Way of the Cross
ReflectionsMorning by morning he wakens — wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
In the Message for World Youth Day in Krakow, the Holy Father wrote: “In particular, this Holy Year of Mercy is “a time for the Church to rediscover the meaning of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord on the day of Easter: to be a sign and an instrument of the Father’s mercy””. While anticipating the Holy Paschal Triduum – let us look at the merciful face of the Father, at our Lord, Jesus Christ, and let us try to newly discover what it means to be His disciple.
STATION I – JESUS IS CONDEMNED TO DEATH
Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.” (John 19:10-12)
Do you remember how Jesus defended the woman who they wanted to stone? None of the executioners was without sin, none of them threw a stone. He defended her, he saved her life. And you – how much do you value your life? How often, in general – do you feel like you are living? You know, after all, that God wants to give an abundance to you, He wants to help you be creative, full of passion! He not only stands in your defense, He will never condemn you and will not sentence you to death; He will save, shield, animate you!
Follow Jesus: save lives – your own and others.
STATION II – JESUS TAKES UP HIS CROSS
They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!” Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but the emperor.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. (John 19:15-17)
Is it possible for the cross to not have been there? Could salvation have not taken place in some other way, at least in a less cruel way? However, since God chose this – it then was surely necessary. Do you remember how he said that a student is not above his master? That it’s enough that the servant be like his lord? You too ought to take up your cross – carry your sins, weaknesses, insufficiencies. But this is not for nothing, you know well that this is the path of spiritual development that leads to the resurrection.
Follow Jesus: kiss your cross and entrust yourself to the Father.
STATION III – JESUS FALLS THE FIRST TIME
Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them. (Mark 2:9-12a)
Do you find that sometimes something paralyzes you? Fear, concerns, maybe shame? It’s not easy to believe that God can change this in one moment, that He can take them away, command them to disappear. In these moments – think about miracles, those from the Gospels, and those – so many! – that have happened up till now. And when you realize this, then ask God for help and get up. He doesn’t want you to be lying down, He cares for you.
Follow Him: do not give up despite adversity.
STATION IV – JESUS MEETS HIS SORROWFUL MOTHER
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. (John 19:26-27)
Are there people in your life that you know would do just about everything for you? Care for them, because maybe one day – they will save your life, they may be a last resort. The relationship of Mary and Jesus must have been unique, unrepeatable. And though She always tried to be close to Him – at that time she was unable to help. However – though seeing her suffering child must have terribly grieved her – she followed after her Son until the end. They probably were trying to look for each other, they tried to somehow comfort each other…Jesus thought about Her until the end. From that moment on, Mary has taken care of all of her Son’s disciples.
Follow Jesus: love His Mother as your own.
STATION V – SIMON OF CYRENE HELPS JESUS CARRY THE CROSS
‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:37b-40)
Simon did not want to help Him at all, the authors of the Gospels wrote that the soldiers compelled him to carry the cross. And would you help? How do you react to these occasions? The Scripture’s encouragement to carry one another’s burdens does not only say that sometimes there is need to take your brother’s load upon yourself; you also must sometimes allow your brother to carry your burden. The second of these is probably even more difficult… Remember that you don’t always have to “do everything on your own”. Sometimes you are the smallest one.
Follow Jesus: when you see that things are too difficult for you – accept help with gratitude.
STATION VI – VERONICA WIPES THE FACE OF JESUS
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. (Matthew 17:1-3)
God has a good opinion of you: though He knows everything about you – He loves without any ‘but’s. For Him you are the only, unrepeatable, beautiful. Because of this, don’t think badly about yourself. Jesus said that we ought to be merciful like the Father is merciful, so – try to be merciful also towards your own self. You don’t have to be excellent, allow yourself to be you. If you allow God to lead you – you will be amazed how much His grace will change you.
Follow Jesus: let your face be wiped from the dust and dirt – let it be brightened!
STATION VII – JESUS FALLS A SECOND TIME
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. (Matthew 9:9-10)
Every person wishes for happiness, love, compassion, even the biggest scoundrel. Do you remember how Jesus said that he who receives more – loves more? Sometimes it’s easier to make this sort of “leap of hope” for those who don’t have anything to lose, than for those for whom nothing matters too much… Don’t tell yourself that nothing can be done, that there is no turning around – that it’s not worth it! Don’t become stuck in a wide open cage. God will not give up on anyone, he has set us free to freedom!
