“Father, why have you forsaken me?”

Photo by Noel Celis/AFP

Reflection written by Johanne Arceo

It still baffles me why they wanted to kill Jesus so much.

Why would they go as far as torturing him? What could have possibly caused such outrageous hatred?

All these unsettling questions lead me to a more unsettling realization: Evil is real. Evil — the plain reality of Satan’s work — brought Jesus to his morbid death. When Judas sold his loyalty for silver, when guards seized him in the middle of the night, when the chief priests gathered false testimonies against him, when people mocked and struck him, when his friends denied him… all these tell me that evil does not need an explanation. In the face of all these evil, Jesus cries to his Father, “Why have you forsaken me?”

“Why have you forsaken me?”

This is an all-too familiar prayer. I, myself, have prayed this countless times, each time never easier than the last one. However, in this particular contemplation, this outcry was a little bit more painful in quite a unique way. I was staring at evil in the eye as I discovered the dark recesses of humanity permeating through the social structures, preying on those who have no power like Jesus.

It wasn’t just Jesus on the cross who felt forsaken; I was staring at the faces of the typhoon Sendong victims I met in CDO who lost their houses, livelihood, and some relatives to the flood caused by a natural disaster aggravated by corporate greed and inefficient social safety nets. I was staring at Kian Delos Santos who just wanted to go home and review for his exam when a group of cops systematically murdered him one night on the accusation of drug-use. I was staring at my friends from my apostolate areas who live in sub-standard living conditions and are perennially threatened by the possibility of demolition and displacement. I was staring at the kids I met in the rural communities who died of hunger and malnutrition, and I simply couldn’t fathom how such illnesses could exist in a world where buffets and unli samgyupsal can be found in every corner.

Evil has placed them there. Corruption, greed, violence, and apathy have placed them there. Father, why have you forsaken them? Why have you forsaken us? The body of Christ in the Philippines is deeply, systematically, life-threateningly wounded. And just by a click on my laptop, I know for certain that this woundedness is not just found here. In every corner of the world, Christ bleeds. Many times I wish I could just look away, but really, how is that possible? One does not go back to sleep after waking up to a burning room.

And yet, in each and every single face of evil, Jesus’ response was hope and love. I kept wondering why he never used his “divinity card” and just struck the soldiers with lightning, or he could just simply use his powers to miraculously go back to time and avoid the mission. When God saw evil in the world, his response was to enter into our chaos and feel every morsel of our struggle. His response was compassion. Up to his last breath, Jesus showed the world that in the face of irrational evil, the response is always a love so deeply human that it was almost divine.

It was hope that enabled him to surrender to death without seeing the fruits of his sacrifice, because he had an intimate knowledge that goodness will always prevail over evil no matter what.Jesus was both the priest and the offering; both the prophet and the prophecy.The passion of Christ is not just inviting me to enter the world of pain and suffering; it is inviting me to love and hope. When I hope, I don’t reduce my commitment to what I can merely predict, but instead I allow my commitment to carry me to places where suffering can expand my limits. When I love, I do not narrow my vision to what my mind can comprehend, but I ask my heart how much it is willing to risk. Jesus tells me that the Calvary is of love, with love, and for love. It is because of this that one can possibly stare evil in the eye, and offer transformative peace.

In these darkest of times in our country, I share in the agony of Jesus and the pregnant silence of God. May this bring me closer to His heart that loved and hoped for a better tomorrow.

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