Matthew 27:45 From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The Painting: (1) Notice how Jesus, in the most explicit act of dying, remains powerfully strong – look at the muscles flexing in his strong legs, holding Him up – and see His upper body being held up by assisting Angels sent by His Father, who float in the air in the position where the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) place two “criminals”, one on His right; the other on His left. (2) When someone whom we love is suffering, we want to do something, to be a friend genuinely there for, and helpful to, him or her. But it is a universal experience that we do not know what to do, or who to be, for the other, because at some level we recognize how great suffering is something so uniquely personal to a person, striking at a depth inside that person that only he or she, and God, has the ability to reach. (3) This painting is such a tender expression of the different ways that the others (humans and angels) are trying to be there for/with Jesus in His profound humiliation and suffering unto death. Notice the sweetness expressed in each one’s choice of presence and of helping … none of whom can free Jesus from His terrible suffering. But Jesus is not alone; they all are there for/with/because of Him. And that matters.
“Those of you whose work is to wake the dead,
This is a work day.”
It could not be clearer that Jesus had significantly explored and felt in Gethsemane the truth that the faithfulness of the Father, on whose steadfastness He had risked everything, did not always mean that He, Jesus, would be rescued. Jesus, at this moment in His earthly life, knew that He would not be rescued.
Matthew 26:38 Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.” 39 He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.”
God’s decision to let a person be taken and destroyed must prove (“Doesn’t it?” someone may ask), that God is not faithful. A person may feel propelled towards such a conclusion when thrown into a calamity that he or she knows is destroying him or her.  Many saintly and unsaintly people, every day on this Earth, are being brought to the ultimacy of, “God is not going to be rescuing me in this. He appears to be up to something other than me in this calamity.” Such a stark realization is what can cause a person, even a divine Person, to say, “My soul is sorrowful even to death.”
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
So then, what are we to make of Jesus’ use of that sweet possessive pronoun: “My God, my God…” (Matthew 27:46b)? We must ponder long and deeply this possessive pronoun spoken by Jesus from the Cross. How can Jesus say, and mean, my God in this circumstance, when His Father appeared to have overlooked Him at a point of greatest need – forsaken? But Jesus does say it, and He does mean it.
What if there is something greater than being rescued?
John 13:15 I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.i 16 Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger* greater than the one who sent him.j 17 If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it. 
This fourth of the Seven Last Words, as we guessed it might, carries us into very deep waters indeed. It compels us to begin to see, but only if God would allow us to understand, how divine Love works, and makes, and heals. “But I shall show you a still more excellent way,” as St. Paul so famously wrote”. Can we let God teach us this?
Take, Lord, receive all of my liberty,
my understanding of them,
and my entire will.
Whatsoever I have or hold onto,
You have given to me.
I give it all back to you,
surrendering it wholly to be governed by Your will.
Give to me only
Your love and Your grace,
and I am rich enough,
And I ask for nothing more than that.
Somehow trusting God, and God trusting us, moves at a completely different level of reality than at the level where we put God to the test, expecting Him to prove His faithfulness, again, by rescuing us, again, from calamity.
Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses,
A box where sweets compacted lie;
My music shows ye have your closes,
And all must die.
But let us conclude by returning to Jesus’ “cry” from the Cross. Can we consider that Jesus’ “cry” is expressing a life-defining act of love bursting from His broken heart – a sacred heart – rather than being a cry of forsakenness?
Jesus’ pain expressed in His supposed “cry of dereliction” has nothing to do with “Ouch”. It also has nothing to do with Jesus putting His Father to the test – “Why have You forsaken me…?” – demanding that His Father give Him reasons. And it certainly has nothing to do with the pain of lost faith – of Jesus’ suddenly in gravest danger of distrusting His Father!
We in our less wise age must be particularly careful with this fourth of the “Last Words” of Jesus and specifically in relation to the “dereliction” many have asserted is what that cry expresses.
For there is a kind of cry a person makes in a moment of profoundest distress when he or she finally is free enough to express a love so pure, proceeding from the soul’s innermost center, a love full and convincing and powerful. It is a “cry” – visceral, wild, pure – that is not a reaction to the pain, but it is the pain itself that releases thispurest truth of the person. That “cry”, finally, is able to say … everything.
