“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Mk 15:34)
There are no words to describe the piercing affect that such a question has on the human soul. Particularly when they come from the lips of someone suffering greatly. Especially when the one who utters them is Jesus of Nazareth.
But they are not his words alone. They come from Psalm 22, which is a plea for deliverance from suffering and hostility. The psalms were the communal prayers of the Jewish people-they prayed them together at celebrations and at holy days, as well as together in the mundane events of everyday life. The psalms were not prayers only of David (who wrote many of them), they were the prayers of Israel, of God’s people. It was not simply David who prayed for deliverance-it was all of Israel. From the Cross, Jesus prays this prayer, and in so doing he expresses not simply his own suffering, but rather lifts up the anguish of God’s people-all men-to the Heart of God. That the deepest depths of human suffering-physically, emotionally, and spiritually-would be laid out in full before God himself.
Even when God seems most distant, Jesus does not cease to cry out. Probably because he knows full well how the psalm ends. “The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord!…men shall tell of the Lord to the coming generation, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, that he has wrought it.” (Ps 22: 26, 30-31). This is not the end of the story.
The Passover commemorates the Exodus out of the slavery of Egypt, where the blood of the slain lambs was put above the doors of the faithful to save them from the final plague brought down upon Egypt. It is after this final act that the Hebrew people are released from bondage in Egypt. St. John’s chronology puts the crucifixion and death of Jesus during the afternoon right before the Passover, at the very time when the lambs were being slaughtered.
“Behold, the Lamb of God” (Jn 1:29). The Baptist calls Jesus the Lamb of God not because Jesus is meek and gentle like a lamb, but because by the Blood of the Lamb, God’s people will again be saved and brought to freedom.
Because Jesus has a human nature, he can fully bring the brokenness of men to God. Because he has a divine nature, he can (and does) save us. He holds nothing back. It is from the total self-donation of Jesus that teaches us how much God loves us, and how much we are worth.
The cross is the classroom of love. Love demands sacrifice. As Fulton Sheen once noted, “Unless there is a good Friday in your life, there can be no Easter Sunday.” The same is true with any worthwhile endeavour in life. And what can be more worthwhile than the love of God, and of our fellow man? And-most of the time-what requires more sacrifice than that love?
There is no Easter without Good Friday. God loves you. Have a good Good Friday.