From the Parish Priest, Fr Nicholas Clews
If Jesus had given very careful consideration to his dying words, he could not have chosen better ones:
My God, my God, why have you deserted me?
I have heard people say of Jesus, ‘It was all right for him – he knew that his Father would save him.’
And I can see what they mean. There is no doubt that Jesus knew that not only would he die but he would also rise again.
But at some stage it got out of control. I am not sure when that happened. Was it when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and he looked round and his disciples had all fallen asleep? Was it when Judas kissed him and the soldiers seized him and took him away? Or was it when he was alone with the High Priest knowing that Peter was skulking around outside denying that he even knew him? I don’t know. But it is clear that by the time Jesus hung on the cross he had lost control. By this point he believed that he was utterly on his own. He believed that his Father had completely abandoned him. The confidence, the security, the knowledge that had been with him all his life had been stripped away. He was as utterly wretchedly human as it is possible to be.
And if Jesus can admit so such despair then so can we. If it is acceptable for Jesus to believe that God has deserted him, then it is OK for me or for you.
The despair is not the end: the end is the resurrection. But the account in Mark’s Gospel is very uncertain about this. Rather like an English summer dawn, it is quiet and still. The light has a kind of grey half-tone quality as if it is not sure whether it is going to stay or not. Mark’s account of the resurrection has this half-tone quality – the reason that his friends are going to the tomb is to anoint Jesus’ dead body with scented oil. They expect to meet only death.
But when they get there the body of Jesus has gone. And in its place there is a mysterious young man who tells them they will meet Jesus again back in Galilee. And the response of the women is to run away, frightened out of their wits.
And that is the end of Mark’s gospel! Why does he end there? Why does he not go on to tell the reader all about the resurrection and about how Jesus appeared to so many people?
Well I have an idea. I want you to imagine you are gathering for a surprise party. As you wait for the chief guest to arrive you talk about him, reminisce over old times and shared memories. And then he arrives. And when that happens you stop reminiscing. You gave no need to. The person you all love is there!
I think something like that happened with Mark. He needed to write down for the church events that were in danger of being forgotten. But when he got to the resurrection he was so close to the present that it seemed unnecessary. You see Mark and the other disciples were living the resurrection life. Jesus was part of their present.
When we are bereaved, as we emerge from the darkness of despair, what we initially experience is not brilliant sunshine, the warmth of a summer afternoon. What we experience is the grey unfamiliarity of dawn where everything is a bit frightening.
Those who are living with bereavement can be at any of those places. You may be in the despair of believing that you are deserted by God or even that he does not exist. You may be in the strange half-light of dawn. You may be in the warm afternoon sunshine. Or you may be somewhere different entirely! But wherever you are the words of St Paul are for you:
I am certain of this:
neither death nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nothing already in existence and
nothing still to come,
nor any power,
nor the heights nor the depths,
nor any created thing whatever,
will be able to come between us
and the love of God, known to us
It is the custom for the Christian Church to pray for those who have died at All Soulstide in early November. We will do so at the following masses in the week beginning 5th November:
Monday 09:15 St Margaret
Tuesday 12:00 St James
Wednesday 10:00 St James
Wednesday 11:30 St Margaret
Thursday 19:15 St Margaret