Jesus Forsaken: today's God
In depth
Some cultural perspectives in the light of the contribution by Maria Voce on Jesus Forsaken

Jesús Morán
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In this contribution the co-president of the Focolare Movement comments on the conversation proposed by Maria Voce for the meditation and life of the Focolare members during this year 2016-2017 (cf. pp. 148-157 of this number of Being One). Jesus in his abandonment illuminates not only the night of evil and suffering, but becomes also the key to represent God to today’s world.

From Maria Voce’s theme on
Jesus Forsaken: the window of God – the window of humankind, I would like to particularly highlight that passage in which she describes the fact that God can see humankind from the “pupil” of abandonment because Jesus is the human being and human beings can see God from that “window” because Jesus is God. I found this affirmation very suggestive in the sense that it opens up unexplored horizons and it led me to a reflection, which I will try to develop here, limiting myself only to some ideas.

An experience

I recently visited the Dachau Nazi concentration camp in Germany. As it always happens in these places of suffering and collective death, we are captivated into an experience because of the strong psychological and spiritual impact. While I was moving from the cement rectangles, which indicate where once there were the prisoners’ warehouses (they have been obviously destroyed now, except for two that have been rebuilt for visitors), to the crematorium ovens, I had the clear sensation that, that was not simply a concentration camp but a gigantic shrine of Jesus who cries his abandonment. This is how I am able to explain myself because, in those few hours visiting the camp, I was able to live a real experience of God. I strongly felt His presence, which urged me to pray and renew my commitment to welcome and try to “heal” the crucified Jesus wherever he continues to cry out his abandonment in humankind with concrete and fraternal love. Without a doubt, also the moment of sharing that we had at the end of the visit with the Carmel sisters in the convent beside the camp contributed to all of this. They seemed to appear like angels who atone for and defeat the tragic force of the immense evil committed with prayer and with that love which is “stronger than death.”

The night of evil

The reality of evil, in its atrocity, always surprises us. It presents itself under thousands of nuances and its sting makes us suffer again and again and it upsets our good thinking. How can we speak about God to those who suffer the consequences of an earthquake, to those who have lost a loved one in a plane crash, to those who have to leave their country because of a strained and unjust war, to those who get involved in a terroristic action without a reason, to those who suffer partner violence, to those who barely manage to find daily bread and water to survive? Facing these kinds of situations and countless others seems as if existing has no meaning. A good part of our life is marked by suffering. What is the answer for a believer?
I think that facing the reality of evil and suffering we shouldn’t look for an answer but rather for some light. We believers are convinced that God has called us into being, tearing us away from nothingness and this was his first act of love for us. He called us to exist in a world held together by two important principles: the dynamisms and laws of nature and the freedom of the human person. There is where evil and suffering are inscribed. If the Andes mountain range, because of its evolutive dynamism, continues to grow and rise, this provokes movements in the earth and sea. We cannot consider that this is an evil as such. The evil here (the earthquake, the tsunami) depends on the relational nature of reality. Paradoxically, the so-called natural disasters depend on one of the most incredible and extraordinary characteristics of reality: its relational nature. Then, as I was saying, there is human freedom that could be inserted positively or even negatively into this relational nature or, in society. It addresses its actions, its relationships, for the benefit of others or on the contrary bringing pain and suffering. This is the dark reality of sin, the
mysterium iniquitatis, which we can never ignore.
This is the drama of the cosmos and the human world, which, with the glance of faith, we say Jesus took upon himself. The abandonment and the resurrection were definite consequences of the seriousness with which God assumes human history (cf. 1
Cor 15:3-5.20-22). God did not abandon creation to itself, nor did he leave us alone in our existence, abandoning us to ourselves. He shared this way of being, which is impressive and at the same time imbued with suffering, in order to bring creation and us to the complete conformation to him, therefore, in God. God in Jesus Christ entered the rift of finiteness and he remained until the end.