Suddenly we have become able to hear that pronoun my in “My God, my God…!” That is an exclamation of purest LOVE from the mouth of Christ. We, who are less pure, less full of love, and habitually averse to suffering, notice that word “forsaken” more than we notice that possessive pronoun “my”. And when we do, we miss the most significant aspect of this “fourth” of the Seven Last Words.
For a sun and shield is the Lord,
God is grace and glory.
The Lord grants, He does not withhold
bounty to those who go blameless.
O Lord of Armies,
happy the man who trusts in You.
Doers of the Word: In this fourth of the Last Words of Jesus, we are brought closer to things very difficult to witness, about which to think (if we are more timid and more guarded), or about which to feel (if we are more bold and available to Christ in His passion). What are we to “do” of the Word this week? Let us allow ourselves to feel, through the power given us in our imagination, to “walk in someone else’s shoes”, to imagine, for example, what so many refugees wandering homeless on this Earth likely feel. Let us resist in ourselves the “failure of feeling” that silences, or dulls, our appalled reaction to such profound injustices. Or, even more daringly in our contemporary American political context, allow yourself to feel what the best part of the political opposition feels when it seeks to bring about the political changes it desires “for us.” This fourth week of Lent asks of us a spiritual exercise of feeling, generously and fairly, what it is like, or likely to be like, to be particular persons who are very different from me.
 From Grove Art Online (Oxford) at “Greco, El” – “Greek painter, designer, and engraver, active in Italy and Spain. One of the most original and interesting painters of 16th-century Europe, he transformed the Byzantine style of his early paintings into another, wholly Western manner. He was active in his native Crete, in Venice, and Rome, and, during the second half of his life, in Toledo.”
 See Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:La_crucifixi%C3%B3n_(El_Greco,_1597).jpg.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Mt 27:45–46.
 See especially Matthew 25:31-46 on the importance of real presence. For example: 34 Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’
 Found at March 28 in A Year with Rumi: Daily Readings (2006) Poems selected and translated by Coleman Barks.
 Sometimes God’s faithfulness does express itself as a rescue from danger. Perhaps in our thoughtless ways, we have failed to celebrate those moments when God did rescue us, to let the sheer “amazing grace” of that penetrate our fully-deployed consciousness. Jesus Himself experienced often how His Father rescued Him during His public life. Jesus took many risks for the right reasons, but they often put Him in danger, danger coming towards His life even as early as during the first week (s) of His public ministry: see, for example, how the people of Nazareth rose in anger and sought to throw Him over a nearby cliff (Luke 4:16-30).
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Mt 26:38–39.
 The question of “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?” is based on a fundamentally wrong premise, or perhaps several wrong premises. For example, once we accept that Jesus freely gave His life, allowing Himself to be taken, mocked, and murdered (all three of those verbs are “bad” things done to a good person), so that we might be saved far beyond our power to save ourselves, then how can the passion and death of Jesus be construed as the Father “letting bad things happen to a good Person?” In a certain way of thinking, it could be that only a really good person is one whom God could entrust with, or burden with, a really bad circumstance, because only in him or her is God able to act with special power and effectiveness to heal some terrible wound in the world. I recall how St. Therese of Lisieux, OCD at a very young age was given by God the desire, fiercely, to suffer, so that God could through her willingness bring healing to many. God is still powerfully doing that through St. Therese’s writings, especially her Story of a Soul. It is wrong-headed to ask “Why, God, are you allowing such suffering?”. We ought instead to ask, “God, show me, and give me the grace to understand, what you are up to in this calamity that you have given me, or someone else, or a whole people, to accept … so that I or we can help You do what You are doing.”
 I mean “destroyed” in a literal, physical sense (death), but this can also mean the obliteration of one’s good name (the Psalmist often references this kind of social obliteration), the destruction of his or her long and well-built work (Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato si, illuminates the way we human beings aggressively despoil and wreck our planet), the permanent damaging of his or her closest friendships, and so forth. Infinitely creative are the ways of human beings when it comes to figuring out ways to destroy each other. I say this not cynically (though I can feel cynical sometimes), but I say it as God Himself said it (e.g., in the Noah narrative), and as the Prophets of the Old Testament often said it on His behalf. For example at Jeremiah 17:9 (Robert Alter translation), “More crooked the heart than all things, / it is grievously ill and who can fathom it?”
