This is the most searing of all sufferings, the suffering of the spirit. At his most tragic hour, Jesus experiences abandonment by God. Prior to that moment, he had never called the Father by his generic name, “God,” never. [He uses] Father. To convey the impact of this, the Gospel also reports his words in Aramaic. These are the only words of Jesus from the cross that have come down to us in the original language. The event is real, and the Lord’s abasement extreme: It is the abandonment of his Father, the abandonment of God.
We find it hard even to grasp what great suffering he embraced out of love for us. It is not easy to understand. He sees the gates of heaven close, he finds himself at the bitter edge, the shipwreck of life, the collapse of certainty. And he cries out: “Why?” A “why” that embraces every other “why” ever spoken. But why, God, why?
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In the Bible, the word “forsake” is powerful. We hear it at moments of extreme pain: love that fails, or is rejected or betrayed; children who are rejected and aborted; situations of repudiation, the lot of widows and orphans; broken marriages, forms of social exclusion, injustice and oppression; the solitude of sickness. In a word, in the drastic severing of the bonds that unite us to others. There he tells us this word: abandonment. Christ brought all of this to the cross; upon his shoulders, he bore the sins of the world. And at the supreme moment, Jesus, the only begotten, beloved Son of the Father, experienced a situation utterly alien to his very being: the abandonment, the distance of God.
But, why did it have to come to this? For us. There is no other answer: Us. Brothers and sisters, today, this is not a show. Each of us has listened to the abandonment of Jesus, say to each other — each of us say to each other — “For me. This abandonment is the price he paid for me.”
He became one of us to the very end, in order to be completely and definitively one with us. He experienced abandonment in order not to leave us prey to despair, in order to stay at our side forever. Dear brother, dear sister, he did this for me, for you, because whenever you or I or anyone else seems pinned to the wall — and we have seen someone pinned to the wall — you see someone lost in a blind alley, plunged into the abyss of abandonment, sucked into a whirlwind of many “whys” without answer, there can still be some hope: Him, for you, for me.
It is not the end, because Jesus was there and even now, he is at your side. He has endured the distance of abandonment in order to take up into his love every possible distance that we can feel. So that each of us might say: in my failings — each of you has fallen many times — and I can say in my failings, in my desolation, whenever I feel betrayed or I have betrayed someone, when I feel cast aside or I have cast aside others or when I feel forsaken or have forsaken others, we think that Jesus was abandoned, betrayed, cast aside. And there we find him.