Voce mea ad Dominum

Random thoughts from an amateur theologist.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?

For some reason, Psalm 22 has been on my mind today. This is the lament which is proclaimed every year during the Palm Sunday liturgy and begins, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" Not that anything particularly bad has happened today, and I certainly do not feel that I have been abandoned by the Lord, but still Psalm 22 has been on my mind. When I recite or chant this psalm, I can sense the underlying fear and torment which this troubled soul is experiencing; the bulls of Bashan which fiercely encircle him, the lions roaring, the evildoers which surround him such that his life is drained to the point that there is little hope. It appears to the reader that evil will prevail. And yet, the troubled soul hopes against all hope and trusts in his God. The early Christians easily identified this suffering servant as Jesus...surrounded by people who would do him in, hoping against all hope that he would prevail against an evil so fierce that it threatened his life, and as he is dying on the cross, he laments, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" Here is the very same cry of the author of the psalm. Yet, is this not how we all are? In times of suffering and persecution do we not cry out to God to rescue us from forces beyond our control or comprehension? Can we not identify in the circling bulls of Bashan people who slander us? Is it possible that the evildoers who surround us and drain life from us are the very people who take advantage of our good intentions for personal gain and then leave us in the "dust of death" once our usefulness has run out? Is this the cry of a soul in despair? Hardly. This psalm is a cry of a man of great faith who trusts in the Lord despite unbelievable obstacles which face him. Jesus, in shouting this as he was dying on the cross, does not show us the face of a despairing man, rather one of faith and trust, for he points us to the message of hope that is Psalm 22; that God will deliver those who put their trust in him. Perhaps this Psalm was composed at a time when David was reflecting on his past experiences of suffering from which God delivered him. Perhaps God is nudging me to reflect as well.

Then I will proclaim your name to the assembly; in the community I will praise you: "You who fear the LORD, give praise! All descendants of Jacob, give honor; show reverence, all descendants of Israel! For God has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, Did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out. I will offer praise in the great assembly; my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him.


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