The First Station: Jesus is Condemned to Death
This is how it all begins, sentenced like a common criminal, accused of crimes he has not committed. Yet, our Savior humbly accepts the criminality of all of humanity placed on His shoulders as our Passover lamb. It shakes me to think that just a few days previous, people from all walks of life were praising His name as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. Now here they are, rejecting His name, casting blame on Him, and sentencing Him to die.
Lent is always a time for reflection. Reflecting on ourselves, reflecting on our relationship with God, thinking of ways we have been strong in faith, and ways that we have fallen in faith. Specifically with this First Station of the Cross, I think about an aspect of living our faith that I think everyone has dealt with in positive and negative ways: going with the crowd.
How often do I put a child lock on opportunities for evangelization and Truth? Probably more than I’d care to admit. But, it is in these moments that I remember that Jesus willingly knows there will be times in my life where I let Him down, and yet, he will still go to the Cross for me, for us! Yet, we are constantly reminded that even if we fall, there will be new opportunities in the future.
This Lent, let us call upon the Holy Spirit to provide boldness, strength, and courage when opportunities come our way. The opportunities will come, and when they do, let us have the strength to stand up for what we believe in, because we never know what hangs in the balance of our decision to speak truth, even if the crowd is against us.
I pray that God will be ever-present in our interactions with “the crowd” and to let His words be our words.
Nino Rebholz, Associate Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry
The Second Station: Jesus Carries His Cross
Our beloved Jesus is now bearing the heavy weight of the Cross on his body. He not only carries the burden of the Cross but all the heaviness and darkness of our sin and the sins of the whole world throughout time onto his shoulders. Jesus knew how hard this journey would be for him. The previous night in his distress in the Garden of Gethsamene Jesus fervently prayed not once but three times “My Father, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26: 39-44). Yet because of his surrender and obedience to his Father, Jesus willingly accepted what he knew will be a long and difficult road ahead and he now takes up the Cross with quiet humility, out of his love for all of us.
My dear mother was one of the most faith-filled people I will ever know. When my siblings and I were with her four years ago at the end of her life and she shared with us a message that I will never forget – she said that we should not be afraid of the cross and that the only way to be with Jesus is to walk towards the cross. I didn’t know how that message would impact my life until this last year when I felt the burden of many crosses on my shoulders. We will all experience trials and tests in life but the true test will be if it brings us closer to Christ. God will never give us a cross that is too heavy or a challenge too difficult for us if we remain close to him in prayer and reach out for help. He will always be there to comfort and give us hope on the journey because it is through the Cross that we can have eternal life and happiness with our Lord – AMEN to that!
Blessings on your Lenten journey,
Anh Clausen, Director of Family Ministry and Religious Formation
The Third Station: Jesus Falls for the First time
Walking through the Stations of the Cross at Holy Hill with our young daughters, we paused at each one to explain what the station depicted. It didn’t take long for my toddler to notice a pattern, related to her own life experience, which became her mantra for the rest of the day: “Jesus fell down.” Over and over, she repeated those words. This was something she could relate to, a connection to her own life experience of falling down again and again, skinning her knees, unbalanced by the weight of her impulsive desire to do things her own way, to satisfy her need for autonomy, which so often sends her careening out of control. (Quite literally. They don’t call them “toddlers” for nothing.)
The difference, of course, is that Jesus falls, crushed by the weight of our sins, not his own. The weight of our impulsiveness, our greed, our need to seize control of our lives which so often results in us becoming unbalanced, careening out of control, hurting ourselves and those around us. Everyone we encounter has had this experience of falling down. Reflect on the love that drove the Son to enter our weak and vulnerable condition, that drove him to skin his knees for us. What burden causes you to stumble as you follow Jesus? Are you ready to ask Jesus to bear it away – to give him control of your life? To help you see and love others as Jesus sees and loves them?
Rachel McGrew, Associate Director of Family Ministry and Religious Formation
The Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Mother
My youngest son is by far the most adventurous yet accident-prone of my three children, which is an unfortunate combination of traits to have. I will never forget the two ER visits that resulted in stitches and staples in his head. As a mother, my heart aches whenever I know that my child is suffering and I would do absolutely anything to take away their pain. That’s what mothers do. When my children were younger, I would hug away their hurt and kiss their ouchies good bye. I wish it was that easy now. As my children grow older, I know that I can’t protect them from all the heartache and challenges that they will face. My role is not to make it all go away but to listen and ask questions which help them navigate their next steps. As they become adults, my hope and prayer is that they will always go to their mother as a source of comfort and help during their trials of life.
