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'My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?'

Saturday, April 16, 2011
Today’s readings: Matthew 21:1-11; Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14—27:66 or 27:11-54

Jesus is entering Jerusalem. The divine plan is about to be realized, the prophecy of the Scriptures is about to be fulfilled: Your king comes to you, meek and riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden (Zechariah 9,9).

The people praise him, they cover the road with palm branches and with their cloaks, singing Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the hig (Mt 21,9-10). We know that the word Hosanna comes from Hebrew, Hoshana, and means ‘please save’ or ‘save now’. This cry for salvation is anchored in the hope of a saviour that will come to free Israel from oppression and all suffering. Being powerless in their engagement with the occupying forces, and maybe also in their engagement with parts of their own religious practice of the time, the people are longing for a powerful, liberating Messiah sent by God who will bring prosperity and peace. They find support in the Scriptures’ promise of victory, not by human power, but by divine force:

It was not their own sword that won the land, nor their own arms which made them victorious but your hand it was and your arm, and the light of your presence, for you loved them(psalm 43,3).

Human powers may not lead to victory, but the power of God will set the people free. Still, hope of victory soon turns to confusion and despair. A few days after his entry into Jerusalem, their liberator hangs nailed to a cross, crying out: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Mt 27,46). The hope of salvation literally dies in front of their eyes. What kind of divine power can this possibly be, that is so totally defeated?

The arm of God does not act in a way that we naturally may imagine. His strongest weapon, apparently manifested in weakness and helplessness, is rooted in God’s hesed - the loving-kindness of our God. The merciful God of the Old Testament finds its highest expression in the humility of the Son, Jesus Christ. The humble Servant mentioned in the prophecies (Isaiah 53) is the one who we recognize as Jesus from Nazareth. This humility consists in opening up to the will of God. It is manifested again and again in the life of Jesus: by miracles, by preaching the good news of the Gospel, by washing the disciples' feet during the last supper. But the place where we really get to see the humble heart of Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus prays to the Father, saying: “Let it be as you, not I, would have it” (Mt 26,39). The outcome of this fighting prayer is decisive for the passion that follows, because the suffering that is imposed upon Jesus has already been chosen by him through that secret moment in the garden where he conforms his will to the will of the Father. In obedience, the Son has humbled himself, and by this very humility, the door is open to faith, to love, to the Kingdom of God.

We watch how the King comes riding into Jerusalem. Let us look deep into his humble eyes, letting ourselves be transformed by the same humility of our Saviour, so we may follow the will of our Father in our own lives, through the salvation brought by the Lord Jesus.

Bror Haavar Simon Nilsen OP


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