Friday, February 16, 2018

Our Suffering God!

The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus' mother, Mary, was there standing by the cross of Jesus (John 19:25). She is with her son who is suffering on the cross in front of her own eyes and she cannot help him. She does not say a word. What can she say? She has trusted in God and His word to her from the moment she told the angel Gabriel "I am the hand-made of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38) Here Mary suffers because her son in suffering, and he is suffering one of the most crucial and humiliating death. She does not say anything at all, she does not accuse or blame anyone, she is hurt for her son but continues her original prayer in her heart "May  it be done to me according to your word." 


The night before, her son had already fell to the ground in agony and prayed "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will." (Mark 14:36) He had repeated this prayer to his Father three times and told his disciples "My soul is sorrowful even to death" (Mark 13:34). 

Both Mary and Jesus would have felt abandoned by God and still resigned to his will. Jesus last words from the cross are "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? ... My God, my God why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34 & Mathew 27:46) and "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23:46), and "I thirst... It is finished" (John 19:28,30). How would Mary not feel abandonment? Was she not told by "Gabriel, who stands before God" (Luke 1:19) "He [Jesus] will be great and will be called Son of  the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." (Luke 1:32,33) What happened to this promise? What went wrong?

The angel Gabriel had also said to Mary what Jesus later repeated in the garden "for nothing will be impossible for God." (Luke 1:37) and her cousin Elizabeth had said to her "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." (Luke 1:45)  Mary and Jesus are called to hold on their faith in God no matter what they experience, even a sorrowful death upon a cross. And who can conquer death and the finality of death?

This is what happened two thousand years ago, and this is what happens today with so many people who suffer all forms of physical, mental, psychological, and spiritual suffering. Christians in the state of suffering can always say "Our God suffers with us." Jesus while in heaven told St. Paul who was persecuting Christians "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" (Acts 9:4)  Like Mary we must stand by the cross of those who suffer and suffer with them. We must believe that our suffering is not in vain because this is not the last chapter in our scripture, nor is it the last chapter in our lives. For our God has indeed conquered death by death and took away its finality forever.