Psalm 31:9-16 • Isaiah 50:4-9a • Philippians 4:5-11 • Mark 14:1-15:39
“Eloi, Eloi, lema sebachthani? . . . My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? . . . Then Jesus gave out a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Mark 15:34, 37)
For years this scene troubled me. The words—first in Aramaic, Jesus’ language—and then in my language, haunted me. It bothered me that just moments before dying on the cross, Christ Jesus, the Son of God, might have believed himself abandoned by my God, his God, his Father. Then I learned that the words reported by Mark appear also as the opening words of an ancient prayer (Ps.22:1)
Essentially the same words are reported by Matthew (Matt: 27:46) and read in the Lectionary’s Year A. In Luke, the dying Christ’s last words: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,” (Luke 23:46) echo another psalmist (Ps 31:6). John’s approach seems different. The words he reports from the Cross are conversations with those at the Cross, and finally a simple: “It is finished.” (John19:30)
With reflection, I now see the words from the cross as a comforting prayer, an impassioned and natural conversation with God—in everyday language, celebrating the historical presence of God among His people, and, as in Psalm 31, acknowledging feelings of desperation when life seems spent with grief and fear is on all sides, yet trusting and rejoicing assuredly in the guiding hand of God.
The passion is not lessened but the desperation I once heard has been replaced by the breath of the prayerful. In my head I now hear in that final cry the words from Psalm 31: “But as for me, I trust in you, O Lord. . . . You are my God. . . . Make your face shine upon your servant. . . (Ps 31: 14,16). And I see His face shining, with nothing separating Father from Son, Lord God from Christ Jesus.
Lord God, in your gracious love, you have shown us the way to Peace. Let the same mind be in me that was in Christ Jesus that in all ways I can pray with trust in you, my God, and act in love. Amen.