 A stanza from the famous hymn composed by Henry Francis Lyte, “Abide With Me.”
 The Oxford English Dictionary at the 13th century verb “to forsake” is a verb with multiple meanings, each of one could, as a thought experiment, to apply to Jesus’ use of it. Doing so can compel us to consider more deeply what Jesus’ cry from the Cross actually meant. (1) Jesus could be feeling, and is therefore crying out, that His Father was acting an awful lot like St. Peter (no saint yet!) who said, thrice: “I do not know the man!”. “To forsake” means here “to deny” when someone has asserted something as true. (2) Jesus could be feeling (and this would resonate with certain Lutheran interpretations, or even that of Hans Urs von Balthasar) that the Father was “renouncing” or “repudiating any allegiance to” His Son, so that Jesus might become sin, the personal appropriation of “the sin of the whole world”. (3) But then, and most interestingly, the third meaning that the OED gives “to forsake” is an action by which someone voluntarily “gives up, parts with, or surrenders someone or something dear or valued.” Suddenly we begin to consider, as we should, that the Father has a profound personal stake in the “handing over” of His beloved Son. Suddenly we begin to grasp what took the Christian Theology some centuries to perceive correctly; namely, that the whole Trinity is active and involved in the Redemption: what one divine Person does is what the other two divine Persons also are doing.
i Lk 22:27; 1 Pt 2:21.
* Messenger: the Greek has apostolos, the only occurrence of the term in John. It is not used in the technical sense here.
j 15:20; Mt 10:24; Lk 6:40.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Jn 13:15–17.
 New American Bible, Revised Edition. (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), 1 Co 12:31.
 What does “liberty” mean, and especially when this appears to be repeated at “my entire will” below? As each of us mature in our personalities, we grow into an increasingly complex pattern of commitments to others. Because of this essential aspect of maturity, a person finds that the field of his or her personal freedom grows increasingly smaller. In other words, our freedom is bound … more and more. Or, to put this another way, our freedom becomes our responsibilities – responsibility means a freedom that has grown up. I understand “liberty” in this prayer of St. Ignatius as meaning what little remains of a person’s field of “unbound” freedom, a field which remains to a person to exercise in whatever way he or she wishes. It is a profound prayer of Ignatius when this precious little bit of unbound freedom is what Ignatius also surrenders to his Lord.
 Our “memories” certainly include all that we remember, though we should by now have come to understand that we forget vastly more than we remember. Some of those forgotten things may still have an enormous power to condition our outlook on life, or to use a phrase that Bernard Lonergan, SJ speaks of often in his early work, such forgotten experiences deeply influence our “horizon”. Very often we have to be given the power to remember key things that we have forgotten, so that we can regain our freedom around those forgotten things, ending our servitude to those memories.
 The “of them” is a phrase that I add to this prayer of Ignatius. To ask our Lord to take “our understanding” (intellect) is so generalized a request as to suggest that one is asking for a grace of mindlessness, or that we are asking to receive from God a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. There is no act of understanding that is not conditioned by, and guided by images (in the power of imagination, or “in my memories”). Human beings do not have the power to initiate the work of thinking without the images made available to our thinking at its beginnings. For me, to pray this prayer, means that I am asking the Holy Spirit to illumine my acts of understanding as they work with my memories. We may suffer much when our understanding keeps concluding the same things about our memories! That is, the understanding of our memories, especially calamitous memories in our personal history, can be a distorting influence on our power to understand the meaning of our life. Recall, most profoundly, the “adjustment” in understanding that had to happen among the disciples and Mary in their memory of the passion and brutal death of Jesus. The Resurrection “took” their memories and began to change their “understanding” of that memory … but it would take a long time for that change to be fully accomplished in each of them. And if one considers the profound work of Johannes Metz, then one must consider the importance of a dangerous memory remaining “dangerous”, lest our thinking about it neutralizes the significance of that memory, or “sanitizes” that memory into a more comfortable image. The open wounds remaining on the resurrected body of Christ is the supreme example given from the heart of our Christian faith of a dangerous memory that expects for all Time to remain “dangerous.”