If we would only think that the relational nature of reality is a mark of the Trinitarian God, the abandonment, seen as a “rift” in the very Trinity (the man-God who feels abandoned by God), tells us that he wanted to fully accomplish what living the relational nature outside of God could mean with all its weight of limits and finiteness. Jesus Forsaken made himself finiteness in order to lead creation, with the resurrection, to its fullness in the redeemed and transfigured relational nature: “new heavens and a new earth” (cf. 2
Pet 3:13; Rev 21:1). In the same way, Jesus Forsaken transformed the human universe of the simply free relational nature into the relational nature lived out in the freedom of love (cf. Gal 5:13).

In this respect, I would like to recall what was said by Pope Francis in Kraków, at the World Youth Day. He said that
Jesus is the great gift of the Father to humankind,[1] when He undertook human suffering, completely assuming the suffering of the world; he is the only light on suffering. In answer to the cross and the abandonment of Jesus, the gift of the Father is the resurrection: he rises him up from the work of the Spirit.

We are introduced there, in this “game” and in this dynamic of love. Therefore, there is a
double solidarity [2] that exists between Jesus and us: first, in his undertaking our suffering, a solidarity that has to do with his descent – the kenosis -; we could talk about a “negative” solidarity in which he is fully liable with us, he made himself sin with us and for us. Then a “positive” solidarity, an ascending solidarity – the exaltation -, thanks to which we are incorporated in him and in this way led into God: this is the life of the Spirit, and therefore, the resurrection.

Three dimensions
of Jesus Forsaken

Looking at our world, this era which is so packed with uncertainties, I seem to see three dimensions of Jesus Forsaken that are just as much kenosis and they can help us to interpret and live our times. They show the possibility and necessity for a representation of the Christian

The kenosis of God in the world

The first is the
ecclesial-religious dimension, meaning the kenosis of God in the world. In fact, it seems that God has disappeared. We hear this fact here and there, we hear it differently in the East and in the West, in Europe or in the South of the world, but we are always dealing with a kenosis of God. In certain contexts of a more religious tradition people say, “They are stealing God from us.” In other contexts people look for him because they cannot see him; in yet other contexts he is confused amongst the thousands of new polytheisms. It is the night of God in the world, this God who has been kicked out of public life in countries of Christian tradition; the God of Jesus driven away from the Middle East; and also the God who seems to have disappeared from consciences; not to speak about the division between Christians. All of this appears to be a real kenosis of God. [3]
In this dimension, Jesus Forsaken, Jesus who gave his life up to the abandonment, is truly the God to be announced particularly in our time, the
kerygma for today, as an answer to interpret this kenosis of God. I think that we must give this image of God that comes from Jesus Forsaken, the image of a God who lives this radical kenosis, not a triumphalist God, a God who renounces to win. This is the God love to be announced today.

The kenosis of the Truth

The second is the
cultural dimension, the kenosis of the Truth. This also seems to not exist any longer. Often what prevails is even the truth that has been called “the dictatorship of relativism.” [4]
This phenomenon is also perceived in a different way in the East and West and in the South of the world. As Christians, we verify that the truth to give to the world can no longer be expressed in the ways we have thought, lived and proclaimed until now. Yes, this is the eternal Truth which is Christ himself, however we cannot communicate it with the interpretative tactics and with the attitude we had in the past… because it is not understood, it is refused. For this reason Pope Francis observed that there are no “closed truths”. This means: the truth must always be deepened. The categories we assume in order to express it, are never definite. We must go even deeper, following the impulses of the Spirit that speak to us also in the world, in culture, with its distress. On this background, Jesus Forsaken appears as “the” truth to be announced
[5]: a truth that dies, that is silent, that is not forced, but in this way he expresses his deepest reality, the truth of Love. I am convinced that Jesus Forsaken is the privileged journey to travel through in order to reach a new intelligence of faith.
A meaningful example of this is the reflection given by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in his comment to the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum in April 1994: “Jesus the Word made flesh, travelled the longest distance that lost humankind could ever travel. ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Mk 15:34). Infinite distance, supreme torture, prodigy of love. Between God and God, between the Father and the incarnate Son, there interposes our desperation of which Jesus is fully supportive. … The eternal embrace of the Father and the Son becomes distance between heaven and hell. ‘Eloì, Eloì, lama sabactàni?’ As if, for a moment, the crucified God found himself to be incredulous. In that moment everything overturned. In Jesus, the human will, like in the garden of Gethsemane, agrees. ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’ (Lk 23:46). The abyss of desperation vanishes like a mocking drop of hatred in the infinite abyss of love. The distance between the Father and the Son is no longer the place of hell, but of the Spirit.”