Follow Him: help those who convinced themselves that there is no way out to rise and follow Him.
STATION VIII – JESUS MEETS THE WOMEN OF JERUSALEM
A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:27-31)
It seems likely that not only these women were crying. Mary was close by, there were other women, friends. Maybe there was also the woman who – at the outrage of the Pharisees – once washed His feet with her tears, wiped them with her own hair, and then kissed and – anointed them. Was it His goodness, pure and without fault that moved them? He himself sometimes was moved: by human poverty, humility, faith. Feelings let us express ourselves, they teach something to us, and so – let’s not fake any joy, any sorrow, any smile, any tears.
Follow Jesus: do not be afraid to be sincerely moved, comfort the sorrowing.
STATION IX – JESUS FALLS THE THIRD TIME
He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:17-19)
Do you remember that when He already rose, that He came to them despite the closed doors? This is the privilege of the disciple: He will look for you, and will come even though He knows that you’re afraid, that you almost lost faith, and maybe even betrayed Him… Closed doors are no obstacle, it’s worse if you have a closed heart. Don’t do that. If you leave Him, hide, really fall – His love will find you. After all, Love endures all things.
Follow Jesus: may his love command you to always go forward and up.
STATION X – JESUS IS STRIPPED OF HIS GARMENTS
So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. (Luke 15:20-22)
The biggest thief is not the one who robs you of your property, but – who steals your time, your dreams, your happiness. It’s Satan, it’s him who’s anxious to take your hope away from you, that you would even not believe, that as a child of God – you are entitled to heritage, freedom, eternal happiness! God is not reproachful for anything, he doesn’t point out our sins. He is only worried when we don’t come back for too long.
Follow Jesus: come what may – remember your dignity as a Son of God.
STATION XI – JESUS IS NAILED TO THE CROSS
And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” (Luke 23:35-38)
Many times He was threatened with death, and they looked for a way to catch Him. Whenever this happened, however – in some strange way Jesus avoided the threat. Do you remember how they led him from Nazareth to the edge of the cliff to throw Him down? He walked among them and went away. What exactly happened? Maybe they weren’t in the state to either bear nor comprehend how He, in spite of everything, looks at them? At the sight of his eyes full of love – raised hands can fall, fists may loosen. Ultimately, however, death reached Him. But no one took His life away from Him, he gave it up himself. And maybe those who nailed Him on the cross – avoided His gaze?
Follow Jesus: disarm people with love.
STATION XII – JESUS DIES ON THE CROSS
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:44-46)
When facing death a person is like a child – helpless, defenseless. We are probably not really able to understand what happened in Golgotha. Do you remember the parable about the pearl? Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant, searching for beautiful pearls: “on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it”. You are a pearl. Each person for whom the Son of God died – is a priceless pearl; so valuable that God decided to give everything away for her. Everything, do you understand? Because of this – do not despise yourself, you were bought at a great price.
Follow Jesus: do not keep your life just for yourself, but give it away.
STATION XIII – JESUS IS TAKEN DOWN FROM THE CROSS
After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. (John 19:38-40)
A friend is a person who is near you even in the worst moments; especially in those moments. It’s someone who cares for you even when you don’t have strength, when you can’t keep going. Jesus befriended people, He cared for relationships. Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus – were dedicated to Him also after His death: they took care of His body with respect and with love. You too can experience joy from being a friend; ask God for this beautiful gift!
Follow Jesus: give your life to your friends and trust yourself in their good hands.
STATION XIV – JESUS IS LAID IN THE TOMB
Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:41-42)
Jesus died, but He was gone only for a short time… While His friends put His body away in a garden – He once again – newly created the earth. They did not yet imagine what was happening, there was silence… But the hours of death were already all counted in the morning of the Resurrection – He was already close! The best recipe for immortality, for life without end, is: holding on to the Source of Life, being friends with Him, not leaving Him!
Follow Jesus: trust in the Father without limits, in God who lives forever.
On the way of the preparations for World Youth Day, but also right now before Easter – we are learning love and mercy from Jesus Himself. Even carrying the cross and dying He showed mercy: He comforted the afflicted and prisoners, endured sufferings patiently, forgave injuries, saying: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
Students follow in the footsteps of the teacher. They scrutinize. They ask questions. And so look towards Him. Follow after Him. Follow Jesus.