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A Beacon Of Light… Standing At The Foot Of The Cross With Mary And St. John

March 14, 2023 Frontpage No Comments


(Editor’s Note: Fr. Richard D. Breton, Jr. is a priest of the Diocese of Norwich, Conn.)

  • + + Today we still find ourselves standing at the foot of the Cross. We are not there as mere spectators, but along with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the Apostle John, and many other of Jesus’ followers, we actively participate in the actions taking place.
    With the “fourth words” spoken by Christ there exists a transition. In the first “three words” spoken, Jesus is assuring the faithful, and really the entire human race, that the actions taking place are necessary for our redemption. Beginning with the “fourth words,” Jesus positions His gaze on the Father.
    As Jesus speaks these words, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46), Jesus embraces His suffering by speaking to the Father with the Word. In this moment Jesus is praying Psalm 22 from the Book of Psalms from the Old Testament. We must remember this was not uncommon because, as a devout Jew, Jesus would follow the customs of the Jewish people. Let’s take a look at Psalm 22 and see its significance in why Jesus chose to speak it at this time.
    Psalm 22 is a lament psalm, attributed to King David, that expresses deep anguish and distress, but also contains expressions of trust and hope in God. Here is a breakdown of the psalm: Verses 1-2: The psalm begins with a cry of abandonment and despair, with the psalmist feeling forsaken by God and crying out for help. Verses 3-5: The psalmist recalls God’s faithfulness to previous generations and expresses confidence that God will answer their prayer. Verses 6-8: The psalmist describes their current state of suffering, and the way others are mocking and insulting them. Verses 9-11: The psalmist reflects on their past experiences of God’s protection and care, and asks for God’s continued help and deliverance. Verses 12-18: The psalmist vividly describes their physical and emotional suffering, as well as the violent attacks of their enemies.
    This section contains several phrases that were later seen as prophetic of the suffering of the Messiah, including “they divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing” (v. 18).
    Verses 19-21: The psalmist appeals to God for help and protection, expressing confidence that God will answer their prayer. Verses 22-24: The psalmist declares their intention to praise God and testify to God’s faithfulness, even in the midst of their suffering. Verses 25-31: The psalm concludes with a declaration of trust and hope in God, expressing confidence that God will ultimately save and restore the psalmist, as well as all who trust in God.
    Psalm 22 is a powerful expression of the human experience of suffering, but it also points forward to the hope of deliverance and restoration through God’s faithfulness and saving power. This Psalm resolves in triumph and hope, as will Christ’s suffering. The Father doesn’t abandon Christ; rather, Christ abandons Himself to the Father. The psalm begins with a cry of anguish, but it ends with a declaration of faith and victory. In fact, many Christians believe that Jesus was not actually abandoned by God on the cross, but rather He was expressing His deep agony and suffering as He took on the sins of humanity. In this interpretation, Jesus was fully aware of the outcome of His suffering and death, which would ultimately lead to His Resurrection and victory over death.
    By quoting Psalm 22, Jesus was not only expressing his own personal agony but also fulfilling prophecy and demonstrating His identification with the suffering of humanity. It is a powerful reminder of the depth of Jesus’ love for us and His willingness to endure immense suffering in order to save us.

He Understands Our Suffering

The fourth words of Christ on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46 and Mark 15:34), have significant meaning for Christians and can influence our lives in several ways.
First, they remind us of the depth of Jesus’ love for us. Jesus willingly endured immense suffering, even feeling abandoned by God, in order to redeem us and reconcile us to God. This demonstrates the extent of His love for us and should inspire us to love others sacrificially.
Second, they assure us that Jesus understands our suffering: Jesus’ cry of abandonment reflects the depth of His humanity and His identification with the suffering of all humanity. This means that when we suffer, we can find comfort in knowing that Jesus understands and empathizes with us.
Third, they inspire us to trust in God even in the midst of suffering. Despite feeling abandoned by God, Jesus continued to address God as “my God.” This demonstrates His trust in God’s faithfulness and goodness, even in the darkest of circumstances. As Christians, we can likewise find hope and strength in trusting in God’s steadfast love and faithfulness, even when we are struggling.
Fourth, they fulfill prophecy and demonstrate Jesus’ identity as the Messiah. Jesus’ quotation of Psalm 22 on the cross is seen by many as a fulfillment of Messianic prophecy, which points to Jesus as the suffering servant who would redeem God’s people. This reinforces our faith in Jesus as our Savior and Lord, and inspires us to follow Him more closely. Overall, the “fourth words” of Christ on the cross serve as a powerful reminder of the depth of Jesus’ love and the hope that we have in Him, even in the midst of suffering and hardship.
The “fourth words of Jesus” are significant in our lives, because they represent Jesus’ feeling of abandonment and separation from God at that moment. It is a cry of desperation and anguish. To imitate this phrase in our daily lives, we can reflect on its meaning and apply it to our own experiences. We can use it as a reminder to turn to God in times of distress or when we feel alone or abandoned. It can be a prayerful expression of our own struggles and a way to connect with Jesus on a deeper level.

Internal Conversion

We know Lent is a time for an internal inventory of our spiritual lives. This internal inventory enables us to see where we need to make changes. More important, it calls us to an internal conversion where we can grow in spiritual maturity in our relationship with God.
Additionally, we can also strive to imitate the selflessness and love that Jesus demonstrated throughout His life. We can seek to put the needs of others before our own and show compassion and kindness to those around us. By living in this way, we can imitate the example that Jesus set and make a positive impact in the world.
This week’s words spoken by Jesus on the cross have reminded me that all of our earthly struggles are necessary to prepare us in experiencing heavenly joy. How we process the struggles and crosses of life influences our outlook on life. Meaning, if we allow earthly struggles to control us, we cannot grow in the spiritual life. But, if we use earthly struggles as a means to learn and grow, then we turn the corner toward spiritual growth. Agony, despair, and feelings of abandonment potentially distort our understanding of life. All of these, however, if united in hope, can turn a seemingly difficult moment into one of possibilities.
I pray these reflections are giving us an opportunity to use this Lenten Season for growth and understanding of the Faith.
Next week we move on to the “fifth words” of Christ on the cross. These “fifth words” show us a twofold participation: God’s thirsts for us, while in turn, we thirst for God.

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