Saturday, February 16, 2013

Meditation on the Second Station of the Cross: Jesus Carries His Cross

I recently did a post on the First Station of the Cross: Jesus is Condemned. Jesus' Passion continues as shown in the Second Station of the Cross. He now takes up His Cross to carry it to the place of execution. In actual fact, Christ most probably took up the cross beam and not the actual Cross. According to Wikipedia, the entire Cross could weigh up to 300 pounds. The cross beam alone could weigh about 75-125 pounds.

At this point, Our Lord had been ruthlessly and mercilessly whipped and beaten. His entire body was covered with open sores, wounds and painful bruises, and He had lost a great quantity of blood. The soldiers had pushed a crown of thorns on His Precious Head which had penetrated to his brain. He had not eaten or had any water since the previous night, and combining this with the severe trauma to the body and extreme loss of blood caused by the vicious beatings resulted in severe dehydration, which normally causes disorientation and confusion. The fact that Our Lord was still able to function despite all of this is in itself a miracle.

There is an interesting post from in regard to a supposed meeting between Father Karol Wojtyla and Padre Pio that took place around 1947 or 1948. Father Wojtyla asked Padre Pio which was the most painful wound Christ received in His Passion. Padre Pio said it was the shoulder wound, which Christ had also revealed centuries earlier in a vision to St. Bernard of Clairvaux: "I had on My Shoulder while I bore My Cross on the Way of Sorrows, a grievous Wound which was more painful than the others, and which is not recorded by men."  Padre Pio told Brother Modestino Fucci, a friar at San Giovanni Rotondo, that the pain was "a terrible, excruciating pain in his shoulder, as if he had been sliced with a knife up to the shoulder bone. He felt that he would die from the pain if it continued, but it lasted only a short time.

Imagine putting a wooden beam weighing 75 to 125 pounds on this painful shoulder wound. Unlike Padre Pio, we know that Our Lord endured this pain for several more hours. In fact, the pain became even more intense right up to His last breath.

Despite the relentless pain and suffering endured by Jesus, we are told by St. Francis the following in his meditation on the Second Station of the Cross:
When our divine Savior beheld the cross, He most willingly stretched out His bleeding arms, lovingly embraced it, and tenderly kissed it, and placing it on His bruised shoulders, He, although almost exhausted, joyfully carried it.

Our Lord did this as an example for all of mankind. As Venerable Fulton Sheen once said, unless there is a cross in our lives, there will never be an empty tomb, meaning we cannot attain eternal life with Christ in the Resurrection unless we are willing to take the Cross which He gives to us. In contrast, Satan's way, which is the way of death, does not involve a cross, or at least not a cross that is visible. Satan's way is the wide and easy road which is all about pleasure and self indulgence and seemingly no suffering, unlike the Way of the Cross, which is strait and narrow and full of self denial.

This is what Thomas a Kempis wrote in The Imitation of Christ:
`Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me.'(Matt. 16:24) To many this saying of Jesus seems hard. But how much harder will it be to hear that word of doom, `Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire'. (Matt.25:41) For those who now cheerfully hear and obey the word of the Cross (I Cor. 1:18) will not tremble to hear the sentence of eternal damnation. The sign of the Cross will appear in the heavens, when Our Lord comes as judge. Then will all the servants of the Cross, who in their lives conformed themselves to the Crucified, (Rom 8:29) stand with confidence before Christ, their judge.
Why, then, do you fear to take up the Cross, which is the road to the Kingdom? In the Cross is salvation; in the Cross is life; in the Cross is protection against our enemies; in the Cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness; in the Cross is strength of mind; in the Cross is joy of spirit; in the Cross is excellence of virtue; in the Cross is perfection of holiness. There is no salvation of soul, nor hope of eternal life, save in the Cross. Take up the Cross, therefore, and follow Jesus, (Matt. 16:24) and go forward into eternal life. (Matt.25:46)
If you bear the cross willingly, it will bear you and lead you to your desired goal, where pain shall be no more; but it will not be in this life. If you bear the cross unwillingly, you make it a burden, and load yourself more heavily; but you must needs bear it. If you cast away one cross, you will certainly find another, and perhaps a heavier.
Do you think to escape what no mortal man has been able to escape? Which of the Saints lived without cross or trial? Even our Lord Jesus Christ was never without sorrow and pain, as long as He lived. `Christ must needs suffer,' said He, `and rise again from the dead, and so enter into His glory.'(Luke 24:26) Why, then, do you seek any other road than this royal road of the Holy Cross? The whole life of Christ was a cross and martyrdom; and do you look for rest and selfish pleasure?
You are greatly mistaken if you look for anything save to endure trials, for all this mortal life is full of troubles, (Job 14:1) and everywhere marked with crosses. The further a man advances in the spiritual life, the heavier and more numerous he finds the crosses, for his ever-deepening love of God makes more bitter the sorrows of his earthly exile.
Anyone who tells us you that life of a Christian is meant to be easy is lying to you. Look at what our Lord suffered in order to defeat Satan and sin. As Christians, we are His followers, and that means we must walk in His footsteps. The Gospel of Health and Wealth is a heresy.

When Christ was handed His Cross, he did not complain and say He wanted a different one. He took the one that was handed to Him, and that is what we must do. Our cross has been individually tailored for us by our Creator. He knows exactly what we need in a cross, and it is this cross that will lead us to salvation and eternal life. There is no other way.

As St. Francis told us, Jesus "lovingly embraced it and tenderly kissed it" because he knew the Cross would lead to life and salvation for the entire world. The Cross, which was an instrument of cruel torture and death, has become to the followers of Christ the ultimate symbol of love. It is the road to total happiness and peace. But if Jesus had refused to carry His Cross, none of us could be saved. The Cross only had the power to save because our Lord willingly and even joyfully carried it to Calvary.

If we willingly and joyfully pick up our Cross, it will lead us on the path of salvation. If we refuse it, we will put ourselves on the path to eternal death. The choice is ours, and it is one we must make every day and every moment of our lives.

O my Jesus, I cannot be Thy friend and follower, 
if I refuse to carry the cross. 
O dearly beloved cross! 
I embrace thee, I kiss thee, 
I joyfully accept thee from the hands of my God. 
Far be it from me to glory in anything, 
save in the cross of my Lord and Redeemer. 
By it the world shall be crucified to me and I to the world, 
that I may be Thine forever.

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