The Gospel of Mark, the first of the gospels to appear in written form, presents Jesus going to death in utter desolation, draining the cup of suffering given him by his Father. His enemies viciously reject him; his disciples mostly betray or desert him. Only a few remain as he goes on his way. His cry from the cross is a cry of faith mingled with deep fear and sorrow: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
This gospel, taut and fast-paced, brings us into the dark mystery of suffering that Jesus faced. We face it too. The Passion is a book that leads to life, a risen life. Our liturgy tells us that today. Like a “well trained tongue” our readings from Isaiah 50,4-7, Philippians 2, 6-11, Psalm 22 and Mark’s Passion narrative call us to hope before the enemy death.
The desolation Jesus faced took many forms, some quite hidden from our eyes and understanding. Yes, the cross brought physical pain, but the gospels, even the gospel of Mark, the darkest of them, do not describe physical sufferings in great detail, as Mel Gibson does in his The Passion of the Christ. The sufferings Jesus endured were primarily spiritual and psychological, all indicated in the cry “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”
Paul of the Cross spoke of this to a priest of his community who was experiencing the cross of spiritual desolation. God’s grace would lift him up to bring life to someone else, the saint assured him. The mystery of the cross never ends in death.
“From what you tell me of your soul, I, with the little or no light that God gives me, tell you that the abandonment and desolation, and the rest you mention, are precisely preparing you for greater graces that will help you in the ministry for which his Divine Majesty has destined you either now or at some other time. Of that I have no doubt.” (letter 1217)
Speak to all of us today of joy and gladness,
let the bones you have crushed rejoice…
Restore in us the joy of your salvation. Ps. 51