The kenosis of the human being

Lastly, the
anthropological dimension, the kenosis of the human being. On the one hand, there are masses of people who migrate, who die, people who suffer all kinds of violence, etc.; on the other, we find ourselves facing the post-human cultural horizon, characterized by a strange mix between technology and biology, robotization of corporeity. We have to recognize the positive attempt that guides many researches to improve human life, but the risks are enormous.

In this sense, as indicated by Chiara Lubich, Jesus Forsaken is
the Human being to be announced, the World Being [7], the real Human being, model of human beings, who expands and improves himself by placing his trust not so much in technology but in the relational nature of love.

«The shadow of the God who comes»
In short:
kenosis of God, kenosis of the truth and kenosis of the human being are three faces of Jesus Forsaken to recognize and transform on the occasion of encountering him and of new life, in history today. So, I think of him as “the shadow of the God who comes” (Bulgakov) and therefore, I think of the Risen One and the novelty represented by the culture of the resurrection. [8] Jesus Forsaken gives us the light to catch sight of his presence in the night without fear and to show it to our contemporaries as full of love.


[1] Cf. Address of Pope Francis during the welcoming ceremony by the young people, Jordan Park in Blonia, Kraków, 28 July 2016: «Jesus Christ is a gift, a gift from the Father, the gift from our Father,» in
[2] Cf. H. Blaumeiser,
Un mediatore che è nulla, in «Nuova Umanità» XX (1998/3-4) 117-118, pp. 385-407.
[3] Cf.
ibid.; e inoltre: P. Coda, L’altro di Dio. Rivelazione e kènosi in Sergej Bulgakov (in appendice la prima traduzione in italiano: S. Bulgakov, Sofiologia della morte), Città Nuova, Roma 1998; id., Il logos e il nulla. Trinità religioni mistica, Città Nuova, Roma 2003; J. Ilunga Muya - A. Fabris, Una nuova proposta di teologia delle religioni ne Il Logos e il nulla di Piero Coda, in «Nuova Umanità» XXVII (2005/1) 157, pp. 169-182; G. M. Zanghì, Notte della cultura europea. Agonia della terra del tramonto?, Città Nuova, Roma 2007; P. Coda – J. Tremblay – A. Clemenzia (edd.), Il Nulla-Tutto dell’amore. La teologia come sapienza del Crocifisso, Città Nuova, Roma 2013.
[4] Cf.
Mass pro eligendo romano pontefice. Homiy of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals, Vatican City, 18 April 2005: «Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be “tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine,” seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists soley of one’s own ego and desires,» in Cf. also: M. Pera - J. Ratzinger, Senza radici. Europa, relativismo, cristianesimo, islam, Mondadori, Milano 2004; R. Girard - G. Vattimo, Verità o fede debole? Dialogo su cristianesimo e relativismo (a cura di P. Antonello), Feltrinelli, Milano 2006, 20152.
[5] Cf. 1
Cor 1:23.
[6] Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople,
Comment on the “Way of the Cross” at the Colosseum, 1st April 1994, in «L’Osservatore Romano», 3.4.1994, p. 7; Cf. C. Lubich, Il grido, Città Nuova, Roma 2000, pp. 58 (nota 4) and 22 (nota 4).
[7] Cf.
Uomo mondo, in Chiara Lubich, Colloqui con i gen anni 1970/74, Città Nuova, Roma 1999, pp. 73-83; republished in: Id., Gesù abbandonato, Città Nuova, Roma 2016, pp. 94-99.
[8] Cf. G. M. Zanghì,
Per una cultura rinnovata. Alcune piste di riflessione, in «Nuova Umanità» XX (1998/5) 119, pp. 503-519; P. Coda, Per una cultura della risurrezione, in «Nuova Umanità» XXVI (2004/5) 155, pp. 545-558; G. M. Zanghí, Per una cultura della risurrezione, in «Nuova Umanità» XXXI (2009/4-5) 184-185, pp. 495-498