The terrible invitation to unleash love

| Elizabeth Kelly | March 15, 2016 | 0 Comments

It may be one of the most well-known verses in all of lamentation: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Contemporary scholarship says this line refers to the first line of Psalm 21, and by doing so recalls not just one line, but the entire psalm. And like so many of the psalms that begin with lament, it ends with a joyful and confident recollection of the father’s faithfulness. So, Christ is not questioning the father’s love, but acknowledging it.

1. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.

2. O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; And by night, but I have no rest.

And then the tone shifts dramatically:

3. Yet you are holy . . .

4. In you our fathers trusted . . .

5. To you they cried out and were delivered; In you they trusted and were not disappointed.

Amen, we say, and thanks be to God!

But let’s not skip over the reality of Christ’s lamentation; it is an equally important part of his prayer. Because Jesus can pray, “Why have you forsaken me?”, I know that I can, too. We see in Christ’s prayer the model for our own — to cry from the heart, or as the Catechism says, to engage “our whole being to give all power to our supplication.” Clearly, we do not want to abuse this prayer, but we needn’t fear it. It can be an extremely potent prayer, filled with the power of radical service because of the secret it remembers deep down: God is trustworthy.

We serve in many ways in our suffering, especially if we ask God to come in and give it meaning, to make it redemptive. Even the sick can live lives of total self-giving. By accepting in love and gratitude their circumstances, by allowing those in charge of their care to be sanctified through their care-taking work, the sick and the vulnerable become extraordinary vehicles to redemption.

We see this modeled in so many of the saints. Consider the public and prolonged suffering of Pope John Paul II with Parkinson’s, what Catholic author George Weigel has so appropriately named “his last encyclical.” Decades before the onset of Parkinson’s, Pope John Paul II would make this very point in “Salvifici Doloris”: suffering unleashes love; it is an opportunity for love to be unleashed in the world. There can be no greater service than this.

Whatever you are suffering, is it possible that Jesus is inviting you to keep him company in his suffering, in this most intimate space of all? After all, we do not invite our enemies to our sickbed; no, we invite our friends, those who will bring consolation, those we trust the most.

Is it possible, that in your suffering, God is not abandoning you, but rather inviting you, entrusting you to know him more intimately that his love might be more radically unleashed on a world darkened by sin? Could there be a more precious or more powerful gift?

Kelly is an award-winning speaker and the author of five books, including “Reasons I Love Being Catholic.” She is trained as a spiritual director in the Ignatian exercises and leads retreats with a particular focus on helping women to flourish in their faith.

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Category: Lent