When Jesus meets his mother on the side of the road after having fallen, imagine how much comfort he must have felt with her embrace and words of encouragement and faith. Mary’s trust in God didn’t take away her heartache, confusion, or grief but as she bore those things in her heart she remained hopeful in God’s love. Mary is our Mother who loves us and wants to provide us with comfort and reassurance when we are bearing our own crosses. Do you find yourself asking our Blessed Mother for help when you are struggling and need prayers? How can you be a source of comfort and help to those around you who are struggling? Like Mary, do you accompany them with trust in God in your heart?
Anh Clausen, Director of Family Ministry and Religious Formation
The Fifth Station: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus to Carry His Cross
Once we were like Simon, minding our own business, with a job to do and the health to do it. Simon came into town on some errand of his own, when suddenly he was caught up in a terrible event, plucked from the crowd to help carry a cross for a stranger on His way to crucifixion. Yes, that’s how it was for us, living an ordinary life when suddenly God drew us to the side of Christ with sickness, asking us to carry his cross a little way. Yes, now we share in his passion, and other Simons come forth to help us on the way. We are grateful for them, and we want the grace to be grateful for this gift sharing in Christ’s passion, which is now ours.
Western culture has promoted the ideal of the self-sufficient person who does not need anyone else. We should stand on our own feet. It is humiliating to need others, especially strangers. But this dependency is part of being human, and it is embraced by God in Jesus at this moment. God said to St. Catherine of Siena, “I could well have supplied each of you with all your needs, both spiritually and material. But I wanted to make you dependent on one another so that each of you would be my minister, dispensing the graces and gifts you have received from me.” In Jesus we see God needing us, needing a drink from the Samaritan woman at the well, needing help with carrying his cross. It’s okay to be needy.
Jesus, may I be unashamed to accept help when I need it, and may I be eager to offer it when others have needs. May our mutual dependence be a source of joy and an occasion of grace, knitting us together in the community of your love. Amen.
Terri Balash, Director of Pastoral Care
The Sixth Station: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus
During this pandemic hospital staffs have become our heroes. Nurses, technicians, doctors, and hospital staff all have the opportunity to become Veronicas in this passion of ours. Some have developed a professional manner that is more businesslike than compassionate, and we pray for them. Others have become the Veronicas who dare to look deep into our eyes, to see and sympathize with the suffering they encounter in us. For them we thank you, Lord, and for them we pray as they step forward bravely, to ease our pain with the pure and tender fabric of their own humanity.
The face of God became flesh in the face of Jesus, who smiled upon sinners with tenderness. He looked with pleasure on pompous little Zacchaeus up in the tree and decided to stay with him rather than the self-righteous and respectable people. He smiled on Levi, another tax collector, and called him to discipleship. He looked with kindness on Peter after he had betrayed him. But what about us? We do not see his face and we do not even know what Jesus looked like. We are the body of Christ, and so we must be his face. It belongs to the ministry of every baptized person to be the face of Christ in the ordinary interactions of our daily lives. It is the small but necessary beginning of all Christian witness. According to the legend, Jesus on the way to the cross encountered a crowd of hostile faces. But not Veronica, she gazed upon him with pity, and to her he gave an image of his face. May our faces be shaped by the grace into tenderness and welcome “true images” of his.
Jesus, may I see with your compassion and smile with your radiance, so that your unfailing tenderness is made flesh and blood of me. May I always be alert to those who feel invisible and despised, recognizing that they are your brothers and sisters, sharing your dignity, however much this is concealed by the bruises of this life. Amen.
Terri Balash, Director of Pastoral Care
The Seventh Station: Jesus Falls the Second Time
“See you next time!” the smiling second grader sang as she skipped out the church doors. She had just received Jesus’ gift of the sacrament of penance for the first time. The burden of doing a hard thing had been lifted off of her, and she was light as a feather as she bounded out into the world! I have no doubt her joy radiated into the lives of the people she encountered that day.
