May the grace and peace of God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you!
The stations of the cross are a popular devotion for many Christians and have been for centuries. This past Lent, those fourteen stations took on a particular meaning for many, giving us an opportunity to associate our suffering, or the suffering of those near to us, with the suffering of Jesus.
Three times Jesus falls under the weight of his cross and three times he gets up and continues on his way. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross. Veronica wipes his face with a cloth. These stations still have the power to inspire in us the courage we need to walk on and the charity we need to help others carry their burdens. They can inspire in us simple acts of kindness. In this way, the mysteries of Jesus life become the mysteries of our lives as well. Here are some words from St John’s Gospel, chapter 19:
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
At the thirteenth station, we remember how after his death, Jesus was taken down from his cross and then laid in his mother’s arms. This scene has inspired some of the world’s finest works of art. The theologian and spiritual writer Henri Nouwen sees in this scene the vocation of every Christian.
Look at Mary as she holds the broken body of her son. There we can see our vocation to open our arms to those who suffer and to let them discover that, in communion with Jesus, they can live their anguish without losing their peace. You know, but constantly forget as I do, that our vocation is not to take away human suffering but to reveal that, through Jesus, their suffering has become the way to glory.
These past weeks have brought many of us face to face with suffering, with our own or of someone close to us. There is the physical suffering from the illness itself, there is the anguish of friends and relatives and there is the grief of all those who have lost a loved one to whom they could not even say “goodbye” and “thank you”. Before such suffering we can feel helpless. “What can I possibly do to help?”. As though responding to questions like that, Nouwen went on to write:
We should realize that we are not sent into the world to take away human anguish but to share it and to proclaim in our bodies the victory of love. And in fact we do share it every time we do not run away from the anguish of God’s people but receive it in faith.
Today we can pray that we will not be blind nor deaf to the opportunities which come our way to hold someone’s hand, to offer words of reassurance, to give them a few moments of our time, to receive their anguish in faith and so, in our bodies, to proclaim the victory of love.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.