From Soul of Christ
When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (Mark 15:33-39)
Theme for Holy Hour:
Praying with Jesus on the Cross
Suggested opening hymn: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” written by Isaac Watts.
Adoring Jesus In His Word
The words of Jesus in this gospel, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” can shock us. If Jesus is truly the Son of God, wouldn’t he have known with certainty that the Father would not abandon him?
As Son of God, Jesus knows the Father better than we ever could – including his infinite goodness and love. But knowing something and feeling something are two different things. On the cross, Jesus took on all that we suffer, including the sense of separation from God that sin brings. His desolate cry, asking the Father why he had abandoned him, is also an act of faith because Jesus is quoting Psalm 22. In this psalm, every time the psalmist complains about suffering, he follows it with a remembrance of how the Lord has cared for him. Psalm 22 ends with a hymn glorifying and praising God’s goodness and deliverance.
What does it mean to us that the suffering of Jesus is both akin to ours and goes way beyond it? As man, Jesus fully undergoes not just the physical aspects of suffering, but also the hostility and rejection of the very people he came to save. As Son of God, Jesus takes on the devastating evil of sin – the hell of separation from God – more than any mere human being could bear. It wasn’t enough for him to suffer for us and with us. Jesus wanted to take on the full consequences of sin, to definitely free us from the power of sin and death. He undergoes a senseless, horrific death where he experiences utter desolation so that we will not have to experience the ultimate, eternal suffering or separation from God.
In union with Jesus on the cross, renew your trust in God’s love for you and God’s plan for your life by praying Psalm 22.
Try to bring the rhythm of this psalm into daily life: every time you complain about something, turn it into a prayer of faith and / or praise.
We will never comprehend the depth of Christ’s suffering or the depth of his love for us.
In our lives, profound suffering usually involves our entire being; if we are physically suffering, we find ourselves emotionally and spiritually dry. Psychological suffering often leads to physical illness. However we suffer, we tend to feel isolated, fragmented, and disconnected from others and from God. Unable to see meaning or hope at the time when we most need to, our suffering becomes even more painful, tinged with our desperation and hopelessness.
Following Jesus Way
During his passion, Jesus experienced that fragmentation and hopelessness too. Because he fully, freely, and lovingly suffered his passion and cross to bring us to new life, we can glimpse the resurrection even in our present sufferings. It is not just that our sufferings will not last forever. Rather, our suffering is infused with the hope of the resurrection, with the certainty that we are accompanied and loved, with the conviction that whatever we undergo will somehow bring new life – even if we cannot see it now. For when we unite our sufferings with those of Jesus, they become a source of life for others. Just as the centurion saw God’s holiness in Christ’s death on the cross, so our sufferings can become an opening for God’s grace to enter the world.
In this way, we suffer and die with Christ in order to rise with him.
“Faith creates in us a new being, animated by the spirit of Jesus Christ. United with him, abandoned in him in this life, we can accomplish and we do accomplish what he did: in him we die to the flesh and to sin, to be born again into the spiritual life. Speaking more precisely: Christ alone lives, thinks, acts, loves, wills, prays, suffers, dies, and rises in us.”
Perhaps we can reflect on these questions: How am I living the paschal mystery in my daily life? What am I going through right now that feels like an obstacle to my life of faith? What can strengthen me to unite both my joys and my sufferings with Jesus?
We can renew our love for Jesus Crucified with this prayer for union with him:
Crucified With Christ
May your unchanging patience be my patience.
May your crown of thorns obtain for me humility of heart.
May your scourging be my purity and mortification.
May your agony be the model of my agony.
May the wounds of your holy feet guide all my footsteps.
May the folly of your cross give me true wisdom.
May your resurrection obtain for me a glorious resurrection.
In all things may I be crucified with you, and may your holy will be entirely fulfilled in me.
May your merits be mine, and your virtues be for me way, strength, mercy, and eternal reward.
(Blessed James Alberione)
To continue your contemplation, pray the Stations of the Cross with the intention of asking for the strength to live your entire life – including the challenges and sufferings – in union with Jesus. You may wish to include in your intentions someone else who is undergoing great suffering.
In Union With Jesus
Conclude with a hymn of praise for the gift of our redemption in Christ, such as the traditional, “What Wondrous Love Is This.”