The Passion and death of Jesus is so full of many sobering and profound moments, all of which could be meditated and prayed about on many levels. Many think one of the most poignant moments of the Passion is when Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”, echoing Psalm 22 in the Old Testament
On one level, we suspect we know exactly what Jesus means by these words. Of course, Jesus feels abandoned by his Father! The mistreatment, humiliation and the nerve filling pain that he feels now as he hangs on the cross is agonizing. Perhaps you had an illness or accident that struck you down with a severity of the pain that brought you mentally and physically to your knees. His pain was at least like that. Moreover, he was on the cross because this is what his Father wanted him to do. How could he not feel abandoned by his Father…just like we can feel abandoned by God in times of great pain or distress. But there might be more to his cry than that!
Theologians teach us that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are a constant and triune relationship of love. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit give themselves unconditionally and perfectly to one another at all times. Perhaps the deeper and more painful reason Jesus utters these almost despairing words is, because for one brief period of time, he, in his humanity, does not feel united with his Father. Perhaps, for just a moment, his human nature, although united to the will of his Father, feels separated from his Father. Perhaps it was this feeling of separation from his Father that that was the greatest agony of the Passion. You know what it’s like? Think about the pain you or someone close to you felt at the death, unexpectedly and out of the blue, of a spouse or a child. Remember the anguish, the numbing agony of losing such an important relationship…and Jesus’ relationship with his Father was deeper and more perfect than any relationship we have with anyone.
Jesus’ cry of abandonment so poignantly points out the depth of the relationship between Jesus and his Father and the primacy of that relationship. Jesus had quietly accepted all the pain and humiliation of the cross but it is the separation from his Father that causes him the most pain and to cry out. God is all powerful and all-knowing, yes, but he is first and foremost the love relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You see, Jesus wasn’t just a carpenter, a miracle worker or a savior who also happened to be the Son of God. No, he was the Son of God who happened to be a carpenter, a miracle-worker and a Savior.
What does that mean for us who are created “in the image and likeness” of God? It means we too, by nature, are all about relationships. You see, you and I are not electricians, lawyers, or laborers who happen to be fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, and children of God, but we are fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, children of God who happen to be electricians, lawyers or laborers. Like Jesus and the Blessed Trinity, it is our relationships that define who we are…not what we do or what we have.
Spending so much time in isolation as we have been doing with the outbreak of the Coronavirus, this is a good time to reflect and pray on the primacy of relationships in our lives. Relationships are not accidental to our lives; they are essential. Our relationships are not something we do; they are who we are.