“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” becomes “I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.” What a difference a few days can make! Our responsorial psalm this weekend is Psalm 22, which we also heard five short weeks ago on Palm Sunday. This psalm is divided into four stanzas: the first two are lament and the second two are thanksgiving. On Palm Sunday, we heard verses from the lament stanzas, which begin with the psalmist’s cry of feeling abandoned and rejected in verses 2-12. Then after a very poignant description of the psalmist’s sufferings in verses 13-22, on this Fifth Sunday of Easter, we hear from the thanksgiving stanzas (23-32). This praise and thanksgiving begins with the psalmist’s own community, then moves to all God’s people, and finally widens to all the ends of the earth including those who have already died and generations yet unborn (vss. 30-32).
Even in intense suffering, the psalmist proclaims and believes that God will deliver the one who cries to him. In this season of Easter, we recognize that without the cross, there can be no resurrection. Perhaps we have felt or said at various low times: “My God, why have you abandoned me?” only to realize later he had a resurrection moment planned the whole time. We pray that when we experience crosses, we have the faith and confidence of the psalmist.
This weekend’s readings show moments of resurrection after the pain of the cross. Saul (now Paul), who had been persecuting the Church, is finally welcomed by the community. In the Gospel, Jesus says that his Father takes away every branch on the Vine which does not bear fruit and prunes the others to bear more. Pruning can be painful for us because we usually do not want to let go of whatever is not bearing fruit. Letting God cut away these dying or dead branches of us can certainly be “cross” moments, but the confidence in new life and greater fruit are always worth the suffering. My God, my God, thank you for your faithfulness and love!