And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, la'ma sabach-tha'ni?" that is,"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? —Matthew 27:46
I come back to this verse every year around this time. Regardless of how I'm feeling emotionally and spiritually, this is the verse that comes to mind whenever I approach the Triduum.
When I read the Passion narrative in Matthew's Gospel (Matthew 26:14-27:66), Jesus' cries from the cross are so striking. This is the King of the Universe, the Saviour of the World—He's alone. He feels abandoned. He is in pain and distressed.
He is dying an agonizing death. He didn't have to, and yet, He took on human form and suffered the most horrific of deaths for you and for me. And after everything, when the scribes and the elders wrote Him off, when His friends ran away, He triumphed. He rose from the grave.
I was still fresh from my personal conversion back to the faith when I truly encountered this verse. As part of a leadership retreat with other young men and women, we were led through a reflection of our own lives using the Stations of the Cross as our guide. With every station, we were asked to allow Jesus to call to mind a memory. It could be anything: big, small, explosive or mundane. Whatever that memory was, we were asked to be there with Jesus. Walk through the memory with Him, get deep into the story, and seek out where He was through it all.
As I walked through every station, I found that each memory was a painful one. Bullying, panic attacks, depression, abuse, feeling unloved and unworthy, suicidal thoughts. Each time I found myself asking the same thing: Jesus, where were you?
I felt the weight of the emotions and bad memories slow me down as we ascended up a hill. I was torn up in this exercise. I wanted to find God in the midst of the darkness, but I couldn't hear Him or see Him.
When we arrived at the twelfth station—Jesus dies on the cross—I fell to my knees at the foot of the cross. Immediately, I could hear the verse from Matthew's Gospel ring out in my ears. I felt an incredible release of pain as I echoed Christ's words from the cross: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
I was met with silence. Suddenly a wave of emotions flooded through my heart: Anger. Frustration. Despair. In my suffering, past and present, He was silent.
But as I knelt before the cross, overlooking a wide expanse of the rural part of British Columbia we were in, I also felt a strange sense of peace.
In the silence, at the foot of His cross, He spoke to me again. There is redemption in your suffering. I will redeem it.
The Cross is the ultimate symbol of redemptive suffering. What seemed like a lost cause was overruled with power and glory three days later.
In my own life, I've seen Him redeem over and over again the pain I carry and the sins I've committed. So many times, I am in complete awe at his infinite mercy—something that, as a sinful and finite being, I cannot comprehend.
Ultimately, when we are called back to Him at the end of our life, He will redeem every part of us. As we wait here on earth, He calls us to be faithful and trust that every part of our story can be redeemed.
This Lent has been a Lent like no other, with more suffering and more pain than could ever be imagined. And yet, if God is shaking up the world to such a degree, imagine how much more He can do if we just stop and listen.
I have no idea what will come out of this pandemic, but I have faith that He will redeem us.
As we enter into the holiest time of our year as a Church, I invite you to reflect on this very fact: Jesus asked where His father was as He died on the cross. But He knew that there was a higher purpose to His suffering. Are we convinced that He can redeem us?
Let our tears be turned into dancing and our sorrows be turned into joy. Jesus is in our midst, through every triumph and every tear.
May God bless you this Triduum, and have a blessed Easter. I'll see you all on the other side.
Through Him, with Him, and in Him,