Jesus, disfigured and bloodied by our sins, fell under the weight of the cross a second time. But he did not stay down under the cross. He rose with determination to finish his journey, to fulfill the New Covenant he would establish in his death and resurrection. As we continue to draw closer to Jesus on the cross this Lent, we remember that God never tires of forgiving and pouring his endless mercy upon his children. As we rise up, taking up our own crosses once again to follow him, we can leave our burdens with Jesus. Then we too can go out into the world, freer to share God’s love and mercy with the world.
Come Holy Spirit, stir in me so that I may see how my sins bind and imprison me time and again. Free me from the bondage of these sins with your everlasting love, that I may better love others by feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and doing your good works while seeing Christ in every person. Amen.
Mamie Riyeff, Family Ministry Coordinator
The Eighth Station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem
It’s not been my experience that mothers need to be instructed to weep for their children, to live in their children’s suffering as well as their own, or to worry about their children’s futures. It happens quite naturally. Yet this is what Jesus counsels the women of Jerusalem to do when he encounters them weeping and lamenting as he makes his way wearily through the crowd. Jesus did not wallow in self-pity; rather, he trusted in his Father’s plan of salvation for a sinful, broken world. It was this trust that gave him the strength to rise up and carry on each time he fell under the weight of the cross.
I have lost count of how many times I have been in a Beacon Moms group and a woman reveals a recent worry, stress, loss, or deep suffering within her family, and another woman (sometimes a near-stranger) responds by drawing near and tenderly sitting in her suffering with her. Sometimes there is a relatable experience shared between the women, and oftentimes there is silently (or tearfully) shared compassion within the group. Time and time again, I see this shared suffering strengthen relationships of mothers merely because others put their own needs aside and lift up another when they most need support. Reflecting on this station along Jesus’ way, I wonder if perhaps the compassion that the women showed Jesus strengthened him to continue in the same way I have so often seen compassion flowing in Beacon Moms groups.
How can I extend myself to be with others in their suffering? How can I offer my own suffering to Christ so that I can do the work he needs me to do in the world?
Mamie Riyeff, Family Ministry Coordinator
The Ninth Station: Jesus Falls for a Third Time
Sometimes the burdens of life feel like too much to carry. Even during non-pandemic times, juggling the many responsibilities that we each have, combined with a desire to be helpful to our family, friends, and neighbors can leave us navigating task lists longer than there are hours in the day.
Now, of course, we have the additional burdens of a year-long pandemic. Perhaps you have struggled to carry the weight of unemployment, the illness or death of loved ones due to COVID, or the loneliness of social isolation. Perhaps you’re longing for physical touch… or even just to see the unmasked smiles of strangers as you pass in the grocery store. Perhaps you are struggling under the weight of racism or the exhaustion of pandemic parenting. Perhaps you are exhausted. You have never experienced the “pandemic pause” because your labor has been required to help save lives or provide food for people.
The reality is that each of us has been burdened in one way or another throughout this pandemic. But, likely, we have not carried the same exact burdens as our neighbors… or our strangers. When we encounter people whose burdens are different than our own, let us look upon them with compassion… as if we were looking upon Jesus as he fell for the third time. “Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.” ~ Fr. Greg Boyle
Lord, help us to remember that each person we encounter may be carrying weighty burdens of which we are not aware. Please move our hearts to compassion so that we will relieve what burdens we can. Amen.
Laura Hancock, Director of Social Justice and Outreach
The Tenth Station: Jesus’ Clothes are Taken Away
When Jesus reaches Golgatha, he had already suffered many indignities: betrayal, denial, judgment, scourging, mockery, and ridicule. Then, in the moments before crucifixion, Jesus is stripped. The meager dignity, protection, and comfort from his clothing is stolen from him before he is to suffer and die – naked, in front of a crowd. Out of love for us, Jesus is made even more vulnerable and dehumanized.
Much like Jesus, when people are convicted of a crime, they suffer indignities. They become inmates. Their clothes and personal belongings are taken away, chipping away at their sense of self. Some are even condemned to death. Whether justly or wrongfully convicted, they are dehumanized.
Lord Jesus Christ, you were made human like us and suffered many indignities. Help us to recognize the innate dignity from your Father, our Creator, in all those around us, and guide us as we seek to restore lost dignity in those who are incarcerated or have been recently released.