 The most substantial part of the power of Will (one of the three Powers of Soul “baked into” our human nature – the gift of it – by God) is the affective dimension of our personhood, our power to contact values through affect. We do not think values (though we certainly may think about our values); rather we feel what or who is valuable to us. It is obvious to any of us, and it was centrally obvious to St. Augustine (as one example), how our human Will (the whole patterning and “thickness” of our affective engagement with reality) can be distorted, and therefore it has a significant capacity to influence who or what we care about (our affective conditioning), and therefore to influence what or who we consider worthy to think about. We do not think about, or seriously consider, about whom or what we simply do not care! So, for us to ask God to “Take … and receive … my entire will” is about asking God to take our whole affective life – about what or whom we care; about what or whom we do not care; about what or whom we remain indifferent, etc.
 Typically the phrase is “whatsoever I have or hold”…. I add “or hold onto” to concretize the prayer, to capture the work of our freedom expressed in its commitment to “grasp” or “hold onto” things or persons.
 Again concerning the power of Will: God’s Will means God’s whole affective richness of Personhood, including all that God cares about, all whom or what God loves and for whom and why God shows them mercy, lovingkindness, being “slow to anger and rich in mercy”, and all. For us to ask to be conformed to God’s own affect is for us to be asking Him for an entry into a profound JOY – to be able to feel (and therefore to care about) what God feels, values, loves.
 This “only” here reminds me of the Lord’s Prayer, when we pray “Give us this day / our daily bread.” That is, we ask God to give us only what we need to sustain our life for today, after the pattern of God giving manna to the people wandering the Wilderness for those “forty years” but instructing them only to gather to eat what they needed each day, not stockpiling a supply of manna for use later. And so perhaps what we need to “clarify” to God in our prayer “Give to me only…” is that we are asking that each day God remember each of us, giving us the “love and grace” that we need to sustain us in faith, hope and love today. This means, of course, that on some days we are asking God to supply us with far more powerfully experienced “love and grace” because we really need that.
 For us to pray to be given only God’s own power to love and to express it in the world (grace) means for us to be confirmed into the image of Jesus, Who is and eternally remains God’s way of being a human being (love) and all of His artfulness, courtesy, and commitment to express that love in ways that we each can bear (grace).
 It is an interesting thing to wonder about why we have to say “rich enough”. One would think that simply being rich is all that we need or want to say. What lies behind that adverb “enough”?
 Spiritual Exercises  – “Suscipe, Domine, universam meam libertatem. Accipe memoriam, intellectum atque voluntatem omnem. Quicquid habeo vel possideo, mihi largitus es: id tibi totum restituo, ac tuae prorsus voluntati trado gubernandum. Amorem tui solum cum gratia tua mihi dones, et dives sum satis, nec aliud quicquam ultra posco.” This Latin is referred to the in the manuscripts as the Vulgate (V) version of what is called the Autograph (A) or original version in Spanish.
 Taken from a poem by George Herbert (1593-1633) called “Virtue”. About him see: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/george-herbert.
 As the Oxford English Dictionary notes, the original meaning (16th and 17th centuries) of “dereliction” was a morally neutral word used to describe “the action of leaving or abandoning” (with an intention not to resume).” But by the 18th and 19th centuries, “dereliction” came to include a strong moral aspect: “In modern use implying a morally wrong or reprehensible abandonment or neglect … a moral failure.” When Jesus’ cry on the Cross is spoken of as His “cry of dereliction” by modern interpreters, I sense that they want us to understand, and get us to face, the Father’s “reprehensible abandonment” of His beloved Son. I, for one, believe such interpreters to be clueless on this point.
 A baby just proceeding from the womb struggles to breathe on its own. A sign, the sign, that this essential act has been accomplished is the cry the baby makes. A mother understands that cry. She knows that cry says … everything.
 Psalm 84:12b-13 (Robert Alter translation).
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