Sunday, March 30, 2014

Walk the Stations of the Cross with Jesus on Good Friday

The Lamb Catholic Worker, Columbus, Ohio
     Lucky for we Christ the King parishioners, Deacon Pete leads a varying and exquisite meditation of the Stations of the Cross every Friday of Lent.  If you have never done this, or are not Catholic, it is one of the most powerful and life-changing prayers possible.  We at the Lamb Catholic Worker encourage all Christ-followers to find a great publication as a tool to undergoing this most profound "pilgrimage" on Good Friday.  Be sure to include in this Good Friday pilgrimage the first day of the (9 day) novena toward the Feast of Divine Mercy, the Sunday after Easter!
     The traditional 14 Stations of the Cross are as follows (and you can typically find them along the walls of any Catholic Church):
1. Jesus is condemned to death
2. Jesus takes His cross
3. Jesus falls the first time
4. Jesus meets His mother
5. Simon helps Jesus carry the cross
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
7. Jesus falls the second time
8. Jesus speaks with the women 
9. Jesus Falls the third time
10. Jesus is stripped of His clothing
11. Jesus is nailed to the cross
12. Jesus dies on the cross
13. Jesus is taken down from the cross and laid in the arms of His mother
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb
     My favorite so far is a new publication, "The Challenge of the Cross," by Alfred McBride, O.PRAEM., by St. Anthony Messenger Press, Cincinnati, Ohio.  Here are excerpts from some of the stations to give you a sense of this beautiful meditation.  All the words are quotes, and those in quotation marks are from Scripture, quoted from this book as well.
     Jesus is Condemned to Death - They spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head (Matthew 27:3).  When I look at the unfair judgments endured by Jesus... I think of the judgments I have made ... I mistreat innocent people and sometimes, sadly, those closest to me.  I rush to judgment when patience is needed.  Even my own relationship with Jesus is marred by unjust thoughts... I need spiritual purification. I have also been hurt by false judgments made against me.  I have survived, but always need spiritual purification.  Standing beside Jesus when He bore my sinfulness  in silence, I experience a mix of regrets and a power flowing from Him into my soul.... I excuse myself too easily, forgive me, Lord. 
Jesus Takes the Cross - Jesus often spoke of the cross.  In effect He said, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me" (Matthew 16:24).  What He preached, he practiced.  St. Paul writes: "He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8). St. Paul often preached the cross, as he does again to the Corinthians: "When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)... like St. Paul's advice about our crosses: "I appeal to you ... to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God" (Romans 12:1).  Facing my pain, disappointments, losses, betrayals, dreams unattained, I need to live my own version of Christ's Passion.  St. Paul says, "I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:12-13).  I do not suffer alone.  Jesus is with me in those who stand by my side.
Jesus Falls the First Time - "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16)." Jesus is now on His journey to Calvary.  In stumbling and falling, He identifies with our difficulties in reaching our destiny...  I won't forget that Jesus arose after each fall.  He is my secret power to do so.
Jesus Meets His Mother - Mary and Jesus exchange glances of forgiveness to those who created their sorrow, I see too that neither Mary nor Jesus shows the least sign of resentment or bitterness.  Both display mercy as the true road to the future.. Mercy is just what I want and need to give others... Lord, don't let Your love grow cold in me because of hurts I feel.  Jesus, help me give true love to those who harmed me... Through meditating on the gentleness of Your humanity, may I expand my capacity to love.
Simon Helps Carry the Cross - Simon would be the first man to carry the cross of Jesus, who had taught, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; ... for my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:29-30)... I know times when I have been asked to give care to a loved one, a neighbor, a coworker, a stranger.  This role of caregiver can drain me in many ways -- straining my finances, patience, time, and energy.  I find sometimes that I want to say "no" when asked to give care, but soon I say "yes," [like Simon] and get on with doing what is needed.  I try to see the image of Simon .. [who] made it possible for Jesus to accomplish the final act of salvation at Calvary..."Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galations 6:2)... Lord, give me the courage to be a caregiver.  Jesus, show me the wisdom of the cross in being a caregiver... Lord, I pray for the graces I need to serve the poor, the hungry, the naked, the sick, the elderly, the dying.  Open me to accept the challenges of the cross You wish me to carry.  Forgive me for my reluctance to bear your cross. Grant me the joy that comes from loving service to You in the needs of others.
Jesus Falls a Second Time - I am slow to recognize Jesus' humility in becoming human, so see Him in the midst of His self-emptying.  In our natural world, what goes up must come down.  In our supernatural world, what does down [humility] should go up... Jesus fell and got up for me.  I know love made Him do this.  Infinite love will do the unthinkable... That's why He experienced falls -- so that He could win for me my risings to carry on with my life... May I see in Your falls Your willingness to endure more self-emptying, even to the end of this life.  Open my eyes of faith and help me to identify the love that made it possible for you to rise after every fall.
Jesus Speaks with the Daughters of Jerusalem - "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children" (Luke 23:27-28). As always, Jesus thinks of others before His own needs.  He worries about the future of these women and their children. 
