FROM THE BOUNDARY - Via Dolorosa
Lent. I expect many have been praying the Stations of the Cross in their local churches. The devotion arose in Jerusalem in the Middle Ages when pilgrims retraced the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrows, which Jesus trod from the Praetorium, where he was condemned, to Calvary.
We mustn’t think the Stations speak only of Jesus. They speak to all of us of the ups and downs of life, of our world with all its sadness, tears and injustice, as well as its joys and hopes. The Way of the Cross isn’t just a historical journey. It’s a life journey for you and for me.
Jesus is condemned to death: the First Station. (Luke 23:22-25)
The crowd screams ‘Crucify! Crucify!’ Are you there – in the crowd? Are YOU a crowd person? Have you lost your individuality? Is your voice the lost voice of a thousand others? In condemning Jesus, this crowd condemned itself, lost in the dirge of banshees droning ‘Death. Death’, lost to the jubilant hallelujahs of all creation urging ‘Life! Life!’ in all the lives of you and me. How about confronting the crowd and saying ‘NO’? Do we have that kind of courage?
Jesus receives his cross: the Second Station. (Mark 8:34-35)
At various times in our lives we’ll carry our own crosses. They’re unavoidable. Maybe we should think of them as crosses of liberation which reveal the best in us; or crosses of hope and experience which we can share with others; or crosses of truth which teach us something of ourselves and the world; or crosses of resurrection proclaiming that light will ever penetrate the darkness.
Jesus falls the first time: the Third Station. (Isaiah 53:4)
We all fail and fall in one way or another. We don’t live in vacuum flasks. Will falling end our journey? Will we give up or get up? It’ll take courage and belief in ourselves. Jesus is there, by our sides. He got up. What will we do?
Jesus meets his Mother: the Fourth Station. (Luke 2: 34-35)
Give thought to our mothers now who accompany us on our lives’ journey, even from beyond the grave. This week, observe the young mothers with their kids .Wish them well. Bless them, and all those who wish us well. Imagine what they’d suffer if they knew those they love will die in only a few hours. If our mothers were to see what we’ve become, would they weep or rejoice? What can we do to make them rejoice?
Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross: the Fifth Station. (Luke 23:26)
It’s always upsetting when ‘friends’, those you’ve trusted, you’ve supported, you’ve stuck your neck out for, abandon you. Sure, not everyone who calls himself ‘friend’ is one. We know that – but it doesn’t take the upset away when it happens. Yet then another door opens. A stranger comes with an honest heart. New opportunities for love arise. The ‘new’ can happen anywhere and, typically, when we least expect it. The hurt fades and becomes a memory, for we’re not alone any more. Think of their courage and trust in standing with us, in walking by our side.
Veronica wipes Jesus’ face: the Sixth Station. (Isaiah 53:2-3)
Sometimes from nowhere, even from the crowd, someone comes and pulls us up, wipes our faces, and gives us the tenderness we so desperately need at this moment. It’s a gesture rooted in natural love, the spontaneous love which underneath we’re all capable of – because we’re HUMAN. We witter so much about SIN, original sin, this or that sin, as if that somehow defines us. But far stronger and more real than sin is LOVE, original love. You have it. I have it. We mustn’t be afraid to show it – EVER. Showing it, giving it, is our gift to ourselves, our true selves, the selves which Jesus knows. We need no other gift for him.
Jesus falls the second time: the Seventh Station. (Isaiah 53: 8, 10)
We’re not invincible, though sometimes we think we are. No. We fall – and then we fall again. It’s what it is to be human. We’re still children and, as St Therese says, children fall frequently. But it’s not the end of our story. It’s the beginning, the story of getting up again and again, of punching the air, of exclaiming ‘I’m alive! I’m me! I’ll never surrender!’ It’s a story which will last till our lives’ end. Crosses? Yes, but they’re like roses with thorns. Their scent continues long after the thorns have done their work, long after the bleeding stops.
In this journey of ours there’ll be times we experience fear. Some fears we’ve carried since childhood. Others arise when we don’t understand what’s happening to us and so can’t control it. There’ll be those who’ll try to oppress us; and inhuman conditions which threaten to overwhelm us, everyone. ENOUGH. We may feel we can’t fight back. Fear isn’t weakness. It’s human-ness. Even Jesus suffered it at Gethsemane. We begin by naming our fear, exploring it. Thus we begin to control it, and wait for an answer. Eventually it will come. Meanwhile: evil in our midst – BEGONE.
Go safely, then – until the next time.
Walking the Way, from the boundary: Remember this, “God is the sphere whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere” (Eric Butterworth).