Meggie Moyer, Associate Director of Liturgy & Music
The Eleventh Station: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross
Having arrived at the place called Calvary, Jesus laid himself down on the Cross and willingly stretched His hands and feet to be crucified. This sacrifice opened up the gates of heaven for all believers who accept the reality of the cross and are willing to obey Christ’s commands. Jesus said, “Take up my cross and follow me.”
This means that my actions, my will, my personal freedom, and my opinions must be offered up to the crucified Lord. It means that we must rejoice in the inconveniences and sufferings that accompany daily life. This means loving God above all things and loving my neighbor as myself. All this is a means of personal crucifixion offered up to Jesus because we love Him more than we love ourselves. It was our sins that nailed our beloved Jesus to the cross. If we desire the salvation offered by His crucifixion, we need to obey Jesus’ commandments by our personal crucifixion.
“We adore You O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your Cross You have redeemed the world.”
Kenneth Gardinier, Family Ministry Coordinator
The Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross
“The Lord emerges like a hero, like a warrior he inspires himself for battle; he shouts, yes, he yells, he shows his enemies his power. I have been inactive for a long time; I kept quiet and held back. Like a woman in labor I groan; I pant and gasp.” Isaiah 42:14,15
“Jesus cried out with a loud voice and breathed his last.” Mark 14:37
I like to consider Jesus’ last cry on the Cross. Jesus sucked in everyone including myself and all sins, all emotions, all lows, all problems into his sacred body on the Cross. It hurt him. And then he released it in his loud cry and death, once and for all. Like a hero he faced all our sins and their consequences and overcame them. Like a Mother he gave birth to a new me, a new people and a whole new world which has yet to fully come to fruition. The Lord was a warrior of patience; one with relentless determination. He kept his eye on the prize which was me and you. Throughout my life, whatever happens, deep down I have always felt that all is well. This can only possibly happen because I have this moment of Jesus on the Cross. No matter what happens no one and nothing can take that away from me or any of us. And this is a great source of courage.
I also think that I should be joyful when I see Jesus on the Cross or participate in the liturgy of Good Friday. Yes this is a terrible day. And yet, I firmly believe that God would not have had it any other way. If there is ever such a mysterious concept as destiny, Jesus dying on the Cross is it. He once told a mystic saint that he would die on the Cross a million times over for us. Jesus wanted to do this for us in spite of how sinful we may have once been or continue to be. This is his way of showing us and proving to us who and what he is. I remind myself of this especially on Good Friday. Jesus wanted to do this.
And so I hope and pray we may all more and more come to live and bathe in that moment of Jesus dying on the Cross for us. May we live in his light and love forever. Amen.
Nicholas Corrao, Sacristan & Maintenance at Old St. Mary Parish
The Thirteenth Station: Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross
“If at times our efforts and works seem to fail and produce no fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus…and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, in the failure of the cross.” Pope Francis
While there is value in developing benchmarks, setting measurable goals and analyzing outcomes, we ultimately believe in a God in whom concepts like “success” and “victory” are subverted. So much of the Christian life is not measured in these categories. Jesus shows us that his ultimate commitment is fidelity to God and to us, not success as we might define it. Fr. Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries reflects on this fidelity when he writes, “I suppose Jesus could have chosen a strategy that worked better (evidence-based outcomes) – that didn’t end in the Cross – but he couldn’t find a strategy more soaked with fidelity than the one he embraced.”
How does the passion and death of Jesus comfort you in your own seeming failures?
When has your fear of failure kept you from doing what you felt called to do?
Chad Griesel, Pastoral Associate
The Fourteenth Station: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb
“We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.” Romans 6:4
St. Paul tells us that we are buried with Christ in Baptism. In some churches, the baptismal font is in the shape of the cross or even a coffin. Entering into life with Christ requires that we die: die to sin and selfishness, die to desires that are not based in love, die to unhealthy attachments to wealth, pleasure, power and honor. Becoming a Christian means leaving some things behind so that we can embrace the new life of self-emptying love. The past year has offered many of us an opportunity to examine what is essential and life-giving and what are being called to die to as we renew our baptismal promises at Easter.
What needs to stay in the tomb as you emerge from this Lent?
What old ways of living need to remain in quarantine as we move out into a new world?
Chad Griesel, Pastoral Associate