Saturday, March 16, 2013

Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted

Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning, 
was there ever grief like His?
Friends through fear His cause disowning,
foes insulting His distress;
Many hands were raised to wound Him, 
none would interpose to save.
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him
was the stroke that Justice gave.
"Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted"
by Thomas Kelly

Crucifixion, 17th century
Sir Anthony van Dyck
Jesus was able to defeat sin by becoming sin in our place. Though perfectly sinless, He took on all the punishment the world has ever and will ever deserve because He allowed Himself to deserve it. The most painful event throughout Jesus' ordeal wasn't the nails in His palms, the cat of nine tails, or the betrayal of His friend, Judas. Hoards of people have endured similar forms of physical torture, and we've all been betrayed by a friend. But we've never been abandoned by God. Jesus was. Jesus was forsaken as the worst sinner of all sinners: the scapegoat who bore everything that was ever wrong, sick, or evil. And He bore all the wrath of God for us. So, was there ever grief like His? No. And there never will be again.

That's why St. Paul tells us that God will never give us more than we can bear (1 Cor. 10:13). Jesus won His Father's undying love for each of us, and so there simply is nothing left in heaven or on earth that we cannot bear, not because He will swoop down in our darkest moments and carry us out of harm's way, but because He will provide a way we can endure like His Son.

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, 
why have you forsaken me?"

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