Jesus Falls the Third Time - "We boast of our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope" (St. Paul to the Romans 5:3-4).  Paul did endure, as he later wrote, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7).  In heading for His destiny, Jesus encountered a devastating fall that challenged Him to rise and move on... I remember Christ's last thrust to Calvary when the apostle James wrote, "My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance" (James 1:2-3).  I tend to focus on the pain and find it difficult to notice the joy that James mentions.  I pray that I may imitate the attitude of Peter and his companions who faced persecution joyfully for proclaiming Christ.  Having just been flogged, "as they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name [of Jesus]" (Acts 5:41)... St. Gregory of Nyssa: "We must sacrifice ourselves to God, each day and in everything we do, ... imitating His passion by our sufferings, and honoring His blood by shedding our own.  We must be ready to be crucified."
Jesus is Stripped of His Clothing - ... Now He identified with the poorest of the poor who barely have anything to wear.  His self-emptying reached yet another level as human beings tried to rob Him of His last shred of dignity... He is vulnerable, a word taken from the Latin vulnus, meaning "wound"... Why does Jesus allow Himself to be so vulnerable?  Because He intends to heal the hurters. I often strike back with insults, betrayals, and slights.  When I hurt Christ, He forgets the wounds and tries to heal me, the hurter.  To Jesus the real wound is in the one inflicting the pain.  Jesus assumes the difficulties of the hurter and offers healing by the therapy of forgiveness and love... Jesus welcomes me as a sinner into the chambers of His heart and lets me thrash about with my unruly passions.  Then He offers me the love that would cure me of irrational evil... Jesus was not completely silent [" a sheep lead before the shearers silent" (Isaiah 53:5,7)], that He spoke a few words: "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34)... For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corrinthians 1:18)... Lord, teach us the wisdom you witnessed as a wounded healer... for the gift of healing those who hurt me, Lord hear my prayer.  For the wisdom to love my enemies, Lord hear my prayer.  For the courage not to strike back when I am wounded, Lord hear my prayer... Lord, engrave on my heart the promise of happiness so I may live the words of Jesus, "Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven" (Matthew 5:11-12).
Jesus is Nailed to the Cross - To think of the pain caused by the nails in Christ's hands and feet is almost too much to bear... Poor, sick, oppressed, and crushed people find comfort in the Passion of Christ... I hear and sing of the Passion of Jesus in the spirituals of the African slaves.  The pain of Christ symbolized the slaves' own sufferings. Jesus could understand their despised condition in an unfriendly and inhuman world...They were there with Jesus.  The slaves sang, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?  They sang their own reply, "Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble"... The most distant object I can see on a clear day is the sun.  But on a dark night I can see the stars millions of miles farther away.  Darkness has its spiritual value.  I think of that in my own times of trouble, when I tremble, tremble, tremble... I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)... Let us pray to meet the challenge of the cross. Lord, deepen my faith in the power of the cross in my life...for patience in times of personal pain..
Jesus Dies on the Cross - As the ninth hour approached on Good Friday afternoon, the sacrifice of the Passover lambs at the Temple concluded.  The high priest in Hebrew said,"Kalah" ("It is finished."). At that moment, Jesus the Lamb of God, said, "Kalah" ("It is finished") (John 19:30a). Jesus bowed His head and rested it on the cross.  A  great silence enfolded that moment, the silence of the Lamb of God.  In His death Jesus completed the perfect sacrifice needed for the forgiveness of all the sins of those who repent and seek His divine mercy.... When I think of Christ's death, I linger on my own future death.  I will not be able to choose the time and place of my death, but I can choose my way of life... My death will ratify the kind of life I have lived and the choices I have made.  If I have lived with love, that is how I shall die.  If not, that will be a tragedy.  As He was dying, Jesus gave His life calmly and lovingly to God, for that was how He lived.  He didn't leave any money.  He left an incomparable testament: divine mercy, future life, and sustaining hope... "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps .." When he was abused, He did not return abuse; when He suffered, He did not threaten;... He himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:21, 23-24).
Jesus is Taken Down From the Cross (and layed in the arms of His mother) - He placed a grown man in a woman's lap [we cannot picture the sword to Mary's heart as she holds her baby boy for the last time, seeing and touching up close, the immensity of His suffering that took place right before her eyes]. Blessed John XXIII [formerly Pope John XIII] was fond of quoting an old Italian proverb, "Sotto la neve c'e il pane" ("Beneath the snow there is bread").  Rural wisdom remembers that the seed under the winter snow will rise in the springtime.  Blessed John XXIII applied the saying to those overwhelmed by sorrow and unable to see beyond the pain. Using his picture I see the snow.  I do not see the bread of love growing quietly underneath the white blanket... For the gift of consoling those who mourn lost ones, Lord hear our prayer... Console me when I will need to grieve the death of a loved one while I retain belief in eternal life.

Two other great Stations of the Cross meditation publications are:  "The Franciscan Way of the Cross," by Teresa V. Baker, S.F.O., St. Anthony Messenger Press, and "Mary's Way of the Cross" by Richard G. Furey, C.Ss.R., Twenty-Third Publications.