The Pope: even in the face of an apparent “silence of God”, we need to realise that God is present

» 09/14/2011 17:11

Violence renders man “animal-like, violence has something brutish and only the saving intervention of God can restore man’s humanity”. During his General Audience today, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on Psalm 22, a prayer with marked Christological implications, which begins with the words “My God, My God, why have you deserted me?”.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Even in the face of an apparent “silence of God”, we must trust in His saving intervention, “God is present” even when we feel deserted, abandoned, in the face of the violence of enemies, a violence which renders the person, “animal-like, violence has something brutish and only the intervention of God can restore man’s humanity.”.

This is the teaching which Pope Benedict XVI drew from Psalm 22, and which he illustrated to over eight thousand people present in the Paul VI Hall for the General Audience.

This Psalm is a “moving prayer of distress”, of “human depth and theological richness”, “of marked Christological implications that continually recall the passion of Jesus”. The psalmist’s words “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?” are indeed the final words of Christ crucified.

What is more, the Psalm, “presents the figure of an innocent man, hunted and surrounded by enemies who want his death; and he turns to God with an anguished lament which, in the certainty of faith, mysteriously becomes praise. In his prayer the distressful reality of the present and the consoling memory of the past alternate in hard won awareness of his desperate situation which, nevertheless, refuses to relinquish hope. His initial cry is a call to God, apparently distant, who gives no reply and appears to have deserted him”:

”God is silent – the Pope continued – and this silence lacerates the soul of the praying person, who calls incessantly, but remains answered. Days and nights pass in the tireless search for a word, for help which fails to come; God appears to be so distant, so unmindful ”. The prayer demands an answer “but if God fails to reply, the cry for help is lost in the void and solitude becomes unbearable. And yet in the cry, three times the person praying our Psalm calls the Lord ‘my’ God, in an act of intense trust and faith. Despite all appearances, the Psalmist cannot believe that the bond with the Lord has been completely severed; and, as he wonders the reason for such apparent incomprehensible desertion, he affirms that ‘his’ God will never abandon him”.

The cry of the Psalmist, the Pope went on, “ My God, my God why have you deserted me?”, is recorded in the Gospels as the last cry of the dying Jesus. “It expresses all the desolation of the Messiah, the Son of God, who is facing the drama of death, a reality in complete contrast to the Lord of life. Abandoned by nearly all his dear ones, betrayed and disowned by his disciples, encircled by people who insult him, Jesus feels the overwhelming weight of a mission which entails humiliation and annihilation. Hence his cry to the Father, and his suffering adopts the woeful words of the Psalm. But his cry was not one of desperation, and neither was that of the Psalmist who in his supplication walks a tormented path which however finally flows into a perspective of praise and of trust in divine victory. And since in Hebrew custom, the citation of the beginning of a Psalm implied a reference to the whole poem, although the agonising prayer of Jesus retains its charge of unspeakable suffering, it opens to the certainty of glory”.

“The entire biblical history is the story of cries for help on the part of the people and of saving replies on the part of God”. And the Psalmist refers to the unswerving faith of his fathers “they never trusted you in vain”. But now this chain of confident invocations and divine responses appears to have been broken. “His enemies appear to be invincible, they have become ferocious, most dangerous animals”.

And “with dramatic images, which we find in the narration of the passion of Christ, there is a description of the destruction of the condemned man’s body, of the unbearable thirst which torments the dying man and which resounds in the request of Jesus «I thirst», leading to the final act of the tormentors who, like the soldiers at the foot of the cross, divide between themselves the clothes of the victim, whom they consider already dead”.

The new call for help launched by the psalmist, is “a cry which opens the heavens, because it proclaims certainty which is greater than all doubt, all darkness, all desolation. It is a lament which is transformed, making way for praise and acceptance of salvation”. God “has come to my aid, he has saved the poor man and shown his face of mercy. Death and life have met in an inseparable mystery and life has triumphed, the God of salvation has shown himself as undisputed Lord to be celebrated to the ends of the earth and before whom all the families of the nations will bow down. This is the victory of the faith which can transform death into the gift of life, the abyss of pain into a source of hope”.