Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Seventh Station of the Cross: Jesus Falls the Second Time

Our Lord continues on the Way of the Cross. After experiencing unspeakable cruelties and humiliations, we have just seen an act of loving compassion in the kindness of Veronica, who ran out with no regard for her physical safety to wipe the blood, sweat and spittle from Jesus' face. But this act of kindness has no effect on the Roman soldiers, who continue to force Jesus beyond his human ability. He is suffering from severe blood loss and dehydration. There is no part of his body that has not been wounded or bruised in some way. Although Veronica has wiped his face, the blood from his head wounds continues to pour into his eyes, and he can barely see.  Notwithstanding the help of Simon of Cyrene who was taking the major load of carrying the Cross, Jesus' physical strength gives out and once more Our Precious Lord falls to the ground.

The Roman soldiers show no mercy and continue to beat him and yell for him to get up. Once again, in their cruelty the Roman soldiers are actually helping our Lord continue on to Calvary where He will save the world.

We know that Jesus was walking this cruel road to Calvary completely on his own human strength, or lack thereof.  Yet He is the same one who cured the lame, blind and deaf and even brought the dead back to life.  How could one who had the power of the universe and more at his fingertips be in such a powerless position and subject to such unspeakable cruelty?

As Jesus said in the Garden of Gethesame when he was arrested, (Matthew 26:53-54):
Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?  How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?”
The soldiers  like Pontius Pilate, may have thought they were in charge.  Here was a man so weak that a tiny child could have overpowered him.  He had no physical strength left and was very close to death.

But the soldiers were wrong.  Jesus was in complete control of everything that was happening to him.  At one point Pontius Pilate said to Jesus, "Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?"  Jesus answered him:
You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.
Likewise, the soldiers had power to inflict cruelty on Jesus only because this power was given to them from above.

Why would the great Creator God allow himself to be so humiliated and apparently powerless in the face of his enemies?  One very strong message that our Lord was sending us is that without the Grace of God, we have less strength and means to resist our Adversary than Jesus had physical strength to carry His Cross at this point.  And we will surely fall if we try to use our own strength to resist sin just as we see our Lord physically fall.

St. Francis said in the Way of the Cross that it was not the weight of the cross or even the cruelty of the soldiers that caused Jesus' fall, but our sins:
The suffering Jesus, under the weight of His cross, again falls to the ground; but the cruel executioners do not permit Him to rest a moment. Pushing and striking Him, they urge Him onward. It is the frequent repetition of our sins which oppress Jesus. Witnessing this, how can I continue to sin?
The physical torture did not cause Jesus any where near the pain he felt as when he took on our sins. The weight of the Cross - far more than his weakened body could handle - was as light as air when compared to the weight of our sins. The actual cause of Jesus' fall, as St. Francis tells us, was our sins. When we see Jesus laying on the ground and physically spent, we must realize that it was our sins which put him there.

When we look at the physically torn and weakened body of Jesus, we are looking at the result of our sins.

St. Francis offers this prayer:
O Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Offer me Thy helping hand, and aid me, that I may not fall again into my former sins. From this very moment, I will earnestly strive to reform: nevermore will I sin! Thou, O sole support of the weak, by Thy grace, without which I can do nothing, strengthen me to carry out faithfully this my resolution.
Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!

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