July 25, 2008

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Seventh Station is an opportunity to refresh our solidarity with the poor

(Seventh in a series)

Were you there when he fell the second time?”

The Seventh Station on the Way to Calvary marks the second time that Jesus fell to the ground. He fell even with the help of Simon Cyrene. Is this not a measure of the weight of our sins, the true weight of the Cross?

Catherine de Hueck Doherty’s graphic meditation on this station is reminiscent of scenes from the movie The Passion of the Christ. I quote her at length:

“The earth was harsh against his cheek, like the hearts of men that reject God. The cross fell on his prostrated back with all the weight of all the sins of mankind.

“The dust was bitter, as bitter as mortal sin. They did not call anyone to help this time. They pushed and shouted and commanded that he get up.

“He tried, staggered half up, and fell prone again, the sun and dust filling his wounds with a thousand sharp and stinging pains.

“He tried again. They kicked and swore, and he managed to get up a little more. Then, as one exhausted, he staggered to his feet.

“The cross fell back into the deepest wound it had made in his holy flesh. He walked on. For the last time, the earth, the harsh unyielding earth, knew the footsteps of a unique love that never would touch its face again.

“The sun and pebbles embedded themselves more firmly into his wounds and the harsh earth left its kiss upon God’s flesh” (Stations of the Cross, Madonna House Publications, p. 25).

He got up again. Surely, this second fall to the earth is a message about Jesus’ unswerving commitment to accomplish our redemption.

It is not only a measure of the burden of our sins, but it is unquestionably a measure of his love. We may have to work at it, but we need to take a personal account of Christ’s effort.

I propose the virtues of fortitude and perseverance as a timely reflection. These are timely because we live in a climate where there is little patience for inconvenience, and there is a low level of tolerance for discomfort. It is almost as if the public face of our culture makes it a priority to hide and eliminate discomfort of any kind.

By contrast, we have the witness of suffering people all around us. The lack of available health care because of its high cost, and the reality of uninsured coverage for so many, don’t usually focus on those who are desperately ill.

We don’t have clear images of those who wait untold hours in emergency rooms because so many people are in need of critical care and can’t pay for it. Let’s not overlook the caregivers who work the emergency rooms. They are often out of sight as well.

I’m not sure we appreciate the plight of the hardworking poor in our midst. I think of those who do the unseen jobs most people do not want, not because they want them, but because it is their only option for making a living.

The majority of the goods many of us enjoy are produced on the backs of poor people. It is easy to take these unseen people for granted, yet they are our brothers and sisters as well.

Would it not be ironic if we take them for granted although many, if not most of us, are descendents of the unseen working poor? This Seventh Station is an opportunity to refresh our solidarity with the suffering poor and to do our part to relieve their situation.

It is also an opportunity to truly appreciate those people who choose to live in voluntary simplicity.

I think of those who volunteer to serve the poor among us. I think of married couples and families who build into their family priorities the opportunity to provide practical help for the sick and the home­bound. A visit to the nursing home does wonders for those confined there. I think of organizations like the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Catholic Charities volunteers that serve our poor in so many ways.

I think of the consecrated religious who devote themselves day in and day out to be with those who have no one to care for them. They root their generous commitment in daily Eucharist and other forms of prayer because these are the seed bed for authentic charity.

Finally, as we reflect on the second fall of Jesus, we do well to take a measure of the quality of our worship, our expression of gratitude for the redemption that Jesus won for us by his suffering.

Sometimes we may need an attitude adjustment: Is my approach to Mass and prayer based on what I can offer or rather “what I get out of it?” †

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