The cry of Christ on the cross should remind everyone that God always hears their prayers, even when he seems distant, Pope Benedict XVI said Feb. 8.
“Let us bring to God our daily crosses, in the certainty that he is present and listens to us,” he said at the Wednesday general audience, held with several thousand people in Paul VI Hall.
Pope Benedict made his remarks as part of his ongoing series of weekly reflections on prayer. Today he focused on the prayerful cry of Jesus Christ during his final agony on the cross on Good Friday – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
“This cry comes after a three-hour period when there was darkness over the whole land,” noted the Pope, dwelling upon the accounts given in the Gospels of Sts. Mark and Matthew.
“Darkness is an ambivalent symbol in the Bible – while it is frequently a sign of the power of evil, it can also serve to express a mysterious divine presence,” he said.
“Just as Moses was covered in the dark cloud when God appeared to him on the mountain, so Jesus on Calvary is wrapped in darkness.”
So “what is the meaning of Jesus’ prayer?” asked the Pope.
He replied, “the words Jesus addresses to the Father are the beginning of Psalm 22, in which the psalmist expresses the tension between, on the one hand, being left alone and, on the other, the certain knowledge of God’s presence amongst his people.”
The psalmist, he explained, “speaks of a ‘cry’ to express all the suffering of his prayer before the apparently absent God. At moments of anguish prayer becomes a cry.”
Pope Benedict said that the same thing should also happen “in our own relationship with the Lord.” When people are faced with “difficult and painful situations, when it seems that God does not hear, we must not be afraid to entrust him with the burden we are carrying in our hearts, we must not be afraid to cry out to him in our suffering.”
The Pope pointed to Christ on the cross, who “at the moment of ultimate rejection by man, at the moment of abandonment,” is still “aware that God the Father is present even at the instant in which he is experiencing the human drama of death.”
But even if people are convinced of God’s presence, a question still remains in many hearts, the Pope said. “How is it possible that such a powerful God does not intervene to save his Son from this terrible trial?”
He replied that it is important to understand that “the prayer of Jesus is not the cry of a person who meets death with desperation, nor that of a person who knows he has been abandoned.”
Instead, by appropriating Psalm 22 to himself – the psalm of the suffering people of Israel – Jesus “takes upon himself not only the suffering of his people, but also that of all men and women oppressed by evil.”
He subsequently takes that “to the heart of God in the certainty that his cry will be heard in the resurrection,” so that “his is a suffering in communion with us and for us, it derives from love and carries within itself redemption and the victory of love.”
Therefore, just as “the people at the foot of Jesus’ cross were unable to understand” his cry, so “we likewise find ourselves, ever and anew, facing the ‘today’ of suffering, the silence of God,” the Pope said. But we also “find ourselves facing the ‘today’ of the resurrection, of the response of God who took our sufferings upon himself, to carry them with us and give us the certain hope that they will be overcome.”
Pope Benedict explained that the “prayer of the dying Jesus teaches us to pray with confidence for all our brothers and sisters who are suffering, that they too may know the love of God who never abandons them.”