Today we meditate upon the fourth of Our Lord’s seven last words. We are posting this meditation early this week, due to Friday’s feast of the Annunciation.
Of all seven, the fourth is, perhaps, the most striking in terms of its portrayal of human suffering. It speaks to the greatest of these sufferings, the most fearful punishment for sin, the worst thing that can possibly happen to a person: separation from God.
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, la′ma sabach-tha′ni?” that is, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
Christ, Who is God Himself—abandoned by God? Separated from God? How? What do these words mean?
Of course, Christ was never truly separated from or abandoned by His Father. But He exempted Himself from none of the punishments due to our sins, not even the worst experience—Hell itself, the most desolate state of separation from God, a punishment that would have been ours if He had not borne it for us.
But, you may ask, how does a divine Person suffer? The answer lies in His two natures. He allowed Himself to experience all these things in His human nature, without the aid of His divine nature. As Bishop Fulton Sheen says, “Our Lord restrained His divinity from mitigating even with one drop of consolation the bitterness of His chalice” (The Cries of Jesus from the Cross, p.172).
Hearing these words of Christ, we are also compelled to think of those times in every human life when God feels far away, even when sin is not a factor. These moments can be the result of some human loss, or perhaps the “dark night of the soul” that afflicts holy souls striving for God in prayer. These can be excruciating moments, but we can’t accuse God of “not knowing what it’s like.” He knows.
Of course, He didn’t have to put Himself through it to know—but He did anyway, so that our human minds could understand.
The Seven Last Words were a frequent subject of meditation for Bishop Fulton Sheen. The Cries of Jesus from the Cross is an anthology of his writings and homilies on the subject. Separated into chapters corresponding to each word, this volume is a spiritual gold mine that will help you meditate more deeply on these words and draw closer to Our Suffering Lord. Available today at The Catholic Company!