"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
One of our teens has asked me to post the reflection I gave at Youth Group this past Sunday night during Adoration. “YG Junkie”, thanks for asking and glad that you liked it; here it is, more or less:
Before I begin the Scriptural meditation, I have to say that you all are…amazing. It is amazing that there are over 40 of you here for Adoration. Some of you only come out for Adoration! And, you bring your friends. This is not normal. Not every youth group does this. This is extraordinary! I’ve told you before that I’ve worked with teens for many years now, and I’ve never seen this. Not only do you come here in great numbers, but you come here in great respect and reverence. When you came in here, you did it in silence and with reverence. You all are great! You inspire us adults and you please Jesus so much when you come to Adoration. It is so awesome!
As we prepare for Christ’s passion in a few weeks, I thought it was fitting to focus on one of the words that Christ’s says from the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is from Matthew's Gospel, chapter 27:
“From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o'clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Some of the bystanders who heard it said, "This one is calling for Elijah." Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge; he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink. But the rest said, ‘Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.’ But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit” (vs. 45-50).
I‘ve been talking with one of the college students who stayed here during the March for Life in January. She has been struggling for a while with cutting herself and depression and thoughts of suicide. She is trying so hard to move away from all of it. She has said on more than one occasion, “God, where are you in all of this?” She has been asking for Him to help her move away from this dangerous habit. She has been saying what Jesus said from the Cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" It is a phrase that I hear not just from college or high school students, but also from adults.
Jesus wasn’t forsaken or abandoned by the Father. He is always in union with the Father. But, in his human nature, he experienced what many people feel: that God has abandoned them. God abandons no one, but many people feel that He has.
Many people have been abandoned by others. They have been rejected, isolated and feel lonely and depressed. Mother Teresa said that this is the greatest suffering there is. Jesus enters into this and unites himself with all of those who have been abandoned or rejected by others and feel lonely and depressed. He went to the depths of human suffering and felt every human pain there is. So, Christ is in union with those who feel this way; and, they are in union with Him.
There is a girl from my first youth group who I am still good friends with. She married her high school sweetheart at age 24. Three years into her marriage, she and her husband were driving down the road early one morning. The car went off the road out of control and hit a tree head-on at sixty miles an hour. He died instantly and she barely survived; the motor of the car came into the front seat and lacerated her ribs. She has made a miraculous recovery.
About a year after the tragic accident, she and I were talking about everything. She said it is so hard because she feels all alone. “There aren’t any 27 year old widows who I can talk to. There is no one who understands what I am going through”, she said. I said, “Shannon, Jesus knows what you are going through. He experienced every human pain there is on the Cross. He is the only one who knows what you’re going through; and, you know what He went through. You are right there with Him on the Cross”. She would say later that it was one of the two most powerful conversations she’s ever had.
When Shannon was in your position in high school, she hadn’t experienced any real kind of suffering and probably thought that a talk like this didn’t apply to her. In whatever way you all are suffering now or will suffer in the future, Christ has experienced it and is always with you. He knows what you are going through and you know what he went through. He mourns for you and for the sorrows in your life. He wants to share in your sorrows and in your joys.
He wants you to dump all of your crap on Him in Adoration – all of the tough stuff that is going on in your life. Just give it all to Him.
He says, “come to me all you who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Come to me all you who labor and are lonely, depressed, isolated, rejected, stressed out, angry, and abandoned…and I will give you rest.