Outside the Gate of God-forsakenness is where they send the criminals to die. If it isn’t hell, you can see hell from there. And it is where they hoist Jesus up to be made an example of and where he demonstrates that even to the bitter end, he is not into condemnation.
The same cannot be said for other folks. It’s human nature, I guess. To his left and his right, we see two men bickering in their final rasping breaths. One hurling insults at Jesus, the other defending the Lord while validating his and the other man’s condemnations. But Jesus doesn’t use his breath that way. He offers no judgment. Instead, he offers blessing. Even with his life draining away, he is present to others, offering consolation.
Consolation: to be with (con) the lonely one (solus). To bring solace is to bring presence and comfort in grief. We don’t know who these men are or the nature of their crimes. Their names are long since forgotten. But they are not forgotten to God.
When Jesus cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” he surely knew the desolation of abandonment. Yet in his compassion, presence, and mercy, he showed us that there truly is no person who is ever outside of the compass of God’s love.
It is the nature of God that in the wilderness and solitary places of our lives, when we feel most alone, God’s presence seeks us out. And it may be that we can be such a presence to someone we happen to find when we are there.
In what part of my life have I felt abandoned? Have I been open to let God join me there? In what ways can I be more present with someone who I know is suffering?
Loving, merciful God, thank you for being present in my dark nights to console me and know my pain. Give me wisdom and compassion to wait with others who need to experience your presence also. Amen.