Written reflections by Sister Mary Colleen Schwarz, OSB
Jesus’s journey on Good Friday is a symbol of Christianity in the world as it struggles with its crosses, failures, and challenges of modern life. The streets of our world are also filled with bruised, battered, and broken people carrying their personal crosses. Through the Stations of the Cross, Jesus invites us to journey with him and to reflect on the suffering path for ourselves and for others. In solidarity with all who suffer, let us pray that we will be open to whatever Jesus wants us to see, hear and understand.
Station One: Jesus is condemned to death
Jesus was unjustly condemned by men who did not understand him. They were frightened of what he did and spoke, perhaps sensing that Jesus could have influence and turn their world upside down.
We continue to unjustly condemn people today. We condemn others because of skin color, gender, disabilities, beliefs, or because they don’t conform to our way of thinking. The list is endless! Then there are the people who we justly condemn. Though they have served their sentence and asked for forgiveness, we condemn them to second class citizenship for the rest of their lives.
Does our society really forgive and believe that people can change? Or do we continue to condemn?
Station Two: Jesus accepts the cross
We all carry burdens. Some are obvious and others we take great care to hide. Illness, pain, disability, aging, dependence, and caring for someone who no longer recognizes us are burdens we usually carry publicly. But when we carry constant fear, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and isolation, we tend to keep these hidden. Jesus’s acceptance of the cross is an invitation to let your burdens be known in the hope of healing.
Name a burden that you desire the Divine to heal.
Station Three: Jesus falls the first time
A contemporary Jesus carrying a cross might fall into the gutter or slouch in a doorway on skid row. Sure, Jesus wouldn’t look much like God there, but Jesus did not look like God when he fell into the dirt on the way to Calvary either! The crowds then looked on with disdain at this man whom they saw as a sinner and who had been condemned to death by the authorities. Like that crowd, we often have only condemnation and rejection for those we see as sinners. We judge them without knowing about their trials, scourging, and thorns crowning their head.
Do we ever suspect the part we might have played in knocking them down? What do we do to help them?
Station Four: Jesus meets his mother
Jesus’ path took him to a powerful source of strength for continuing to Calvary: Mary, his Mother. All his life she had taught him the meaning of the words, ‘Behold, the handmaid of the Lord.’ As they looked into each other’s eyes, how pierced through her heart must have been! How painful it was for Jesus to see her tears! But love and trust in God bound them together even in that terrible moment. Her grace-filled smile blessed Jesus’ mission and stirred his heart to its depth.
We see Mary’s pain today in the parents who watch their child give up their life to drugs, addiction, and suicide. We find it in the people who suffer violence from a partner or child as an ongoing reality and threat in their home. We see Mary’s pain in the child coping with the breakdown of a parent’s marriage and in the couple trying desperately to rebuild their relationship and family anew.
How do you replenish your interior strength?
Station Five: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his cross
Jesus was made to experience the poverty of not being able to carry this burden alone. When Roman soldiers forced Simon carry the cross, Jesus must have regretted involving this bystander, but he accepted Simon’s assistance with humility and gratitude.
Across our world today we see human suffering in the faces of strangers. People we know of, but do not know, living through struggles in the Middle East and war in the Ukraine leading to loss of life and destruction of homes. People living with the aftermath of the destructive forces of nature, floods, drought, and other devastating consequences of climate change.
In the face of powerlessness do we accept the hand of the other in humility and gratitude?
Station Six: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
Today the visible face of Christ, the Church, remains wounded and disfigured. The Church is horribly disfigured by its sins of abuse of children and power. The face of the Church is creased with wounds of hurt and betrayal. Yet the face of Christ calls us to hope that the voices of lay people will be heard in every parish around the world through the Synod, and that the injustice in the Church will be healed.
Like Veronica are you willing to take that first initiative-taking a step toward your voice being heard in the Church?
