By Tammy Townsend Deny, TI Executive Director
There is a bit of scripture that has always confused me. In Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34, we hear Jesus calling out before his death, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
For years, I struggled to understand why the authors of Matthew and Mark would attribute this cry of seeming desperation to our Redeemer. Why would Jesus say God had abandoned him? It didn’t make sense to me.
Maybe you already know this, but I only recently learned that Jesus’ dying words in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark are the first lines of Psalm 22. This psalm is a lament that begins in hopelessness but ends in faith that our Creator is always with us.
The message in Matthew and Mark is not one of hopelessness, but rather one of hope. God, our Creator, is always with us. Every one of us. Even in moments when we feel abandoned, and the world does not make sense.
Jesus’ words on the cross have been on my heart lately as I try to make sense of a tragedy that our parish community recently experienced. A dear member of our church was killed by her mentally ill son. A leader in the parish, Beata organized retreats and led small faith communities. She radiated a Christ-like kindness and generosity, even as she faced the challenges of caring for an adult child with mental illness. Beata touched a lot of lives. And her death has stirred up emotional memories for me.
Nearly 30 years ago, my oldest brother was killed in a random act of violence by two men who were battling their own demons. Like Beata, my brother Ed was a kind and gentle soul who overflowed with generosity – one of the truly good people in this world. His death, Beata’s death, and the countless other violent deaths of truly good people make no sense to me. I am lamenting: God, have you abandoned us?
As I reflect on these tragedies and violence, I am also reminded of Luke 23:34: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” We are called to forgive as we are forgiven. But forgiveness is a challenging process.
I’ve been told that one of the paths to forgiving someone is to pray for that person, asking for everything I would want for myself to be given to them.
With that in mind, I would like to ask a favor. This week, would you join me in praying for Beata’s son Michal? May he know God’s redemptive love and peace. And would you also pray with me for love and peace for David and Jason, the two men serving life in prison without parole for my brother’s death?
Let’s allow our lament to grow into faith in God’s loving presence. Through our collective prayers, may “the generation to come… proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you have brought” (Psalm 22:32).
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, I encourage you to seek help. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a great resource: www.nami.org or 800-950-6264.