Friday, March 29, 2013

Meditation on the Twelfth Station of the Cross: Jesus is Crucified and Dies

We are at the twelfth station of the Cross. After hanging on the cross for three hours, Jesus' agony and torture finally comes to an end. He dies.

All who witnessed the death of Jesus, with the exception of His Blessed Mother, were now of the opinion that it was all over. The man who had changed water into wine, who had healed the lame, blind and deaf, who had brought others back from the dead, was now Himself dead. He had been beaten, whipped, tortured and humiliated. No one had come to his rescue, no one had tried to save him, and it seemed he couldn't even save himself. As far as the world was concerned, Jesus was a total failure. This man hanging on the cross, barely recognizable as a human being, was now just another failed messiah. The world was exactly as He had found it, nothing had changed, and now He was dead.


All of this shows that the world always gets it exactly wrong. As Isaiah 55:8 says: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD." Throughout his ministry, our Lord said blessed are the poor, the meek, the humble, those who mourn. Jesus said the first will be last and the last will be first. When Christ started his ministry and chose his apostles, He did not go to the great halls of academia, he did not go to the great religious leaders or politicians. He did not go to the wealthy and those with influence. He chose for his apostles those who were outcasts or insignificant in the eyes of society. He chose those on whom society placed no value. He was followed by lepers and prostitutes and many whom "decent society" found "unclean."

He never hesitated to castigate those who placed great value upon themselves, such as the pharisees - the religious leaders of society - whom he called hypocrites, blind guides, blind fools, whitewashed tombs, snakes and broods of vipers (Matthew 23). He went into the temple and forced out those who were using it as a place of business.

Jesus made wildly incongruous statements such as "Take up your cross and follow me, "He who saves his life shall lose it and he who loses his life for my sake shall find it," "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple." Jesus told us that to become great we must become servants, and that we won't even be able to enter into His Kingdom unless we must become as little children. He told us that we have to constantly be forgiving one another, no matter what the offense and no matter how many times it happens. He told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

Now this man, who seemed a mass of contradictions, was hanging dead on a cross, and whatever hope he had offered to people was dead with him. The dream was gone and the world seemed darker than ever. Our adversary, the devil, thought he had won.

But we now know that Christ's ignominious and tortuous death on the cross was the greatest victory in all of the history of creation. By allowing men to crucify Him, Jesus had pulled mankind out of the depths of hell and delivered us from death. What the world viewed as an unmitigated failure was the greatest success story ever. What the world viewed as darkness was a great light. For the first time since our first parents rebelled against God in the garden, we were now truly free.

In all the world, there was only one person at the time of Jesus' death who was aware of what had truly happened on the Cross, of the great victory that had been achieved. That person was the Blessed Mother of our Lord. After the death of Christ, Mary comprised the entire Church of God. Only she believed, only she had faith. Her sorrow and pain were overwhelming, but never once did she waiver in her faith in Her Divine Son. She did not let the outward signs destroy her belief. She did not listen to the world. She saw the death of her Son with the eyes of faith.

There are many lessons to be learned from the death of Jesus Christ. One very great lesson is that we must not view things with our physical eyes but as our Blessed Mother did, with the eyes of faith. We must tune out what the world says. We must realize that the world will always get it wrong.

When the world rejoices, the followers of Jesus will mourn. When the world celebrates, Christians will grieve. When the world applauds, we will cry.

St. Paul wrote of this in II Corinthian 5:1-7:
For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Today, Good Friday, Christians mourn the death of their Savior, and what may seem to be a contradiction, we rejoice at the sight of the Cross at the same time.  We know that there was no other way, and that God was expressing His Love for His creation in the strongest terms possible.  Jesus on the Cross is the ultimate definition of love.

From St. Francis' Way of the Cross:
Behold Jesus crucified! Behold His wounds, received for love of you! His whole appearance betokens love: His head is bent to kiss you; His arms are extended to embrace you; His Heart is open to receive you. O superabundance of love, Jesus, the Son of God, dies upon the cross, that man may live and be delivered from everlasting death!

A few hours before Jesus was arrested by the Sanhedrin, He said to his Apostles:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
The Cross gives us hope and courage.  The Cross gives us peace.  The Cross gives us victory.

From St. Francis' Way of the Cross:
O most amiable Jesus! Who will grant me that I may die for Thee! I will at least endeavor to die to the world. How must I regard the world and its vanities, when I behold Thee hanging on the cross, covered with wounds? O Jesus, receive me into Thy wounded Heart: I belong entirely to Thee; for Thee alone do I desire to live and to die.

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