BEFORE THE CRUCIFIED
Detained by the Temple security guard, Jesus has no doubt whatsoever: his Father hasn’t listened to his desire to keep living; his disciples flee, seeking their own safety. He’s alone. His projects are disappearing. He awaits execution.
Jesus’ silence during his last hours is frightening. However the evangelists have gathered some of his words spoken from the cross. They are very brief, but they helped the first generations of Christians to remember the crucified Jesus with love and thankfulness.
Luke has collected ones which Jesus says while being crucified. In the midst of trembling and cries of pain, he manages to pronounce some words that describe what’s in his heart: «Father, forgive them for they know not what they do». Such is Jesus. He had asked his own to «love their enemies» and «pray for their persecutors». Now he himself dies forgiving. He changes his crucifixion into forgiveness.
We need to hear this pleading to the Father for those who are crucifying him, above all, as a sublime gesture that reveals to us God’s compassion and unfathomable forgiveness. This is Jesus’ great legacy to Humanity: never stop trusting in God. God’s mercy knows no end.
Mark collects the Crucified’s dramatic shout: «My God, my God! Why have you abandoned me?». These words pronounced in the midst of complete loneliness and abandonment come out of an overwhelming sincerity. Jesus feels that his loving Father is abandoning him. Why? Jesus complains of God’s silence. Where is God? Why is God silent?
This outcry of Jesus, identified with the long list of victims throughout history that call to God for some explanation of such injustice, abandonment, and suffering, remains on the Crucified’s lips demanding a response from God that is beyond death: Our God, why are you abandoning us? Aren’t you ever going to answer the cries and groans of the innocent?
Luke collects one last word from Jesus. In spite of his mortal anguish, Jesus holds onto his faith in the Father until the end. His words are now almost a whisper: «Father, into your hands I commend my spirit». Nothing or no one has been able to separate him from his Father. His Father has been encouraging him with the Spirit his whole life. With his mission now ended, Jesus leaves everything in God’s hands. The Father will break his silence and will raise him up.
This Holy Week, in our Christian communities, we are going to celebrate the passion and seath of our Lord. We will also be able to meditate in silence in front of the crucified Jesus, going deeply into the words that he himself pronounced during his agony.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf