Why does suffering exist? What have I done to deserve suffering? These are some of the questions that people ask themselves ever since the world began. But one can never find the right answer entirely without placing Christ in the center, because only Jesus taught this truth with the example of his own life.
However, if it is true that Christ was the example of suffering, can it be said that He, at any moment, rebelled against the Father? In the desolation felt by the soul in the ‘dark night’ of life, is it licit to blaspheme against God? Or rebel? Or become impatient? Let’s see what the Church has always taught her children…
Enter in the various parts of our study
II – The true meaning of Jesus’ cry: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
III – What kind of prayer is pleasing to God?
I – Jesus preached and practiced total obedience. His submission to the Father is witness to the fact that He did not rebel against Him on the Cross
Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, ‘My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!’ (Mt 26:42)
‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.’ (And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him. He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.) (Lk 22:42 – 44)
Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work’. (Jn 4:34)
Because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. (Jn 6:38)
I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me. (Jn 5:30)
‘Because I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. So what I say, I say as the Father told me.’ (Jn 12:49-50)
Whoever speaks on his own seeks his own glory, but whoever seeks the glory of the one who sent him is truthful, and there is no wrong in him.’ (Jn 7:16-18)
‘This is how you are to pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. (Mt 6:10)
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’ ‘Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.’ (Mt 7:21-24)
‘For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother’. (Mt 12:50)
We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. (Jn 9:31)
II – The true meaning of Jesus’ cry: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but thou dost not answer; and by night, but find no rest. Yet thou art holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In thee our fathers trusted; they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. To thee they cried, and were saved; in thee they trusted, and were not disappointed. […] Many bulls encompass me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax, it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; thou dost lay me in the dust of death. Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet —I can count all my bones — they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots. But thou, O Lord, be not far off! O thou my help, hasten to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion, my afflicted soul from the horns of the wild oxen! I will tell of thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the congregation I will praise thee: You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you sons of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you sons of Israel! For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; and he has not hid his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. From thee comes my praise in the great congregation. (Psalm 22:1-6; 11-31)
He uttered this word of prophecy, that He might bear witness to the very last hour to the Old Testament, and that they might see that He honours the Father, and is not against God. And therefore too, He used the Hebrew tongue, that what He said might be intelligible to them. (Saint John Chrysostom. Commentary on Matthew 27:46, quoted by Saint Thomas Aquinas in the Catena Aurea)
From these words heretical spirits contend either that God the Word was entirely absorbed into the soul at the time it discharged the function of a soul in quickening the body; or that Christ could not have been born man, because the Divine Word dwelt in Him after the manner of a prophetical spirit. As though Jesus Christ was a man of ordinary soul and body, having His beginning then when He began to be man, and thus now deserted upon the withdrawal of the protection of God’s word cries out, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ Or at least that the nature of the Word being transmuted into soul, Christ, who had depended in all things upon His Father’s support, now deserted and left to death, mourns over this desertion, and pleads with Him departing. But amidst these impious and feeble opinions, the faith of the Church imbued with Apostolic teaching does not sever Christ that He should be considered as Son of God and not as Son of Man. The complaint of His being deserted is the weakness of the dying man; the promise of Paradise is the kingdom of the living God. You have Him complaining that He is left to death, and thus He is Man; you have Him as He is dying declaring that He reigns in Paradise; and thus He is God. Wonder not then at the humility of these words, when you know the form of a servant, and see the offence of the cross. (Saint Hilary. Commentary on Matthew 27:46, quoted by Saint Thomas Aquinas in the Catena Aurea)
When He saw darkness over the whole land of Judaea He said this, Father, ‘why hast thou forsaken me?’ meaning, Why hast thou given Me over exhausted to such sufferings? that the people who were honoured by Thee may receive the things that they have dared against Me, and should be deprived of the light of Thy countenance. Also, Thou hast forsaken Me for the salvation of the Gentiles. But what good have they of the Gentiles who have believed done, that I should deliver them from the evil one by shedding My precious blood on the ground for them? Or will they, for whom I suffer these things, ever do aught worthy of them? Or foreseeing the sins of those for whom He suffered, He said, ‘Why hast thou forsaken me?’ that I should become ‘as one that gathereth stubble in the harvest, and gleanings in the vintage’ (Mic 9:1). But you must not imagine that the Saviour said this after the manner of men by reason of the misery which encompassed Him on the cross; for if you take it so you will not hear His ‘loud voice’ and mighty words which point to something great hidden. (Origen. Commentary on Matthew 27:46, quoted by Saint Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea)
We sang the second part of the Psalm of the Passion as the Responsorial Psalm. It is the Psalm of the righteous sufferer, in the first place suffering Israel who, before the mute God who abandoned it, cries: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me?… Now I am almost spent… you do not act… you do not answer… why have you forsaken me? (cf. 22). Jesus identifies himself with the suffering Israel, with the suffering just ones of every age abandoned by God, and he cries out at God`s abandonment; the pain of being forgotten he carries to the Heart of God himself, and in this way transforms the world. (Benedict XVI. Homily, Holy Mass with the members of the Bishops’ Conference of Switzerland, November 7, 2006)
Jesus did not experience reprobation as if he himself had sinned (Jn 8:46). But in the redeeming love that always united him to the Father, he assumed us in the state of our waywardness of sin, to the point that he could say in our name from the cross: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me’ (Mk 15:34, Ps 22:2 Jn 8:29)? Having thus established him in solidarity with us sinners, God ‘did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all’, so that we might be ‘reconciled to God by the death of his Son’ (Rom 8:32, Rom 5:10). (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 603)
More than anything else, it is the problem of suffering which challenges faith and puts it to the test. How can we fail to appreciate the universal anguish of man when we meditate on the Book of Job? The innocent man overwhelmed by suffering is understandably led to wonder: ‘Why is light given to him that is in misery, and life to the bitter in soul, who long for death, but it comes not, and dig for it more than for hid treasures’ (Job 3:20-21)? But even when the darkness is deepest, faith points to a trusting and adoring acknowledgment of the ‘mystery’: ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted’ (Job 42:2). (John Paul II. Encyclical Evangelium vitae, no. 31, March 25, 1995)
In contemplating Christ’s face, we confront the most paradoxical aspect of his mystery, as it emerges in his last hour, on the Cross. The mystery within the mystery, before which we cannot but prostrate ourselves in adoration. The intensity of the episode of the agony in the Garden of Olives passes before our eyes. Oppressed by foreknowledge of the trials that await him, and alone before the Father, Jesus cries out to him in his habitual and affectionate expression of trust: ‘Abba, Father’. He asks him to take away, if possible, the cup of suffering (cf. Mk 14:36). But the Father seems not to want to heed the Son’s cry. In order to bring man back to the Father’s face, Jesus not only had to take on the face of man, but he had to burden himself with the ‘face’ of sin. ‘For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2Cor 5:21). We shall never exhaust the depths of this mystery. All the harshness of the paradox can be heard in Jesus’ seemingly desperate cry of pain on the Cross: ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Mk 15:34). Is it possible to imagine a greater agony, a more impenetrable darkness? In reality, the anguished ‘why’ addressed to the Father in the opening words of the Twenty-second Psalm expresses all the realism of unspeakable pain; but it is also illumined by the meaning of that entire prayer, in which the Psalmist brings together suffering and trust, in a moving blend of emotions. (John Paul II. Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, no. 25, January 6, 2001)
Jesus’ cry on the Cross, dear Brothers and Sisters, is not the cry of anguish of a man without hope, but the prayer of the Son who offers his life to the Father in love, for the salvation of all. At the very moment when he identifies with our sin, ‘abandoned’ by the Father, he ‘abandons’ himself into the hands of the Father. His eyes remain fixed on the Father. Precisely because of the knowledge and experience of the Father which he alone has, even at this moment of darkness he sees clearly the gravity of sin and suffers because of it. He alone, who sees the Father and rejoices fully in him, can understand completely what it means to resist the Father’s love by sin. More than an experience of physical pain, his Passion is an agonizing suffering of the soul. Theological tradition has not failed to ask how Jesus could possibly experience at one and the same time his profound unity with the Father, by its very nature a source of joy and happiness, and an agony that goes all the way to his final cry of abandonment. The simultaneous presence of these two seemingly irreconcilable aspects is rooted in the fathomless depths of the hypostatic union. (John Paul II. Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, no. 26, January 6, 2001)
It was the Father’s love that permitted the Son to confidently face his last ‘baptism’, which he himself defines as the apex of his mission (cf. Lk 12: 50). Jesus received that baptism of sorrow and love for us, for all of humanity. He has suffered for truth and justice, bringing the Gospel of suffering to human history, which is the other aspect of the Gospel of love. God cannot suffer, but he can and wants to be com-passionate. Through Christ’s passion he can bring his con-solatio to every human suffering, ‘the consolation of God’s compassionate love – and so the star of hope rises’ (Spe Salvi, n. 39). (Benedict XVI. Homily, Basilica of Saint Sabina, Ash Wednesday, February 6, 2008)
III – What kind of prayer is pleasing to God?
