"Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?"- Reflections on the Seven Last Words Part 4

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Catholics get mistaken for being masochists a lot. We put a lot of emphasis on guilt and pain and enjoying the sufferings we endure in life. It’s not like we actually get off on the pain, you know. And I think the Fourth Last Word can show the Catholic perspective on coping with suffering.

When Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” it may seem like a cry of despair at first glance. For those three hours, the sky is darkened and Jesus’s human nature echoed the laments of those who feel abandoned by God. But Jesus’s human nature was never separate from His Divine Nature. Venerable Fulton Sheen compares this seeming contradiction to a mountain obscured by clouds, even when the peak of the mountain is bathed in light. Jesus took on the nature of sin and allowed Himself to feel that separation for just this moment.

But there is a deeper meaning to this phrase beyond the words themselves. The words are actually the beginning of Psalm 21 (or 22 depending on your translations), which starts out with a lament of suffering that foreshadows the Crucifixion, but ends with a cry of hope and a triumphant declaration of overcoming the suffering.

My biggest issue with existentialism is that it is centered on the idea that the universe is indifferent. The entire philosophy is built on something that, to me, brings great despair. And those who believe in existentialism admit that the belief is both terrifying and beautiful and that the power to make the world better relies on the choice of the individual.

I’m just gonna quote my favorite Marshwiggle for a minute here:

There is one thing to say. Suppose we have only dreamed and made up these things, like sun, sky, stars and moon and Aslan himself. In that case, it seems to me that the made-up things are a good deal better than the real ones; and if this black pit of a kingdom is the best you can make, then it’s a poor world. And we four can make a dream world to lick your real one hollow. As for me, I shall live like a Narnian! Even if there isn’t any Narnia, so thanking you very much for supper. We’re going to leave your court at once and make our way across your great darkness to search for our land ABOVE!

I would rather try to find light or bring light into the world than spend my life cursing the darkness. My fellow Catholics and I may lament our sufferings, but we also know that, to quote Dumbledore from Harry Potter “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times,if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Are We Out of the Woods Yet?

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One quote from Buffy the Vampire the Slayer that resonates with me comes from the Season 5 finale “The Gift”:

The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live.

Season 6 of Buffy was themed around the idea of life becoming the Big Bad. As angsty and heartwrenching as it sounds, Whedon got it right. Going to extremes feels easy because of the high-risk, high-reward gamble. We all jump at the chance to do the extraordinary. We live for the celebration of special occasions.

But ordinary life? Ordinary Time? The daily grind, especially when faced with an uncertain future? That’s hard. It’s hard to just live from day to day if your life is surrounded by uncertainty or sadness or anxiety. There are times in life where it feels like you’re driving down a highway at night with just the headlights showing the next 200 feet. Or you’re wandering around the woods and the trees look like monsters. Or you feel like there’s nothing but fog and rain and no sunlight at all. How do you find your way out?

“We walk by faith and not by sight.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7

There will be times in your life that God calls us to completely surrender yourselves, your lives, and everything in it to Him. Your faith will be tested. It’s during these times that you need to fully rely on God. It’s not an easy thing to do. I know it’s not for me, given that there are a million things in this life that I don’t know for sure.

What I know for sure is that if I didn’t have my faith in God and if I didn’t trust him,  I would just be an empty shell of the woman I am now. In spite of the darkness, the woods, and the fog, God is always with us, leading us out. But sometimes, as I’ve been learning in Vacation Bible School, he just wants us to hold on. As in hold on to Him. Rely on Him. Fully surrender ourselves to Him.

There are so many songs that talk about walking by faith, but one of my favorites is Audrey Assad’s “Lead Kindly Light,” based on a prayer by John Henry Newman.

I pray that no matter what’s going on in your life today, you are taking that first step in faith, trusting in God, and handing everything over to Him.