With His first Word from the Cross, Our Lord Jesus Christ prayed “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. Thus, He begins His crucifixion emphasizing the merciful aspect of God, our Heavenly Father. In the second Word, He rewarded Dismas, the repentant thief. Then, with the third Word, He entrusted His Mother to John, and thus to us, and entrusts us to her. We take note that this Word alone binds every follower of Christ to defend the honor of the most Blessed Virgin Mary. Think for yourselves the dismal situation today, in this bitter passion of the Church.
After these first three Words, comes the fourth, which breaks upon us like a storm at dawn, when the sun’s light is withdrawn and the lightning illumines the torrents of rain and the wind-whipped trees.
“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”
At this very hour, at this very Word, the darkness of the eclipse began to ease. In Father Groenings’ words, it “marked a turning point in which error’s shadow was to recede before truth, and the day of salvation was to begin.
My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?
How are we to understand such a complaint? Is Christ doubting His Father? Modernists have implied such. What is the truth?
In the first place, we note that while His first Word from the Cross was from the Son of God to His Father, this fourth Word is from Christ the Son of Man to God. Again, we turn to Father Groenings:
The abandonment by God of Christ’s human nature was not a separation of the latter from the second Person of God. For the union of the second Person of the Godhead with Christ’s human nature was and is inseparable. If this union had been dissolved at the death of Christ, then not God, but a mere man would have died for us, and our redemption would not be accomplished.
Neither was the abandonment by God of the human nature in Christ a withdrawal of grace. On the contrary, the plenitude of grace at all times existing in Christ effected that fortitude which bore Him up on the cross as it had done in the Garden of Olives. The abandonment, finally, did not consist in depriving the soul of Christ for a time of the direct vision of God. Christ rather complained, not only that God refused to preserve His human nature from impending death, but also that He abandoned it to suffering without the least solace whatever.
For His human nature might have been relieved in a twofold way;
First, through a direct action on all that contributed to make it suffer: sparing Him the sensible pain of the thorns, the nails and the scourges, and the interior pain of the mockery and humiliations of the crucifixion.
Secondly, God could have filled the soul of Christ with such consolation that He would not have felt external pain. This was done for many of the martyrs, who rejoiced even as they endured torture for Christ.
However, nothing of the kind happened, On the contrary, God abandoned the soul of Christ to repugnance, to fear, to sadness and to the excruciating knowledge that His Passion would be useless to so many human beings. God even allowed Satan whose hour was at hand, to use this time of sufferings to cruelly torture the Soul of Christ. Indeed, the only assistance God gave was to allow Christ’s human nature the strength to sustain it in order to prolong His suffering.
This was the object and the cause of Christ’s plaintive reproach. And we know that Christ gave the full consent of His Will to this abandonment.