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“My God, my God, why did you abandon me?” (Mt 27: 46)

30 November, 1999

The central movement in Christianity is from death to life. Death is often the spiritual death of guilt, sin, injustice; life is often the liberating joy of doing the right thing. Columban Missionary Fr Shay Cullen sent us this story for Easter 2008.

“My God, my God, why did you abandon me?” (Mt 27: 46). There he was, Jesus from Nazareth, the son of a mere carpenter, the miracle worker, the man so loved by the poor and believed by many to be the Messiah. Jesus, the one whom God sent to lead the world from corruption, exploitation, injustice and poverty and to challenge and invite all to have a change of heart and be reconciled.
Here he was suffering the death penalty for lifting up the downtrodden, healing the sick, forgiving the repentant sinners, empowering women and bringing God’s Love into the world in a way that had never been seen before. Now he was now being crucified as a common criminal in the most agonizing and humiliating manner known to the cruel Romans.
He had led an exemplary life doing God’s will and just as any human would feel he felt alone, abandoned, even by God, it seemed. His life and all the goodness he had done and his closeness to God, whom he called “Father”, was judged by the theologians and the political leaders, to be a blasphemy. His mission was rejected, his life a failure. Even his closest friends had deserted him, fled in fear of the guards. Are we to be shocked that he cried out “My God, my God, why did you abandon me?”
He was one of us, one with the rejected and abandoned. He was just like Ronaldo, that 14 year old boy that I found in one of the youth prisons of Metro Manila, one of the many thousands that were like Jesus. He was arrested unjustly on a trumped up charge, his hands tied behind his back and he was slapped across the face, kicked and cursed.
Ronaldo was stripped of his shirt and slippers and locked behind the bars of a dirty holding cell in the police station. There he was left without food and water for almost a whole day. The mosquitoes bit him, the cockroaches crawled over him, and he was trembling when the guards laughed and said he could be taken out and shot. He was truly abandoned.
Later he was made stand up, untied and given a dirty red T-shirt and transferred to the adults cell at a bigger municipal jail. There he was made a slave of the abusive guards and adult prisoners. He was forced to wash their clothes and clean their filthy toilets carrying the buckets of water slung on a pole across his shoulders like a cruel cross.
His only “crime” was poverty, and the remedy for it. His day was spent collecting scrap iron and junks to sell and help feed his two brothers and sister in the filthy slums of Malabon. A rich businessman, Ben Augustine, came out of his motor repair shop and saw Ronaldo and when he saw an old rusty car wheel in the cart he shouted; he uttered an expletive and shouted “Stop, that’s my wheel”. But it was not. Augustine resented the presence of this poor emaciated ragged boy. He was the image of poverty. Augustine had no pity, just anger and guilt. Guilty because his riches came from corruption and cheating his customers and a life of vice. He refused to change. He waved down a passing police car and Ronaldo was arrested.
When judgment day comes, Augustine will stand before God and be held to account for his life. He will be asked if he visited Jesus in prison. “When, Lord, were you in prison for me to visit you”? He will ask. “So long as you did it to Ronaldo, you did it to me”, will be the answer.
I was blessed to find Ronaldo in the prison and get him out and bring him to the Preda home for abandoned youth. It’s a privilege to find God behind bars, Jesus incarcerated, abused, tortured and punished unjustly and left without pity or compassion. He is but one of the thousands that have been abandoned, not by God, but by us. One that was lost but found and now has found freedom and peace. Today he is alive and well, studying and working, a resurrection, a new life.

 This article is by Fr Shay Cullen, a Columban missionary working in the Philippines. Email: [email protected] Website: www.preda.org  

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