Today has so much happening without me being long winded, but I just wanted to share a thought with you. It comes back to that one line we read: “All of them deserted him and fled.”
It would be easy to criticize the Apostles for their actions on that night. They had been with Jesus for three years, witnessed the miracles, heard the teachings… just a few hours before they had shared the Passover meal with him, yet when things got difficult, “All of them deserted him and fled.”
We could criticize, because we want to say in our hearts that we would have never abandoned him. We would have been the one Apostle that died with him that day, if that’s what it came to, but… well, we know that’s just not true, because in big and small ways, we still desert him everyday. Every time we are disobedient to his commands we abandon him, just like the Apostles that night.
In the end, Jesus hangs alone on the cross. While walking the earth, he could hardly find a moment of peace: someone or some crowd was always looking for him and tracking him down, but when he entered his own suffering, he was left only with faith in his Father.
I would never suggest or even consider that someone could suffer as Jesus did, but in our own ways, we all do, whether it be through emotional, physical, or spiritual pain. We can try and share what we are feeling or experiencing with others, but we are often alone, even if we are surrounded by many, and crying to our Father as Jesus did: “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? …My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Yet, as we discussed last week, Jesus took on our fear so that he might redeem it, he also takes on our suffering so that he might redeem it as well, but he also helps us through. My friend Thomas à Kempis explains how: “If you are infirm in body, or if you find that you are mentally weary and depressed, or if others despise you, or you lose the good graces of men because of your poverty or some inadequacy, do not give in to sadness or yield to anger. Rather, let this be your way of acting: choose this scene as your safe refuge and enter into conversation with Jesus, despised and hanging on his Cross and abandoned for a time by the Father, and reflect on what he meant when he uttered the words: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (On the Passion of the Christ: According to the Four Evangelists, p.121)
In that conversation with the crucified Lord, you will discover one who intimately aware of your pain and your sorrows, and one who will take you by the hand and walk with you through that valley of shadows. All may have abandoned him, but he will never abandon or forsake you. As the Lord says through the Prophet Isaiah:
“For I, the Lord your God,
hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not,
I am the one who helps you.’”
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, let your blessing be on us as we pass through these holy days in which we remember the sufferings and death of our dear Lord. Set his example before us, that we may follow him in willing obedience, learn his gracious humility, and be filled with his love and spirit of self-sacrifice, and learn the lessons of a life pleasing to you and helpful to our neighbors; through him who loved us and gave himself for us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.