Friday, March 18, 2005

MH - Reflections for the Sixth Friday in Lent

The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: The Way of the Cross

Over the past few weeks we've discussed our role in the Passion of Jesus, our responsibility for the pain He suffered. Now, with Palm Sunday this weekend, it seems appropriate to consider the role His Passion plays in our lives.

The Way of the Cross is filled with what might appear to be setbacks for Christ. He falls several times; he becomes so weak that Simon is conscripted to carry the Cross for Him. He is mocked, spat upon, beaten by the soldiers. One of the more memorable scenes in Mel Gibson's Passion is one where Simon reassures Jesus to hold on just a little while longer; soon He will arrive at His place of execution, which after all this will almost be a relief. Imagine that - Crucifixion will be a relief.

And yet, as we know, He could have stopped it at any time.

And yet, as we know, He didn't.

The Way of the Cross is illustrated in more detail in the Stations of the Cross, the 14 stages of Christ's journey. In illuminating this mystery, let's consider three of those Stations, representing the three falls of Christ on His journey. From these falls, we should carry the message of persistence. Facing death, Jesus instead chose to get up each time, to continue. This is what He asks of us as well.

Faced with sin, faced with failure, it would be so easy for us to give in to despair, as did Judas. The Devil whispers in our ear, encouraging us to take this path. You've already sinned, already screwed up, he says. Who could love you now? You're beyond help, what difference does it make what you do? Go ahead, one more sin won't hurt. Wouldn't he like us to believe that? And when we're down and out, it's pretty easy to latch on to.

This is the message of Jesus: don't give up. Despite all our hopes, our prayers, our best intentions, we are fallible human beings, given to sin, likely to fall again. Rather than following the example of Judas, let's look to Peter as our hope. After all, what could be worse than denying Christ, not once but three times? And yet Peter did not give up. He believed in the message of Our Lord, endured his trials and anguishes (one legend says he wept so deeply that his tears wore grooves in his face; another that for the rest of his life he would wake up each morning at the same time, the time that he denied Jesus), carried them with him and learned from them. But the important part is that he didn't cease believing, didn't stop trying to carry the message of Jesus.

Therefore, let's take that as our inspiration this week. As we welcome Christ into the city on Palm Sunday, knowing what comes next and realizing the part we play in it, let's be encouraged by His own example that no matter how bleak things seem, we have to get up and keep going. Many of us may be faced with this in the wake of Terri Schiavo, as we wonder what the next week will bring. It would be so easy to give in and give up, to let despair overcome us. Don't do it. Keep praying, keep hoping, keep trying.

Jesus' love and forgiveness are eternal. Whether we be the first workers in the field or the last, His rewards are there for anyone, there for the asking. The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery teaches us to continue to try, to get up when we fall, to trust in His love and His promises. Let us link our falls to His, in the secure knowledge that by doing so, He will link His Resurrection with us.

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