If one does not believe in God’s goodness, one cannot pray in a truly appropriate manner. (Benedict XVI. Homily, Papal Mass for the canonization of new Saints, October 17, 2010)
When we pray properly we undergo a process of inner purification which opens us up to God and thus to our fellow human beings as well. In prayer we must learn what we can truly ask of God—what is worthy of God. (Benedict XVI. Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi, November 30, 2007)
By prayer we confess our subjection to God; we acknowledge and proclaim Him to be the author of all good, in whom alone we center all our hopes, who alone is our refuge, in all dangers and the bulwark of our salvation. Of this fruit we are admonished also in these words: Call upon me in the day of trouble (Ps 49:15). (The Catechism of Trent, no. 4000, Part IV, The Lord’s prayer: the fruits of prayer)
Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. the great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray. If we do not want to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ, neither can we pray habitually in his name. The ‘spiritual battle’ of the Christian’s new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2725)
Jesus has commanded us to do as he did. On many occasions he said: ‘Pray,’ ‘ask,’ ‘seek’ ‘in my name.’ He taught us how to pray in what is known as the Lord’s Prayer. He taught us that prayer is necessary, that it should be humble, watchful, persevering, confident in the Father’s goodness, single-minded, and in conformity with God’s nature (Mt 6:5-8, 23:14; Lk 20:47; Jn 4:23). (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. General instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, Chapter I – II)
Prayer is in fact the recognition of our limitation and our dependence: we come from God, we belong to God and we return to God! We cannot, therefore, but abandon ourselves to him, our Creator and Lord, with full and complete confidence. Prayer, therefore, is first of all an act of intelligence, a feeling of humility and gratitude, an attitude of trust and abandonment to him who gave us life out of love. (John Paul II. Address to the young people gathered in the Vatican Basilica, March 14, 1979)
We understand that with prayer we are not liberated from trials and suffering, but we can live through them in union with Christ, with his suffering, in the hope of also participating in his glory (cf. Rom 8:17). Many times, in our prayer, we ask God to be freed from physical and spiritual evil, and we do it with great trust. However, often we have the impression of not being heard and we may well feel discouraged and fail to persevere. In reality, there is no human cry that is not heard by God and it is precisely in constant and faithful prayer that we comprehend with St Paul that ‘the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us’ (Rom 8:18). Prayer does not exempt us from trial and suffering, indeed — St Paul says — we ‘groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies’ (Rom 8:23). Prayer does not exempt us from trial and suffering, indeed — St Paul says — we ‘groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies’ (Rom 8:23). He says that prayer does not exempt us from suffering but prayer does permit us to live through it and face it with a new strength, with the confidence of Jesus, who — according to the Letter to the Hebrews — ‘In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him [God] who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear’ (Heb 5:7). The answer of God the Father to the Son, to his loud cries and tears, was not freedom from suffering, from the cross, from death, but a much greater fulfillment, an answer much more profound; through the cross and death God responded with the Resurrection of the Son, with new life. Prayer animated by the Holy Spirit leads us too to live every day a journey of life with its trials and sufferings, with the fullness of hope, with trust in God who answers us as he answered the Son. (Benedict XVI. General Audience, May 16, 2012)
NEW!!!: Recently, during his flight from the United States to Rome, Francis took the initiative to exemplify this doctrine that condones rebellion against God:
Recounting the – real or supposed – case of a person faced with the tragic and dramatic situation of a child suffering abuse, Francis had nothing better to say than to declare that a total lack of conformity to God’s permission of evil that goes even to the point of revolt, blasphemy, loss of faith and negation of God taken to the final moment of life is ‘understandable’: “I understand that woman. I understand her. And God, who is much better than me, he understands. I am sure that God has received that woman”.
Obviously, confiding such a person to God’s infinite mercy is part of basic Catholic common-sense. But, a public guarantee of eternal salvation? By the one who occupies the chair of the Supreme Teacher of the peoples?[/su_tab] [/su_tabs]