August 8, 2008

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Jesus identifies with those who fall again and again

(Ninth in a series)

Were you there when he fell a third time?”

The Ninth Station on the Way of the Cross brings to mind the words of Jesus: “Come to me, all who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt 11:28-30).

To be sure, Christ knows the challenges we face along our way in life. His falling three times on the way to Calvary is a measure of his love for us, and also his identification with our human limitations.

I suggest that we can see this third fall to the Earth as a sign that Jesus identifies with those who fall again and again, those who fall even when the end of the road is in sight.

By the time Jesus fell the third time, Calvary, the place of his crucifixion, must have been in sight.

Like any human person, Jesus must have experienced the embarrassment of being physically weak as he fell yet again before a jeering and hostile mob. But he rose from the fall, he got up one more time; so may all of us who call upon him.

One of the developing human afflictions of our times comes to mind. The matter of falling again and again happens to those caught up in enslaving addictions.

No doubt addiction has been a burden for our human society through all the ages since the fall of Adam and Eve, but it seems like this affliction might be more prevalent in our contemporary world.

In addition to the addiction to alcohol, widespread drug addiction, sexual addiction, addiction to pornography and gambling seem to be on the rise.

For example, counselors and confessors mention that they hear a great deal about the suffering caused by addiction to porno­graphy on the Internet. The develop­ment and easy accessibility provided by the Internet make pornography readily available and seemingly anonymous.

Any addiction degrades the human spirit. And, really, although it may seem otherwise, addictions are not private.

Others suffer the consequences alongside the addict. I think of wives who suffer because of a husband’s addiction to pornography. The situation is serious because overcoming addictions is difficult due to their overwhelming psychological power.

Fortunately, recovery programs have evolved and are available to assist people in dealing with a challenging affliction. However, recovery is only possible and effective if one who is addicted is able and willing to own the problem and to seek help. Surrender is difficult.

Our spiritual and moral tradition can be of enormous help to those who suffer so much. First of all, spiritual and moral strength are available in the reception of the sacraments of the Eucharist and ­reconciliation. A confessor or spiritual companion can offer pastoral support and counsel, and accompany an addicted person in the difficult challenge of surrendering to the need for help.

The challenge of overcoming addictions of any kind is not the only burden people carry. There are other habits of sin, some quite grave, that are also enslaving. The sacraments of the Church are gifts from Christ that enable us to find peace of mind and soul.

The sacrament of penance and reconciliation is a tribunal of God’s loving mercy. No sin is too great to be forgiven by God, whose love is greater than all the sin in the world. Jesus’ invitation, “Come to me, all who labor and are burdened” (Mt 11:28), is for anyone and everyone who is burdened in any way.

Confessors and spiritual directors are ready and willing to help troubled souls to find their way. In the person of Christ, they offer his peace. The purpose of his Passion, death and resurrection was to win our redemption.

We hear a lot these days about preventative health care. Our spiritual and moral health also benefit from preventative care.

The most effective prevention, of course, is friendship with Jesus. When he spoke to our youth and young adults and seminarians in New York last April, Pope Benedict XVI told them: “I urge you to deepen your friendship with Christ. Talk to him heart to heart.”

Sometimes we might be reluctant to speak heart to heart with Christ because we have difficulty believing that our prayer is good enough or that we are worthy to be friends with him.

First of all, we have the help of the Holy Spirit, who assists us in praying.

Secondly, we need to remember that Jesus himself calls us friends. He did so at the Last Supper when he gave us himself in the Holy Eucharist.

He is here for all of us. †

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