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7 Last Words -- "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani" (Matthew 27:46)

Updated: Feb 20, 2019

Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani.“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Something we hear often enough – every Holy Week in fact. As Jesus was dying on the Cross, one of his last words was this very phrase. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Growing up, this phrase meant different things to me. As a child, it felt like a cry of helplessness from Jesus. That He had to bear this suffering for all of mankind. It saddened me as a child, listening to this lament of Jesus. It felt like He had given in to His fate in dying on the Cross. But as I grew into a youth, I was fortunate and blessed enough to have met numerous people who helped me to mature deeper into the faith. A priest shared with me that this cry of Jesus was more than a simple, sad lament. It was a promise. A promise of salvation. A promise of abundant Love of God. A promise of Hope. Because what started off Psalm 22:

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish?” –Ps 22:1

ultimately ends in:

“Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it.” –Ps 22:30-31

This changed my perspective on the lament. It became a statement for the people standing there and for the people reading the Gospel now; a statement of Hope.

It has been a rather difficult Lent and Easter for me this year. I’ve failed many times in my Lenten resolutions. It felt like I gave up halfway during the Lenten season. Holy Week came around and it didn’t seem as emotionally charged (for lack of a better word) as it was last year. The Triduum came and went and everything just seemed so…lackluster. Sure, there were wonderful, Spirit-filled moments during the Triduum. I’m not doubting that. What I’m saying is this: it felt routine. Ritualistic. Disconnected. I didn’t feel as though anything changed in me throughout this entire season. Stagnant. That’s what it was. I felt like the empty tomb. Everyone was rejoicing at the magnificence and glory of the Resurrection and here I am. Gathering dust. Growing stale. Purposeless. Just as the tomb has lost its purpose, so have I. I felt throughout this season that I was simply navigating through life, with everything just fading to the background. It felt as though life lost its color, its vibrancy, its liveliness. I was living but not alive.

“I am counted with those who go down to the pit; I am like a man who has no strength, Adrift among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave” –Ps 88:4-5

Now, the Psalms are amazingly haunting and beautiful. Unlike me, they are so emotionally raw and powerful. Sensual beauty. Enlivening praise. Deepest grief. The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it nicely: “the Psalms are a mirror of God's marvelous deeds in the history of his people, as well as reflections of the human experiences of the Psalmist” (CCC 2588). The next paragraph of the CCC also describes the Psalms as having certain constant characteristics; “simplicity and spontaneity of prayer; the desire for God himself through and with all that is good in his creation; the distraught situation of the believer who, in his preferential love for the Lord, is exposed to a host of enemies and temptations, but who waits upon what the faithful God will do, in the certitude of his love and in submission to his will.” (CCC 2589)

Now, it’s God’s grace indeed but one thing was highlighted to me from a Catholic game I was playing (btw, it’s called Divinityif you ever want to check it out…. brilliant stuff!) during Easter. There was never any despair. Lamentations? Yes. Grief? Plenty. Frustration? Definitely. But never despair. And then it struck me. There was never any despair because through it all, there was one thing that never left the Psalmist’s heart. Hope. Through it all, there was hope. Hope in the Mercy of God. Hope in His many promises. Hope in Him. Even in their darkest moments, they hoped in the Father who bore them out of Love, the Son and Messiah who will save them through His Love and the Spirit who fills them with His Love.

“And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you.” –Ps 39:7

And so, this Easter taught me to hope. To be patient and take heart. To keep the faith. Maybe the Psalmist’s didn’t fare so well. Maybe his situation never got any better, or worse still, got worse. And maybe, neither will mine. But just as the Psalmist, I will not despair. I will hope in the Lord, my God, my Saviour and my Redeemer. And if we look at the psalm that follows Psalm 22:

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” –Ps 23:1

© 2018 Christ Centered Convo/Gregory Adrian Gunawan

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