By Father Woods
Sadly, we have many adults – which means even more children – who have never prayed the Stations of the Cross. Those elusive pictures or statues that adorn the walls of every parish church remain mute and disjointed images that will never tell the story of Jesus’ Passion and Death for those who will not take the time to meditate on the mystery.
When you stop and think about it, how often do you really hear the story of Jesus’ Passion and Death? It’s only proclaimed in the Liturgy (at Mass) twice a year: on Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion and again on Good Friday. The central act and belief of all Christians is too often a story we just take for granted. For many people it gets boiled down to the simplest terms: Jesus suffered and died. A few years ago the movie ‘The Passion of the Christ” sparked a renewed interest in Jesus’ sacrifice. Can a movie replace the Church’s tradition of making the Stations during Lent and throughout the year? Should it? No. What we see on the screen might inspire us or move us emotionally. What a movie cannot do is make us participants in the mystery. Each time we pray the Stations of the Cross we speak the words – good and bad – that were uttered so long ago in condemnation, lament, anger, frustration, and salvation at Calvary.
The Stations of the Cross tell a story. They begin with Pilate’s cowardly condemnation and remind us of the many times we have been cowardly in professing or living out our baptismal responsibility. Jesus is forced to carry His Cross which gives comfort to us as we struggle to carry the many crosses we face in our lives. Jesus falls 3 times inspiring us sinners who feel so weak at times and experience the helplessness of a fall into sin. (Some authors have added symbolism to the three falls: the first represents original sin, the second venial sin, and the third mortal sin.) Jesus meets various people along the way who extend kindness to Him: His Mother, Veronica, Simon of Cyrene, the women of Jerusalem, and Joseph of Arimathea who would bury Him. How many times when we are suffering do we experience the kindness of family members, doctors, police officers, firefighters, or strangers just when we find the road the toughest to travel? Jesus is stripped, nailed, flogged, spit upon, and humiliated just as countless individuals find themselves when they are stripped of dignity by old age or circumstances. Individuals who are nailed to bad marriages, negligent children, absent parents, tough occupations, or hospital beds. Individuals who experience the humility of mistakes, sin, loss of skill, lack of appreciation, or just the meanness of others.
Jesus dies on that Cross. He faces our greatest “unknown”, and for some their greatest fear. Yet, He remains fearless and completely trusting in His Heavenly Father. ” My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” is simply the first line of Psalm 22 which explains that in the moment God seems most distant, He is in fact most powerful, glorious and close.
The story that unfolds in the Stations of the Cross is not just the story of the Lord Jesus. It is our story. So many of our families come together for Stations on the Fridays of Lent. Perhaps this Lent is just the time for a new tradition in your family: making the Stations of the Cross together on Friday nights with our Parish family. It’s just one more way we walk the road to Holy Week together.