My God, My god why have you forsaken me. (Mark 15:34 / Matthew 27:46)
Jesus is quoting here from Psalm 22 as his Jewish hearers would know, which is a psalm finishing in praise and comfort but not here.
This is Jesus’ most intimate, most human, cry. We are born into an attachment and being securely loved is an essential part of our well being as adults. Being abandoned as a child can and often does have appalling consequences for us. Jesus was loved in a warm Jewish community. Being abandoned in Jewish society was a big deal. Jesus had lost his friends and now above all his God. He’d gone from the traditional Passover meal, surrounded by friends and probably family, to total loss of all his psychological and spiritual world. The heart rending humanity of it reminds that Jesus was fully human. How easily do we own up to being and feeling totally abandoned? We have to feel utterly at rock bottom, utterly rejected, dismissed and ignored by so-called friends, family, community, to say we are abandoned. Jesus had nothing, not even the comfort of his God. It’s the last abandonment, and the essence of what we can feel as human beings at our worst moments.
It’s an abandonment known by many around us. Prisoners, refugees, asylum seekers, those who are hated for things not their fault, those killed for no reason but their faith, the old living in solitude and unable to go out, the child of abusing parents…the list could go on. Jesus is part of that list, at the end of his life. Dying a death which was a total abomination of torture, he is overwhelmed by the feeling of abandonment by his God.
When we meet such a feeling of being abandoned in ourselves, we know that Jesus, in his humanity, felt it too, and at that point may have lost as well any idea of resurrection. I don’t know. I do know that at such moments hope is a word with no meaning, and we are left with faith alone.
But we learn from the mystics that when we have finally lost God, when the desert has nothing to give us but to show us how it ignores us, then we learn what God is and is not, and what God has to give us. To be alone with an ignoring God is often part of our journey, and may be the richest part of it.
And above all Jesus’ abandonment calls us to be people who offer God’s compassion and love to the abandoned, to bring the resurrection story as well as the story of the cross.