psalm which was spoken by King David many centuries earlier, is a prophesying and accomplished through Jesus Christ on the cross. So what does that mean? That means that this Psalm that Jesus is citing is the sign, the powerful sign, the powerful prophetic sign from King David himself, that Jesus is the King of Israel. That even His suffering, even His sense of being abandoned by God, is actually a sign that He is the one that this Psalm was prophesied, that Jesus is the one He says He is, because the only way that could happen is by God’s action. And so this Psalm, which people could see as a mockery of Jesus, people are using the sufferings of Jesus as a mockery of Him to show that, you couldn’t be who you said you were, because of what you’re going through. By this Psalm Jesus is showing the Psalm shows that the very sufferings and humiliation and abandonment that He’s experiencing, are actually the sign that He is who He said He was; so much so that even a Roman centurion, who was not a believer in Scripture, said, the one who was at the cross said, “Truly this man was the son of God.” We often see suffering, it seems to us as a sign that God is absent, that we’ve been abandoned by God. It feels that way. But this is revealing that God is often especially present in suffering, even if it seems the opposite, and that the people who are suffering, poverty and different forms of poverty, and suffering, and abandonment, are often the ones who are especially united to God. So this Psalm, which is crying out Jesus’s suffering, is also confirming His kingship. And another surprising point of the Psalm, the Psalm which begins with so much desolation, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me,” with so it that Jesus is experiencing the truth of feeling abandoned. But then the Psalm turns to notes of hope, and trust. I’ll read you some of the other passages. “But you O’ Lord, do not stay far off. My strength make haste to help Me. I will tell of your name to my kin.” So this is Jesus. remember, this is Jesus who is dying, but speaking His words, “I will tell of your name to My kin and praise you in the midst of the assembly. You who fear the Lord, give Him praise, for He has never despised nor scorned the poverty of the poor. From Him, He has not hidden His face. But He heard Him whenever He cried. You are my praise in a great assembly. The poor shall eat and have their fill, they shall praise the Lord those who seek Him. May their hearts live on forever and ever. All the earth shall remember in return to the Lord, all families of the nations worship before Him. For the kingdom is the Lord’s, He is the ruler of the nations. And my soul shall live for Him. My descendants shall serve Him, they shall tell Him the Lord two generations yet to come, declaring His saving justice to people yet unborn.” And then the last line, “These are the things the Lord has done.” And so this Psalm, which speaks of abandonment and extreme suffering, then turns to praise and trust and hope. So this Psalm, which is a Psalm which expresses Jesus’s experience of abandonment, is also a supreme witness, to trust, to hope, the Supreme, or the abandonment in the worst, possible abandonment to be abandoned, feeling abandoned by God, because if we can’t count on God, we can’t count on anything. So from the worst abandonment, yet this Psalm, from that experience, the Psalm turns to trust. And you notice the last line, it said, “These are the things the Lord has done.” So that even when He felt abandoned, He recognizes that the Lord was still active, God was still present. So He trusts in spite of feeling abandoned by God. And so this feeling abandoned by God, Jesus abandons Himself to God, feeling abandoned by God, He responds by abandoning Himself to God with trust, “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.” And because of that, He will triumph forever. What seems to be His defeat is the beginning of His eternal unending triumph. And so this is reminding us of the difference between our feelings and our faith. We can feel abandoned, “Oh, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are you far from saving me so far, from the words of my anguish, Oh, God, I cry by day and you do not answer. I call by night and I find no reprieve.” So that’s the reality of the human experience of abandonment by God. And we can also experience that. But in the midst of that abandonment, we can hold on to faith. Because the danger in this, in those moments, is the devil is trying to separate us from God, because if he can separate us from God, he can destroy us. If he can separate us from God, he can destroy us. He tries to cause us to lose faith, to lose hope, to let go of God, because he knows that if we hold on to God, he can never destroy us. St. Paul says, “If we have been united with Jesus, in a death, death, like His,” and so if we also experience a sense of abandonment by God, we’re just sharing the death of Jesus Christ. St. Paul says, “We shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.” So you see, the paradox, that if we also experience like Jesus, the experience a feeling abandoned by God, that’s actually the sign that we are sharing His death, and will share His resurrection. And so in conclusion, as we enter into this Holy Week of 2021, this holy weakness in this time, which has been so difficult, so many trials, so much evil, so much suffering, Holy Week, and Jesus’ passion becomes more present than ever, in our lives and in our Church. One thing we could do, one simple thing we could do, is read, reread the Psalm 22. So that’s an invitation I give you today or this week, to reread the Psalm 22, about the suffering, that it speaks of, and this is very important, why is this hope and this suffering, because He’s revealing to us that even in a worst suffering, by the grace of God, we can hold on to trust, to faith and hope so that we can survive. Jesus shares, has shared the suffering, the abandonment, that we can feel. He shares it to help us persevere, to help us hold on, so that this path of suffering and abandonment that we can experience can become with Him, that path to union with Him forever, in the infinite joy of His kingdom. Amen.