Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Holy Week 2018 | The Seven Last Words from the Cross Part 4: My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Holy Week 2018 Seven Last Words from the Cross Reflection | Cry of Dereliction

“My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” 

Mark 15:33-35

33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 
34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”
35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, He is calling Elijah.”

Fourth Reflection Reading

"My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?" is the Cry of Dereliction, the central saying of the Cross that "causes us to tremble," but rightly understood, it is also the saying that brings the most comfort, because it takes us into the most profound depths. In this saying we find the closest thing to an answer to the question, "Why do they have to concentrate on the awful way He died?" 

Saint Paul, meditating upon the accursed death of Jesus, forsaken on the Cross by God and men, came to the conclusion that it was the curse itself that lay at the heart of "the awful way He died." Nothing else could explain the shame and horror of it. If crucifixion was the most accursed of all deaths, then that must have been God's intention all along. On the Cross, Jesus voluntarily and willingly bowed His head under the power of Sin and the curse of God for us. Jesus "gives Himself with His own hand," as Saint Thomas Aquinas' Eucharistic hymn says. God is submitting to God's own wrath and justice in our place. That is one of the most important reasons – perhaps the most important reason that Jesus was crucified. Jesus' situation under the harsh judgment of Rome was analogous to our situation under Sin. A key passage for us is Romans 6:17-18: "You are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience which leads to righteousness ... But thanks be to God, that you ... having been set free from sin, we have become slaves of righteousness." The Son of God took our place under the dictatorship of Sin. He was condemned by the Law and subject to Death because only He, the Perfectly Righteous One, could break the hold of these Powers and bring us out of our slavery to sin into the service of His righteousness. God the Creator, in the person of His Son, has put Himself into our place. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us

Try to imagine what it would be like to be totally without God. Imagine being cut off from all of those things which God gives in abundance to make life worth living. No love, no life, no light, no joy, no encouraging relationships – just total and utter aloneness. No peace, no pleasure, no satisfaction, no hope, no silver lining, no future – just the endless absence of everything and anything good, utterly cut off from all that God is, and all that God gives. That is the separation that sin causes. That is what it means to be forsaken. That is hell. That, perhaps, is the least that hell is.

And Jesus went there. Jesus descended to the depths of that darkness, the darkness of separation from God. And Jesus did it so that you and I need never have to do so. He went there to make it possible for us not to have to go there; so that “whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “I and the Father are one,” Jesus said (John 10:30). So that terrible time of separation, was as much an agony for the Father to impose as it was for the Son to endure. The work of our salvation, including this depth of darkness and separation, was the work of God the Father and God the Son acting together along with the Holy Spirit as Hebrews tells us that it was “through the eternal Spirit (that Jesus) offered Himself unblemished to God” (Hebrews 9:14). God was there on earth as in heaven, on the cross and in the agony of separation, bearing in His own self the cost of our salvation.

+ Christopher J.H. Wright, To the Cross

Jesus' hour has come, He has drunk the dregs of the cup that had been given Him and the entirety of His mission reaches its crescendo in the cry of dereliction. Far from being in control, he has without remainder surrendered control to the Father. He does not even presume to call Him Father. Absolutely everything, including the judgment of what He has done, is out of His hands. Everything is in God's hands. Jesus makes no claims whatever. There is here no contradiction in the Gospel accounts. It is true that only Mark and Matthew report the cry of dereliction, but the final words in Luke and John are perfectly consonant with the radicality of Jesus' surrender. In Luke, "Father, into Your hands I place my spirit." In John, "It is finished." Reading the Gospel accounts together, it becomes clear that the secret of the cry of dereliction is that the abandonment by God is the abandonment to God. Had it not gone to this extremity, it would not have been truly finished.

+ Fr. Richard John Neuhaus

God is most revealed when He seems to us the most hidden. "Christ's moment of most absolute particularity  the absolute dereliction of the cross – is the moment in which the glory of God, His power to be where and when He will be, is displayed before the eyes of the world," says David Bentley Hart. Here God in Christ refuses to let our sin determine our relation to Him. God's love for us means He can hate only that which alienates His creatures from the love manifest in our creation. Cyril of Jerusalem observes that by calling on His Father as "my God," Christ does so on our behalf and in our place. Hear these words, "My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me?" and know that the Son of God has taken our place, become for us the abandonment our sin produces, so that we may live confident that the world has been redeemed by this cross. 

+ Stanley Hauerwas, Cross-Shattered Christ 

Reflection Song

Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)?
By African American Spiritual
Late 1800s A.D.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Ohh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed Him to the cross?
Were you there when they nailed Him to the cross?
Ohh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed Him to the cross?

Next post: Holy Week 2018 | The Seven Last Words from the Cross Part 5: I Thirst

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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