POPE SHOWS HOW TO TURN ANXIOUS CRY TO SONG OF PRAISE
Reflects on Psalm Jesus Prayed From the Cross
VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 14, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI today took up a psalm that Jesus prayed on the cross to illustrate how trust in God can melt away anxieties, transforming a call for help into a song of praise.
Continuing with his catechesis series on prayer, the Pope offered a profound illustration of Psalm 22, most known for its opening lines quoted by Christ: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
The Holy Father reflected on how this psalms shows a God who remains silent, “and this silence pierces the heart of the man who prays, who incessantly calls out, but who finds no response.”
“God seems so distant, so unmindful, so absent. Prayer asks for listening and for a response; it invites contact; it seeks a relationship that can give comfort and salvation. But if God does not respond, the cry for help vanishes into the void, and the solitude becomes unbearable,” he said.
Nevertheless, the Pontiff noted, the psalmist shows an “extraordinary act of trust and of faith”: Three times he addresses the Lord as “my” God. “Despite all appearances, the psalmist cannot believe that his bond with the Lord has been completely broken; and while he asks the reason for his present incomprehensible abandonment, he affirms that ‘his’ God cannot abandon him.”
Witness to fidelity
Reflecting on Christ’s use of Psalm 22, Benedict XVI affirmed that Jesus’ prayer on the cross was “not a desperate cry, nor was that of the psalmist.”
The Pope explained how in Jewish custom, citing the beginning of a psalm implied a reference to the whole poem, such that Jesus’ “heartrending prayer — while full of unspeakable suffering — opens to the certainty of glory.”
The Holy Father traced the psalmist’s reference to God’s fidelity through the centuries: “The God who today appears so distant to the psalmist, is nevertheless the merciful Lord who Israel knew and experienced throughout her history. The one who prays belongs to a people that was the object of God’s love and that can witness to his fidelity to that love.”
Now it appears that this chain of Israel’s cries and God’s saving response has been broken, the Pope said, as the “psalmist’s situation appears to contradict the whole history of salvation, making the present reality all the more painful.”
“But,” he continued, “God cannot contradict himself, and so we find the prayer begin to describe the painful situation of the one praying, in order to persuade God to have mercy and to intervene, as he had always done in times past.”
Flooded by light
God was present in the life of the one praying “with an undeniable closeness and tenderness,” the Pontiff observed.
“The Lord is the God of life who brings to birth and welcomes the newborn, caring for him with a father’s love,” he said. “And if he previously remembered God’s fidelity throughout the course of his people’s history, now the man praying calls to mind his own personal history and relationship with the Lord, tracing it back to the particularly significant moment of the beginning of his life. And there, despite his current desolation, the psalmist recognizes a closeness and a divine love so radical that he can now exclaim, in a confession full of faith and hope: ‘Since my mother bore me, thou hast been my God.'”
Benedict XVI pointed out how the psalm “breaks forth into thanksgiving, into the great final hymn that involves the whole people, the Lord’s faithful, the liturgical assembly, the future generations.”
“Death and life have met in an inseparable mystery, and life has triumphed. The God of salvation has shown himself to be the uncontested Lord, whom all the ends of the earth will celebrate, and before whom all the families of peoples will bow down in worship. It is the victory of faith, which is able to transform death into a gift of life — the abyss of suffering into a source of hope,” he said.
The Holy Father invited the faithful — having been taken to the foot of Jesus’ cross — to be “flooded by the light of the paschal mystery, even in [times] of God’s seeming absence, even in God’s silence.”
Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he said, “let us learn to discern the true reality that surpasses all appearances, by recognizing the path of exaltation precisely in humiliation and the full revelation of life in death, in the cross. By thus placing all of our trust and hope in God the Father, in every anxiety we too will be able to pray to him in faith, and our cry for help will be transformed into a hymn of praise.”