What was the moment when Jesus suffered the most and when he showed his greatest love for us?
It was when, hanging on the cross, he cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
In the incarnation, Jesus became fully human and became one with us in all our experiences. On the cross, he entered into the extreme experience of human hopelessness: the sense of having been abandoned by God.
He became one with us in all those situations where we cry out in darkness and despair: “Where are you God, why are you absent?”
As we embrace Jesus Forsaken on this Good Friday, let us embrace the door that he opened through his suffering and death: his resurrection and ours.
As I read St. Eugene’s writings, I constantly hear echoes of his Good Friday experience of his fragility and his awareness of God’s healing love. It was a conviction that never left him and that was at the basis of all his ministry: to lead others to his same experience. St Eugene knew darkness and seeming-hopelessness many times in his life. Yet he recognized that in these dark moments, his Savior was present, and he attests to this in constantly in his writings. Just one example:
In the end, though with sadness, I go my way, placing my trust in God alone. Let us love him always more.
Letter to Father Forbin Janson, 12 September 1814
He encouraged others to do the same. In particular today I recall his words to Father Jacques Jourdan, aged 25, and the first Oblate to die. He was suffering from deep depression and darkness:
Courage, my dear friend. Very great saints have been tried like you, but they became saints in spite of these circumstances because they did not cease to obey; courage, once more, my dear friend, we are all down on the floor praying for you so that you will bear this hard trial like a valiant soldier of Jesus Christ. This so amiable Master, our model, did not yield to despair in the garden of Olives; into what an agony he was plunged nevertheless! Hold on to him and fear nothing, drink the cup of his bitterness since he allows to let you share in his passion, but do not doubt that he will soon fill you with his sweetest joys. Until then you must keep your peace and obey…
At the moment of communion, tell him lovingly about all your sorrows: “O Lord I am oppressed be my security!” [Is. 38, 14].Embrace his feet in spirit, protest that you will never separate yourself from him, that you wish to love him for ever, then take him into your heart and be not troubled about anything.
Letter to Jacques Antoine Jourdan, 30 March 1823
Victor Frankl, a survivor of the second world war concentration camps attests to this when he wrote:
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”