Friday, February 22, 2013

Meditation on the Third Station of the Cross: Jesus Falls

I am continuing with meditations on the Stations of The Cross. You can read my prior meditations here and here. We are now up to the Third Station: Jesus falls for the first time.

At this point in his Passion, Our Lord is a mass of bruises, cuts and wounds over His entire Sacred Body. He has a crown of thorns on His Precious Head, from which blood is dripping into his eyes. He no doubt has internal injuries as well. He is suffering from dehydration and shock. He has just been handed the Cross upon which He will bring salvation to the world. He has kissed and embraced this instrument of His death, which will become the greatest symbol of love our world has ever or will ever see. He picks up His Cross and actually manages to carry it a short distance. The weight of it proves too much in his weakened state and He falls.

All of this describes the physical state of Our Lord. But the physical suffering endured by Jesus is only one part of His Passion. There is far more happening in the Passion of Christ than His broken and torn body.

St. Francis tells us that it was not the physical weight of the cross which caused Christ to fall, but our sins which He was carrying:
Our dear Savior, carrying the cross, was so weakened by its heavy weight as to fall exhausted to the ground. Our sins and misdeeds were the heavy burden which oppressed Him: the cross was to Him light and sweet, but our sins were galling and insupportable.
We have been called to a hard and difficult way, and one for which our own strength is not enough. Jesus teaches us that because of our human frailty and our sinfulness, we will sometimes feel overwhelmed and even periodically overcome, and sometimes we will fall. That is when we must turn to the Sacraments of the Church and the grace contained therein to be cleansed and purified of the sin which causes us to fall. As sin is eradicated in our lives, we will find there is no burden too heavy to bear. As St. Francis said, the heavy weight of the cross was not the cause of Christ's fall, but it was the heavy weight of our sins which He bore on our behalf. It is this same heavy weight of sin that causes us to fall.

Proverbs 24:16 says:
For a just man shall fall seven times and shall rise again: but the wicked shall fall down into evil.
Falling is not the problem. It is not getting back up that will destroy us. As long as we turn to the Holy Spirit, our Advocate, Guide and Comforter, He will supply us with the grace and strength we need to overcome the sin and the obstacles in our way. Our role is to never give up, never quit. We must never allow discouragement or despair to set in. We should try to remember our Lord in His Passion, so physically weak yet never stopping, driven by His great love for mankind.

If we truly love God and by extension, mankind for whom He died, we will never be defeated by the sin which causes us to fall. Sin is very deceptive. Our sin can cause us to believe that it is the Cross, the instrument of salvation given to us by the Lord, which is weighing us down and causing us to fall. That is a diabolical lie. The Cross will never cause us to stumble and fall. Galatians 6:14:
As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.

The Cross is not only not the source of our fall, it is what will keep us from stumbling in the first place. When we fall, it means we have let go of the Cross. To move away from the Cross is to move away from Christ. To move away from the Cross is to allow pride, that first and great sin of Satan, the foundation of all other sin, to enter in. The suffering of the Cross keeps us grounded and humble and dependent upon our Savior.

Light and truth have come into the world through the Cross. We cannot stumble when we walk in the light. But for those who wish to remain in darkness, away from the Cross, St. Paul said this:
The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. (I Cor. 1:18)
Like Christ, we may look weak and foolish to the world as we follow the Way of the Cross. Christ said to St. Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." II Cor. 12:9. St. Paul replied, "That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Our Lord was never stronger than during His Passion when He was defeating sin and death. Like our Lord, when the world views us as weak and humiliated is actually when we are the strongest.

When you, like our Lord, feel that you have been drained of all your physical, mental and emotional strength and have no defenses left against the world, when each step is more painful than the next, when you feel that you can barely stand up, that is when you will be the most valuable tool in the Hand of the Lord. As Jesus Christ taught us in His Passion, that is the time that our Lord can do His mightiest works in you. "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."

St. Francis reminds us of what our role is in the way of the Cross in this prayer from the Third Station:
O my Jesus, Thou didst bear my burden and the heavy weight of my sins. 
Should I, then, not bear in union with Thee, my easy burden of suffering 
and accept the sweet yoke of Thy commandments? 
Thy yoke is sweet and Thy burden is light: 
I therefore willingly accept it. 
I will take up my cross and follow Thee.

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