This Sunday, I would have led a discussion around one of the chapters in the book that we are following in our Pope Hall class, Jesus is the Question. Even if you haven’t been a part of our book group, we can all gain a lot I think by a bit of reflection around Copenhaver’s Chapter 11: “A QUESTION FROM THE CROSS”.
Typically, Jesus used questions as a favorite teaching tool, asking things that might not have an easy answer, requiring our participation and leading us to find answers about the Kingdom inside of ourselves. But, the question before us today, asked by Jesus just before his death on the cross is not offered as a teaching tool, placing it alone among the other 306 questions he asks.
“My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?” is the question that Jesus asks of his Father at the hour of his death. It is not a question directed to us, not intended to evoke a response from us necessarily. The question is a dark one and a very real one, cried out by Jesus in a time of deep anguish. It is put to his Father - a Father with whom he has had a constant and deep and loving relationship his whole life. But here startlingly, the very Son of God is expressing deep and dark despair. The question is almost frightening in its rawness: a cry of absence for the God that has been, up to now, his constant companion.
The author cautions us, as we absorb this very human and very painful question, that we leave it “hanging in the air” just as it was left hanging, seemingly unanswered, on the cross that day. Many since that time have attempted to either add or subtract from in it in an effort to explain Jesus’ apparent loss of faith, softening the blow for us, if you will. But, if we dare to leave the question standing alone, we see Jesus, that is “very God, of very God; begotten, not made”, of one being with the Father, unable in his anguish to remember himself as such. We see Jesus, the begotten of the Father – believing himself to be the forgotten, the forsaken, the forlorn.
In these days and times, our despair can be very real. Our fears and forced isolation, the evening news, the reality of a world turned upside down, albeit temporarily, can cause us to doubt in the dark of the night. We can feel alone, abandoned by the God we thought we knew so well, a God seemingly gone absent for a time. What a Lent we are witnessing!
Strangely enough though, “Why have you forsaken me?” may be the most comforting question that Jesus asks. Left alone, its “stinging edge” shows us that if God in human form can doubt, then doubt must be part of our journey toward full reliance on God. We who live in time on this side of the resurrection of Jesus, know full well how the story ends. Jesus’ doubt becomes His triumph, a triumph that defies forever a world full of fear, a world that mistakenly thinks it has been left adrift without the loving providence of God. Jesus, first man, puts a lie to the fears of the world, and brings us to the reality of God’s truth and love, forever and forevermore. Take heart, dear parish family – God is hiding us now in the shelter of His wings.