Jonah said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.”
During Holy Week, followers of Jesus reflect upon the depths of God’s compassion for the whole world as witnessed through the passion of Christ. Jesus went out into the dark night after celebrating his final Passover meal with his followers, and entered the olive grove known as the Garden of Gethsemane. Entering that grove, Jesus told his followers, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me (Matthew 26:38).” The name “Gethsemane” combines two Hebrew words, “gat—to press”, and “shemen—oils”. Gethsemane is the place where olives are pressed to extract olive oil. In this same place, Jesus entered God’s olivepress, allowing his life to be overwhelmed with sorrow, pressed, distressed, crushed and ultimately put to death to bring us life.
Jonah called to the Lord in his distress inside the great fish, from a place of intense suffering, being crushed, pressed, face to face with death.
You too may be in a place of distress, pressed down, crushed under weights you did not choose, and inwardly suffering. Where is God in this? How possible is it to call to the Lord in distress? Some find it difficult to call out to God in distress, when between a rock and a hard place. When you are “deep in the realm of the dead”, call out to God for help. Call to the Lord in your distress. Jesus has already been there in that olive-press and knows in his innermost being the overwhelming sorrow and crushing weight of the olive press. Jesus invites us to stay near and keep watch with him. Jesus loves to answer us when we call for help. His very name means, “the one who comes to save”. God listens to our cry for help and answers us in our distress.
Several years ago, my wife and I walked in the Old Jerusalem along the Via Dolorosa, the way Jesus walked, carrying his cross through the city to the place of the Skull where he was crucified. During Holy Week, we who walk by faith pick up our own cross and follow Jesus along the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Suffering.
Jesus willingly walked the way of the Cross for us, and wants to redeem all our distress, all our pain, all our sorrows along this strange Way, by the power of the resurrection. The living God listens to our cry and answers us when we are in distress. Jesus loves to come alongside us to shoulder the weight of distress, and carry us from deep in the place of death out into the bright morning of new Easter life.
Crosses along the Via Dolorosa in Old Jerusalem next to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre