Friday, April 7
Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabchthani?” That is, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
The crucifixion is a terrible trial in every possible way. Christ is subjected to betrayal, fear, mockery, exhaustion, excruciating pain, and finally, death—and in these verses in particular, deep and terrible loneliness. A feeling that he has been abandoned even by the One who is supposed to be present at all times and in all places.
For many who lived with family, a partner, or roommates, the pandemic lockdown of 2020 was its own kind of trial: close quarters, incessant demands on attention, nowhere to get away from an argument or hurtful comment. Especially when talking to friends with school-age children, I said little about what it was like to live alone during that time. It felt churlish to complain when I had all the quiet and privacy in the world.
But unless you live atop a pillar in the desert, there is only so much quiet and privacy a person is meant to have. Days upon days would go by without seeing another human face or hearing another human voice, except through a computer.
There are people who, when they are lonely, can assuage that loneliness by talking to God. I wish I was one of those people; I never have been. Instead, I encountered Christ, during that time, through faces familiar and strange: friends who drove half an hour each way to take a half-hour walk together; strangers who made conversation in the elevator; clients and fellow volunteers at Beyond Hunger, where my work was deemed essential when, in truth, it was the work that was essential to me.
In times of great loneliness, you cannot pick and choose in whom you will see Christ. Each face and voice is precious. Each face and voice is a reminder that you have not been forsaken after all.
Lord, our greatest comfort, be near us always, especially when no one else is near. Help us to feel your presence in the silence of an empty room, and in the voice that breaks that silence. Amen.