The power of Psalm 22

Question: In Bible study, we recently discussed Jesus saying from the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Was Jesus merely reciting Psalm 22, or was he crying out in pain and giving voice to a kind of despair?

Paul Hummel, Bowling Green, Fla.

Answer: With sacred Scripture, there are many levels of meaning at work. You are correct in observing that Jesus is quoting from Psalm 22. And many argue, with good merit, that in quoting the first line of Psalm 22 Jesus intends the whole of Psalm 22 for himself — and us.

In Psalm 22, we are alerted to the many ways in which prophecies are being fulfilled. The psalm speaks of an afflicted man who feels downcast, but also mentions others who divide his garments among them and cast lots for his vesture, who pierce his hands and feet, and who ridicule him in his suffering. And all these prophecies are being fulfilled almost exactly as Jesus is on the cross.

Psalm 22 is also an important catechism for us about suffering because, considered as a whole, it is not just a psalm of despair and grief, but also one of trust and hope in God’s deliverance. It recalls how God has delivered devout men and women in the past and asserts that God never spurns those who cry out to him in their misery. The psalm writer confidently expects God’s help, and to be able, one day, to tell his descendants of the glorious things the Lord has done. And thus, while Psalm 22 surely gives voice to the pain and grief we experience in our suffering, it also reminds us to call on the Lord and trust that he will deliver us.

And so we see, first of all, that Jesus, in quoting Psalm 22, is a great teacher, even from the pulpit of the cross. We are taught to revere prophecy and to trust God in our afflictions.

And yet we ought not wholly exclude that Jesus is also quoting the psalm for his own sake as well. Surely, as man, he suffered great anguish — both physical and mental, emotional and spiritual — on the cross. And thus he, for his own sake, has recourse to Psalm 22. Indeed, how often have many of us in our sufferings found in Scripture great consolation and vindication? Perhaps we will say, “This Scripture text expresses exactly how I’m feeling!” In this there is a kind of consolation that God knows what I am experiencing and that others have endured similar trials. We also experience consolation as Scripture teaches us how God has delivered others and will, in due time, deliver us, too.

Annulments OK?

Question: I recently received an annulment from the Church and had my current marriage validated by the priest. And yet, in Matthew 19, Jesus says to divorce and marry another is to commit adultery. What am I to do?

Name withheld, Angus, Texas

Answer: Trust the Church to which Christ gave the power to bind and loose. Jesus says, “What God has joined together let no one separate” (Mt 19:6). But not every exchange of marriage vows is ipso facto a work of God. Vows must be properly exchanged by people of requisite maturity, etc. The annulment process seeks to investigate if God had in fact joined the couple or not, based on evidence supplied. If not, a person is free to marry, for they were not truly married the first time.

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.