Friday, January 22, 2016

Hope in Godforsakenness

This being the twenty-second day of the year, it's time for a meditation on Ps 22. Incidentally, Ps 22 is particularly relevant to the theme and title of this blog. The title of this blog is obviously taken from Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God, which contains many meditations on the experience of abandonment of Jesus on the cross. In fact, this is a blog de filio dei deo derelicto, a blog about the Son of God, abandoned by God.

The first verse of Ps 22 [21] in the Vulgate reads like this: Deus Deus meus quare dereliquisti me? My God, my God, why hast thou for saken me?

These are the words cited by Christ on the cross, as he is dying for the sins of the whole world. On the one hand, this is an expression of under abandonment by God. It's the cry of a person whose entire life had been characterized by a closeness and proximity to God in fellowship, only to end in the miserable godlessness and excruciating silence of an unjust public execution. This is certainly a cry with which anyone can relate who has felt herself abandoned by God in suffering.

At the same time, implicit in Christ's cry of abandonment is a note of hope. After all, Christ knew the psalms well, and he was particularly aware of how this particular psalm ends:

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
  my vows I will pay before those who fear him. ...
All the ends of the earth shall remember
  and turn to the LORD;
and all the families of the nations
  shall worship before him.
For dominion belongs to the LORD,
  and he rules over the nations.

The servant who suffers such abandonment will not be forgotten forever: he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him. And because of the miraculous deliverance which the Lord will accomplish for his servant, the whole world will be transformed and turned towards the LORD in worship. The salvation of the servant from death will be the reconciliation of the world with God.

Of course, the ending of this psalm is not visible on the horizon from v. 1. From the start, all the psalmist knows is stark abandonment and loneliness in suffering. But with the eyes of faith, so to speak, and in an act of prayer with faith, typical to the psalms, he declares his future to be a better one. And this prayer with faith is fulfilled in the resurrection of Christ.

This psalm gives us an example in our own most extreme suffering. Abandonment by God for the moment need not end that way; but God may work the moment's pain into a greater good with consequences far beyond what we can perceive or anticipate.

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