Saturday, March 30, 2013

Meditation on the Fourteenth Station of the Cross: Jesus' Body Is Placed In the Tomb

We are now at the last station of the Cross: Jesus' body is placed in the sepulchre. The crowds are gone. All of those who tormented and mocked Our Lord in his last terrible hours have disappeared. The only ones to be seen are a small group of Christ's disciples along with His Blessed Mother. The High Sabbath is fast approaching, and they must quickly anoint Jesus' body and place it in the tomb given to them by Joseph of Arimathea, who was a secret follower of Jesus.

Our Blessed Mother, through her tears and sorrow, personally cleaned and wrapped her Son's Precious Body, carefully winding the cloth around Him. How this must have reminded her of washing Jesus and wrapping Him in swaddling clothes to lay Him in the manger where He was born. And now it had all come full circle. 

Although only a small group of people were visible, we can be sure there were many angels surrounding this small group of mourners who still could not totally comprehend the fact that Jesus, so alive only a day ago, was now dead, killed in a most horrible and brutal manner. He had warned them and tried to prepare them for the great scandal of the Cross, but only Mary had listened. Only she understood what had really happened here.

The Church has gone through many dark days in her 2000 year history. There have been many times when it has seemed she was facing insurmountable odds and a deadly, overpowering enemy. But for those who truly believed, there has always been hope and faith. A great saint or saints were raised up, such as St. Joan of Arc or St. Charles Borromeo. They were always there to remind us that as threatening as the times may seem, Our Lord promised He would never leave us.

But for those at the Garden Tomb burying our Lord's Body, they only knew that our Lord was gone. He had told them He would never leave them, but now He was dead, and all of their dreams and hopes went with Him. The death of our Lord was truly the darkest day in the history of the Church right up to our time. His followers had seen Him die. They saw the nails go into His Hands and Feet, they saw the sword pierce His Side, they heard Him breathe his last. They took down His dead Body from the Cross and they knew, without any doubt, that He was gone. They put His Body into the tomb, and then they went and hid themselves from the Romans. They were beyond consolation.

How often have we doubted Our Lord? We see storms and darkness around us, we feel we're falling off the edge of the world, and we think it's all over. There is no hope. One lesson we should all take from the Passion of Jesus Christ is that what the world deems as failure is often just the opposite. When it seems we have been totally defeated is often just the time when Our Lord will deliver us in unexpected and magnificent ways. Mere physical death means nothing. As our Lord told us, "fear not them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him that is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."  Our Lord faced death and came out the victor. And all who follow Him shall defeat death as well.

St. Paul told us in Romans 8:35-37:
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
Those who laid Jesus' Body in the tomb on that first Good Friday had not yet seen the resurrected and victorious Jesus Christ. Even though our Lord had warned them, they could not be faulted for believing the dream had come to an end. But we have seen our resurrected Lord. We have no excuse to ever give in to despair and bitterness, no matter what our external circumstances may be. "Overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us."

From St. Francis' Way of the Cross:
The body of Jesus is interred in a stranger's sepulchre. He who in this world had not whereupon to rest His head, would not even have a grave of His own, because He was not from this world. You, who are so attached to the world, henceforth despise it, that you may not perish with it.
Attachment to this world will lead us to doubt and despair.  Just as Christ died without even a grave of his own, so we should be emotionally, mentally and materially detached from this world.  Our affection  should be entirely focused heavenward on our Lord.  That is where our Blessed Mother was focused, and that is why, despite her great sorrow and pain, she never gave in to anger, despair and bitterness.  As St. Francis warns us, if we are attached to this world, we will perish with it.

From St. Francis' Way of the Cross:
O Jesus, Thou hast set me apart from the world; what, then, shall I seek therein? Thou hast created me for Heaven; what, then, have I to do with the world? Depart from me, deceitful world, with thy vanities! Henceforth i will follow the Way of the Cross traced out for me by my Redeemer, and journey onward to my heavenly home, there to dwell forever and ever.
Concluding Prayer
Almighty and eternal God, merciful Father, who hast given to the human race Thy beloved Son as an example of humility, obedience, and patience, to precede us on the way of life, bearing the cross: Graciously grant us that we, inflamed by His infinite love, may take up the sweet yoke of His Gospel together with the mortification of the cross, following Him as His true disciples, so that we shall one day gloriously rise with Him and joyfully hear the final sentence: "Come, ye blessed of My Father, and possess the kingdom which was prepared for you from the beginning," where Thou reignest with the Son and the Holy Ghost, and where we hope to reign with Thee, world without end. Amen.

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