A question that deeply concerned Chiara Lubich, foundress of Focolore
Given all that the Gospels tell us regarding Christ’s Passion, we might wonder what was the moment when Jesus suffered the most.
At the age of just 22 years old, during the Second World War in 1943, the Servant of God, Chiara Lubich, asked this very question. In the shelters, as bombs fell around them, people read the Gospel. There they discovered that God, who is Love, is the only ideal that no bomb can destroy. Once the bombing had subsided, they would go and look for the dead among the rubble, and assist those who had been injured.
One day a girl fell gravely ill, through the unhygienic conditions of the wounded. They called the priest, and Chiara, before the the Sacrament of Extreme Unction was administered, asked him this question: “What was the moment when Jesus suffered the most in his Passion?”
The priest replied: “I think it was when he cried out on the Cross: ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’, or ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”.
Chiara then took her companions by the hand and, surrounding the bed of the sick girl, proposed that they espouse themselves to the “Abandoned Jesus”, choosing him and loving him forever in suffering — in their own and in those of all humanity.
Pope St. John Paul II said that Jesus’ human experience of abandonment on the Cross, when he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?,” responds to a suffering shared by the three persons of the Most Holy Trinity: by God the Father, who allows it the love of men; by the Spirit, who is silent in order that Jesus might accomplish the work of Redemption; and by Jesus.
Yes. Jesus, at least for an instant, felt abandoned by the Father. It could not have been otherwise, as St. Irenaeus explains. Jesus did not redeem what he did not assume. If he redeemed all men from all sorrow, injustice, torture, contempt, and the very feeling of abandonment by God, it was because, on the Cross, he made it all his own, by suffering it in his own flesh and in his soul.
Therefore, we shouldn’t see Jesus Crucified and Abandoned only reflected in the images we have of him. We should see him first of all in ourselves, when we feel abandoned; and in others, when they feel abandoned. And we can and should recognize him and say, “It is You”: in the one who is rejected, marginalized, forgotten, and alone. In the slandered, the leper, the abused, the deceived, the mocked. In the desperate, the sad, in those in anguish, in the outcast. And we should embrace him, and say: “I love you as you are.”
We must make the leap, commit ourselves to love, and do the will of God, saying: “Act in me.”
Thus, by our lives we can witness to the world that Christ Crucified and Abandoned “has filled every void, enlightened all darkness, accompanied all loneliness, eliminated all sorrow, and erased all sin.”
Translation by Diane Montagna of Aleteia’s English edition.