Lenten Meditations from the Pastoral Concerns Dept – Day 33 “FOURTH WORD ON THE CROSS: MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME”
[The Pastoral Concerns Department of the Church of South India brings out devotions for the 40 Lenten Days in 2019 beginning from the Ash Wednesday. A group of CSI Presbyters from the five states of South India prepared these devotions and published on this official website of the CSI Synod, Official Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/csisynodcommunication/ and the official WhatsApp Broadcast from the number +91 9840577404. You can read/download the English version of the devotion here. The writer of the devotion presents the same in a video on the day. Watch here Rev. C. Christopher David, Presbyter, CSI Vellore Diocese gives a meditation “FOURTH WORD ON THE CROSS: My God, My God, why have you Forsaken Me”
Lenten Meditations- Day 33 (for 12th April 2019)
“FOURTH WORD ON THE CROSS: MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME”
Selected Texts: Mathew 27: 45-49 | Mark 15: 33- 36 | Exodus 10: 21-23 | I Peter 2:9
Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” That is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mathew 27: 46
The world where we live in is filled with bittersweet experiences. Everyone faces desperate situations and separations from the beloved ones whom they think, are close to their heart. It is uncommon and unusual as we see Jesus’ cry and anguish in the passage (Mathew 27: 45-49/Mark15: 33-36). He experienced segregation and deep sense of separation from God and the people who are close to his life. Every Human being encounters such situation of bitterness and exclusion as Jesus experienced on the cross. The words that Jesus uttered from the cross are close to our minds; He spoke in his vernacular language to express the deep sense of loss, disconnection and alienation from God. The people who were around the cross misunderstood that Jesus is calling Elijah to vindicate him from this situation, some of them even suggested to wait and see that Elijah would come and rescue Him from this bitter experience. Most of the time we express our feelings in our mother tongue rather in foreign language. We get different descriptions and interpretations of our problems as Jesus received from the people. Jesus’ authentic humanity is clearly exemplified in the fourth word saying that from the Cross. This passage clearly raises the fundamental question of the suffering of the innocent and just. As we read in Psalm 22, the righteous can face sufferings but they can be relieved from their circumstances.
As we perceive in Jesus’ condition on the brutality of the cross the emancipation is not accessible as per Psalmist’s imagination. The Gospel writers portrayed Jesus’ loud cry and groaning to get rid of the unbearable agony. Another important aspect we get it from this passage is, Jesus’ question to God. Jesus accepted the form of incarnation; His connection with God was intense, but, here Jesus experiences the loneliness and discomfort for not having the connection as He had with God in the past. Darkness is a powerful symbol in the Bible. The element of darkness preceded creation (Gen. 1:2-3), represented God’s judgment on Egypt (Exo. 10: 21-23) and concealed God’s glory from the people (Exo. 20: 21). Darkness is also used as a metaphor for people’s ignorance of God (Mt. 4: 16) and their hopelessness without God (I Pet. 2:9) picks up all these meanings, but above all it conveys a sense of doom and hopelessness as God seems absent. Lamenting is another powerful symbol which exposes the agony of sufferer. The lamentation is a powerful tool of dissent in the history of Israelites (Lam1:11-12). Even Jesus cried out in distress at being separated, though temporarily from His Father: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
The lament of Jesus, clearly projects the brokenness and abandonment of God. Such occasions of pain and agony give different ideas and perspectives on our lives. At the same time it kindles us to suspect and question: Can God leave us alone? Or Can God allow suffering? Having had the sense of doubt and question it is very important to face the challenges and tribulations of the world. Jesus’ experience teaches us to overcome the trials and tribulations through our faith experience.
As we meditate this verse, there are heart burning issues that common folk faced in everyday life. One of the incidents was the cyclone effects of Gaja, especially to the farmers. If we approach this incident from farmer’s perspective, we come across, exploitation, desperation, separation and deep sense of loss. Though they did not expect such an unexpected catastrophe it has distorted the normal course of the common people. Here the same question arises, “Why God?”
Another important context is the plight of the farmers in India. Farmers are the backbone of the economy of India and the supporters of life of our nation. But, the farmers are not recognized by the government. For the sake of development huge amount of money is spent on the technological and scientific sectors, at the same time Government is not ready to spend money on agriculture which is the vital source of Life. Farmers’ voices are not recognized by the authority. In the name of developmental projects most of the farmers’ lands are taken and they are in desperate situation, their cries are sloganeering. At present our farmers are facing desperate sense of loss, pain and segregation by our own government. The suicide rates among farmers are increasing day by day. Their pleas are not heard and they experience the deep sense of separation as Jesus experienced on the Cross. Why God?
It is very important for us to re-think our commitment to God. When we face desperate situations, we fail to overcome but we raise the question “why should this happen to me”. Jesus had overcome the problem by questioning God. He had overcome by asking questions and finding remedy for them, he realized that the Cross is the resolution for separation. Another important aspect is, we see the intimacy between God and Jesus. The intimate relation made Him to accomplish the task that is given by God. It’s a personal experience of every individual’s life. Most of the time we never find the alternative way to get things done. Sometimes we have to face the tribulations but at the same time it can be taken out with our alternative way of thinking and approach with focused mind and commitment. Jesus had taken the alternate way that dying on the Cross alone can emancipate him, so He takes the risk. We never take challenges and come out of from safe zones. We want salvation for sale. As a Christian community let us unite and make our commitment alive and be focused to win the battle as Jesus had overcome trials and tribulations on the Cross. As Martin Luther King Jr says, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” so, love is the transforming force which can change an enemy into a friend. As a Christian community let us be united in the love of Jesus Christ and march towards to win the race by witnessing Christ in our deeds and action.
1. O sacred Head, now wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,
now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory,
what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine.
2. What language shall I borrow
to thank Thee, dearest Friend,
for this, Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever!
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never,
outlive my love for Thee.
-Bernard of Clairvaux
Merciful God, we seek your mercy to move forward to witness for you in our actions and deeds. God of hope, we believe that you are our power to overcome trials, tribulations and desperation that we face in our everyday life. Grant us knowledge and wisdom to win the battle and be the testimony of Jesus Christ till we depart from this world. God of justice, we seek your presence for the people who face exploitation, separation and segregation all over the world, let your divine presence be upon them to overcome the circumstances that they face. Lord, help us to be constantly in contact with you even if we go through trials and temptations. Amen
Rev. C. Christopher David
CSI Vellore Diocese