Catholic Life, Uncategorized

Did Jesus Feel His Father Abandoned Him? {My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?}

+J.M.J.+

Holy Week is here. I cannot believe this Lenten season is reaching its end, and we are just days away from the remembrance of Christ’s excruciating Passion on Good Friday.

Since I was a teenager I had always been confused around this time of year when I would hear the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion, and Christ’s words, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

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I heard from the pulpit and others that Jesus felt abandoned by His Father; His human nature had lost hope and He felt abandoned. This always seemed off to me… Christ felt that God the Father had forsaken Him? Of course Christ had been abandoned by most of His apostles – only St. John remained. He had been welcomed on Palm Sunday by the Jews with praise and exaltation a few days prior, and now they had cried out “Crucify him!” I understand the anguish of these betrayals, but had He felt that God the Father had also forsaken Him?

They were, after all, the same God, and because He was God, Christ knew from all eternity that He would offer the Sacrifice of Himself on the cross for the salvation of man. How could He feel somehow abandoned this way if while He was fully man, He was also fully God? I didn’t know how else to explain this perplexing quote, however. Everyone just acted like His human nature took over and He couldn’t see why He must suffer so.

A Hidden Cry of Victory

Then one year at my old parish I went to a Bible series given by a priest incredibly well versed in Holy Scripture and he explained the simple reason behind this seemingly contradictory quote from our suffering Christ. I have found his perspective on this to provide great insight and beauty into some of the final words of Jesus.

“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani…” “My God, My God, why have You Forsaken Me?” are the first words of Psalm 22. (Sometimes it is listed as Psalm 21, I am always confused by why that happens!) Psalm 22 is an Old Testament prophecy of the sufferings of the Savior to come.

 [2] O God my God, look upon me: why hast thou forsaken me?…[17] For many dogs have encompassed me: the council of the malignant hath besieged me. They have dug my hands and feet. [18] They have numbered all my bones. And they have looked and stared upon me. [19] They parted my garments amongst them; and upon my vesture they cast lots.”

When Christ was calling out this Psalm (which as a Jew He would have memorized), He was not just expressing a depressed cry of confusion and abandonment.

No! This was not just defeat. He was boldly proclaiming that He was indeed the suffering Savior of the world foretold of in the Old Testament. The Jews around Him knew exactly what He was saying by repeating the words of David prophesying about the Savior in the psalms.

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And it is not all sorrow, my friends… the end of the Psalm reveals so much hope.

 [29] For the kingdom is the Lord’s; and he shall have dominion over the nations. [30] All the fat ones of the earth have eaten and have adored: all they that go down to the earth shall fall before him.

[31] And to him my soul shall live: and my seed shall serve him. [32] There shall be declared to the Lord a generation to come: and the heavens shall shew forth his justice to a people that shall be born, which the Lord hath made.”

I used to feel confusion and even fear when I heard this in the Gospel during Holy Week. If even the perfect God-Man, Christ felt hopeless and abandoned, what ray of hope is left for me, a sinner? But this new perspective I was taught in class changed this for me!

I instead now appreciate even more His great love for me. He knew full well what He would undergo, and in the last agony He proclaimed for all to hear that He had accomplished what the Old Testament prophesied.

This explanation from the priest has given such depth to the Scriptures of Holy Week, and I hope this insight is of value for you as well.

As they were looking on, so we too gaze on His wounds as He hangs. We see His blood as He dies. We see the price offered by the redeemer, touch the scars of His resurrection. He bows His head, as if to kiss you. His heart is made bare open, as it were, in love to you. His arms are extended that He may embrace you. His whole body is displayed for your redemption. Ponder how great these things are. Let all this be rightly weighed in your mind: as He was once fixed to the cross in every part of His body for you, so He may now be fixed in every part of your soul. – St. Augustine

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5 thoughts on “Did Jesus Feel His Father Abandoned Him? {My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?}”

  1. Thank you so much for this Mariette! We missed Mass due to kids with a stomach bug and this has been something I have wondered for many years. Makes perfect sense when Psalm 22 is referenced. And that quote from St. Augustine is just beautiful. I think I may need to print it out and frame it as part of our Lenten decor each year.

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  2. Thank you for these explanations. This certainly confirms the reading of the Old Testament is important to understanding the New.

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  3. Personally, I find a great deal of consolation in the fact that Jesus’ human nature clearly struggled as he cried out on the cross. It shows that we do not have a God who does not understand us. He understands our humanity and our sufferings.

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