God is present even when he is “apparently silent”, says pope
In today’s general audience, Benedict XVI spoke about the prayer of the dying Jesus, of his cry “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He also called for prayers and solidarity for the victims of the cold snap that has recently struck some parts of Europe.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Even though he may “appear silent”, God “is present”. For this reason, we should still turn to him with our “daily crosses” and those of our brothers and sisters, said Benedict XVI as he spoke about the prayer of the dying Jesus to 6,000 people present for today’s general audience in the Vatican.
At the end of the meeting, the pope expressed his sympathy for the people in parts of Europe hit by a recent cold snap, urging everyone to reach out to them. “In recent weeks,” he said, “a wave of cold and frost has swept some regions of Europe causing great inconvenience and considerable damage. I wish to express my closeness to people affected by this intense bad weather, while I invite prayers for the victims and their families. At the same time, I encourage solidarity so that those who are suffering from these tragic events are generously supported.”
Before this appeal, Benedict XVI spoke about Mark and Matthew who describe Jesus’ last hours. “Eloì, Eloì, lemà sabactàni? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” are his last words. The two Evangelists cite the prayer of the dying Jesus, not only in Greek, which is the language in which they wrote the story, but also in a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic. Hence, not only did they pass on the content but also the sound of the prayer that left Jesus’ lips.”
They refer to “the attitude of those present at the crucifixion”. In the structure of the biblical story, “Jesus’ cry comes after a three hours, between noon and 3 pm, when darkness prevailed over the land. These three hours of darkness followed a period of three hours that began with the crucifixion.”
In those first three hours, “people mocked him, showing their scepticism and asserting their non-belief”. Even “some priests and scribes” were among them, as were those who were crucified with him. In the next three hours, “as it covered all the land, darkness prevailed with no reference to people or words. As Jesus approached his death, darkness ruled the land. Even the cosmos took part in what was happening as darkness enveloped people and things. However, even in this moment of darkness, God was present and forsaking no one.”
“Darkness is an ambivalent symbol in the Bible. Whilst it is frequently a sign of evil’s power, it is also a sign of a mysterious divine presence that can overcome darkness. In Jesus’ crucifixion scene, darkness envelops the land. The Son of God immerses himself in the darkness of death to bring life with act of love.”
“Faced with darkness descending upon everything in the moment of death, with the cry of his prayer, Jesus shows that, together with the weight of suffering and death in which God appears to be absent and to have forsaken us, He is certain of the Father’s closeness, that He approves of this supreme act of love, of giving Oneself, even though, unlike other times, he does not hear the voice from up high.”
What does the cry “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” mean? “In this prayer is there not the awareness that one has been abandoned? Does he doubt his mission, or the Father’s presence? As the opening verse in Psalm 22, the words that Jesus spoke to the Father allow the psalmist to convey to God the tension that exists between the sense of loneliness and the awareness that God is present among his people.”
“Is crying out the words of the Psalm, Jesus is praying in the moment of man’s final rejection, the moment when he is forsaken. With the psalm, he is praying, aware of the presence of God the Father, even at this hour when he feels the human drama of death. Yet, we may wonder. How can so powerful a God not intervene to save his Son from such a terrible ordeal? It is important to understand that Jesus’ prayer is not the cry of one meeting death with despair, nor is it the cry of one who knows himself to be abandoned. At that moment, Jesus makes his own Psalm 22, the psalm of the suffering people of Israel, and in this way, not only does he take upon Himself the punishment of his people, but also that of all men who suffer from the oppression of evil. At the same time, he brings all of this to the heart of God himself in the certainty that his cry will be heard in the Resurrection. The cry of the ultimate ordeal is also the certainty of God’s response, certainty of Salvation, not only for Jesus, but for the ‘multitudes’ as well.”
In his final moment, Jesus lets his heart express his pain. At the same time, through him, the Father’s presence can be felt and the consent to his plan for humanity’s salvation can be given. “As always, we are once again faced today with suffering and God’s silence, which time and time again we express in our prayers. However, the Resurrection, God’ response, remains relevant in today’s world. He has taken on himself our suffering in order to help us carry it, thus giving us steadfast hope that it will be overcome.”