Station Seven: Jesus falls for the second time
All around us, people are overburdened by the crosses they carry. They struggle and sometimes fall when they have lost their jobs and feel that they have little hope of finding another. Others struggle with chronic disease and the real prospect of unemployment while small business owners fall from struggling to keep employees There are those who suffer because of systemic failures in our economic, healthcare, social safety net, and political systems. Jesus is with each one of us however we fall, and, in that space, Jesus chooses to love and comfort us.
Do we let Jesus comfort and love us when we fall? It is a choice.
Station Eight: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
The women of Jerusalem came to Jesus to comfort him. Today we weep for the children who are abused. Weep for the women who are victimized. Weep for people who suffer from the tyranny of today’s body image that controls their lives and prevents them from feeling lovable. Weep for the young who cannot find a job or a way in life. Weep for the old who are forgotten. Weep for people who starve in the shadow of abundance. Weep for people who are homeless, in exile or seeking refuge. Weep for them.
Recall a person whom you comforted when they were weeping.
Station Nine: Jesus falls for the third time
Many in our world feel that moment of final falling when their burden is too much to carry. Unable to bear any more, they are crushed by the weight of their cross and unable to get up and go on. Some may look for relief in addiction. Some may look to escape through suicide. In Jesus we find our hope and encouragement. The third fall of Jesus reminds us that even in our moment of complete helplessness or depression, we can stand up again. Jesus is with us on this journey to our own Calvary, and Jesus is our strength.
Name your own Calvary. Ponder. Accept Jesus’ strength and love.
Station Ten: Jesus’ clothes are taken away
Jesus submitted to the absolute indignity inflicted upon him by society. We see examples of Jesus continuing to be stripped of dignity today in popular media. Sensational news stories expose intimate details of people’s lives and take away their good names. Society takes on the role of judge and jury as we curiously devour the details. Jesus is stripped again when men, women and children are portrayed as objects in a pornographic manner in magazines, DVDs, television shows, movies and on the internet.
Is vulnerability part of your journey in embracing the other in truth and love?
Station Eleven: Jesus is nailed to the cross
Jesus continues to be crucified when children die every minute of hunger in our world. Jesus is crucified in all who are maimed, damaged, and displaced because of war. Jesus is crucified in all who are marginalized in our society because of their race, sexuality, or gender. Jesus is crucified in those who are abused physically, sexually, or emotionally. Jesus is crucified in those who are trafficked across the world. Jesus is crucified in the exploitation of the earth and its resources.
What personal crucified moments have transformed your life?
Station Twelve: Jesus dies on the cross
There is much to seek forgiveness for in our world today. The list seems endless: hunger, poverty, violence, abuse, war, neglect, corruption…
Each one of us praying these stations could continue the list on our own behalf and indeed, on behalf of those who have hurt us. As Jesus died on Calvary, he said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus continues to invite us today to love our enemies and to let go of hurt. He invites us to ask for forgiveness and, when we cannot find it in our hearts to forgive, to ask God to do it for us.
You are the Beloved of God.
Station Thirteen: The body of Jesus is taken down from the cross
Mary’s grief is our grief too. Mary cradled the lifeless body of her son as she grieved and offered him back to the Father. Today she stands with all parents who have held their children close in death after losing them to accidents, acts of violence, suicide, sudden death or long illness. Mary grieves with all who sorrow for loved ones: parents, siblings, family members, friends.
Station Fourteen: Jesus is laid in the tomb
There are times when we are overcome by the darkness of the tomb and the countless deaths that we experience each day. Yet, the answer to all our grieving and despair may be found in this place. Creator God breathes the spirit of freedom in our souls. The grain of wheat sown in darkness and in death has indeed yielded a rich harvest.
Remain awhile in this space of darkness. Breath the Spirit of Freedom.
All our crosses, all our pain, all our sin, are healed, forgiven, and transformed. Christ is risen! Although Jesus’ risen body bears the marks of his suffering, his pain is gone. Mourning turns into dancing, grief turns into joy, despair turns to hope, and fear turns to love.
Hesitantly at first, someone says, “He is risen, he is risen…”
Then, “Tell Peter, James and John that I go before them into Galilee.”
The eternal dance of new life goes on and on and on……