Q. Jesus, near the point of death cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk 15:34). What does this actually mean? To what level is Jesus forsaken by the Father? Perhaps the loss of the Beatific Vision or even more? Did the forsaking actually begin in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus took our sins upon himself and was covered by the sins of all humanity so as to look abhorrent in the eyes of the Father till all sin was atoned by his death? So was he, more or less, forsaken during his entire passion?

Richard F. McMahon, St. Paul, Minnesota

A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:  

Jesus’ words on the cross give the name to a little-discussed aspect of spirituality called “abandonment.” As God’s Son, Jesus was not subject to the same internal temptations we are, but a Dominican theologian has pointed out that at Gethsemane and Calvary, the human Jesus “deliberately allowed his flesh to recoil from the pain of the Passion in order to taste the full bitterness of his chalice. Similarly we are to suppose that he willed to experience to the full all the suffering involved in the ordeal of temptation so as to be as close as possible to all his fellowmen.”

Mary is our model in all things, and the sword that pierced her heart as she stood by the cross was her moment of abandonment. The agony of the human Jesus and his mother shows that God can withdraw — if only momentarily — and allow us to suffer, to realize just how infinitely deep is the abyss of our human infirmity. This is unquestionably hard to acknowledge at the time, but this is a sign of God’s regard and trust, and evidence that he intends to bring something from the ordeal, something far greater than the pain we experience.