It was a pleasant learning that in the Seven Last Words, only the Fourth, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” is found in both St. Matthew’s (Mt. 27:46) and St. Mark’s (Mk. 15: 34) Gospels. It is also the only saying that appears in more than one Gospel. Yet it isn’t found in the other two Gospels, nor the other sayings found in St. Matthew’s and St. Mark’s Gospels.
What could be the reason for this unique attribute of the Fourth?
In Christian tradition St. Matthew, a former tax collector who was called by Jesus to be one of the Twelve Apostles, is the author of the first Gospel account. It starts with St. Joseph’s genealogy from Abraham; it represents Jesus’ Incarnation, and ends with the Commissioning of the Disciples.
Having said that, in today’s Gospel of the Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Mt. 26:14 – 27: 66), Fr. Armand Robleza mentioned that it could be due to the fact that being the first Gospel written, this saying of the Lord is one that was easily remembered by St. Matthew. There is no other feeling that could have taken Jesus at that time He was dying on the Cross. Accounts of people who have almost near-death experiences reveal that in those moments there’s no time to compose one’s self. Anything is possible, and when one is frustrated and helpless, the feeling of being abandoned takes precedence. There’s no other way, as you’re practically catching your breath and trying to stay alive. The Lord’s expressions at that time may have left an indelible mark on the Evangelist.
Despite that, you can see in today’s Gospel that Jesus was still calm and submissive to the Father. He’s actually giving it all up to God,
He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as You will.”
In those most difficult phase of the Lord’s human life, His obedience to the Holy Will of the Father takes priority over His own pains and suffering. There’s no other way to victory over death than in assuming the position of the Suffering Servant of God. And what drives Jesus during those dark moments? His undying love for the Father. The Lord choose to love!
Palm Sunday is a paradox: the people who acclaimed “Hosanna in the Highest”, were the same people who chanted later “Crucify him, crucify him”. Just like any of us who have been inconsistent in our faith (and we blame this on our human weakness and frailty), we almost always commit the same pattern of falling again and again. That is why every time we commit sin, even though we confess to be His followers; we again repeat Christ’s suffering. The pain that the Lord goes through every Holy Week isn’t something that is in vain. For Jesus, it is love that brings Him through. His love for the Father and His love for humanity. Fr. Armand says it aptly, “Jesus chose to love” knowing that “Love heals all wounds”. Despite the many times we fail Him, Jesus continues to be faithful.
As we go on the Holy Week in our quarantine conditions, let us pray fervently for healing and the ending of this pandemic. Let us prepare well for these solemn events, especially the Sacred Paschal Triduum, the period of three days that begins with the liturgy on the evening of Holy Thursday, reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday.
May the crisis we are experiencing bring us closer to the Lord, submit ourselves fully to God just like what Jesus did, and show more love for those affected the most in this turbulent times.
“Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name which is above every name.” (Phil.2: 8-9)
(Thanks to Internet technology we can now “participate”in the activities of the Holy Week through Facebook Live streaming. You may want to participate in the St. John Bosco Parish of Makati’s activities this Holy Week. Visit their Facebook page for the complete schedule of these events.)