“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In Matthew 27:46 we hear Jesus on the cross say in Aramaic and Hebrew “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” How is it possible the the Son of God, knowing that He was fulfilling His Father’s plan, felt such despair? This is shocking.
We may think that because Jesus was fully human and fully divine, that perhaps He was overwhelmed with the tremendous physical suffering He was experiencing while nailed to the cross after a day of torture. Or perhaps that the feeling of loneliness and despair came from the utter rejection from the very humanity He so loved and worked to heal. However, it is likely that “after darkness came over the whole land” Jesus was actually feeling something completely different. It is likely that Jesus was instead expressing supreme confidence in God in the midst of unimaginable suffering. It is likely that Jesus was praying Psalm 22 and continued the rest in silence after the opening verse.
Jesus was probably simultaneously feeling the pain and suffering of His humanity, while experiencing the joy that the fulfillment of His mission was going to be realized in 3 days; He was probably engulfed in divine love for the world and in perfect union with His Father. Psalm 22 describes the plight and suffering of an innocent man. He was mocked and tortured by others, “scorned by others, and despised by the people. All who see me mock at me.” And he experienced something very similar to what happened to Jesus many years later, “For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled; I can count all my bones. They stare and gloat over me; they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.” Yet, in the middle of all the abuse, he, like Jesus, faithfully turned to God and was sure that God would turn his suffering into victory. No amount of suffering could break his faith.
Jesus was in fact not in despair, but engaged in deep union with His Father by praying Psalm 22. Matthew says that “Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.” We know from Luke what that cry was, “Father into your hands I commend my spirit.” A powerful statement of faith and total surrender.
Sadly, some people around the world still experience torture and death similar to what Jesus went through. But most of us will never experience anything as painful and devastating physically, mentally, and emotionally. As we pray for help during our trials and tribulations, we should meditate on how minutes before Jesus “breathed his last,” minutes before the lamb of God died, he remained in a state of trust, hope, and surrender to God. This could inspire our perseverance and with God’s grace, we can move forward and endure with faith.
References: Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, St Matthew's Gospel by the faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, and A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture