STATIONS OF THE CROSS - THROUGH THE EYES OF ST JOSEPH

Fr Billy Swan Last week, we featured the first five stations of the cross that reflected on the sufferings of Jesus through the eyes of St Joseph in this year dedicated to his honour. Here I share the second five of those meditations that begin with a piece of Scripture and end with a prayer.


THE SIXTH STATION: VERONICA WIPES THE FACE OF JESUS


We adore you O Christ and we bless you. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.


‘He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty to attract us. He was despised and rejected by men as one from whom men hide their faces’ (Is. 52:2-3).

Veronica wipes the face of my beloved Jesus. A simple act of kindness that meant so much has been remembered for centuries. In this station, I think of all the carers of the sick and those who look after them. Those who help to feed the sick, to cloth them, to tend to their bodily needs and basic hygiene. To all of you, I bless and thank you. You have no idea of how important a difference you make. You are like Veronica who wiped the face of Christ. As she wiped the face of Jesus, you clean, wipe and care for the body of Christ in the sick and the infirm. As the imprint of Jesus’ face was left on the towel Veronica used, so your compassion has marked the lives of those you care for, whether they know it or not. In the words of Jesus himself: ‘In so far as you did it to the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me’.


Loving Father, you have called us to be people of kindness, mercy and compassion after the example of your beloved Son. Help us see that when we care for the least of his brothers and sisters, we are caring for him; for Christ has united himself to us all. Never allow us to underestimate the power in small acts of kindness. Sustain all of us dedicated to the care of others. And when it comes to out turn to be cared for, may we receive that love with gratitude. Amen.


THE SEVENTH STATION: JESUS FALLS FOR THE SECOND TIME



We adore you O Christ and we bless you. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.


Jesus said to them ‘my soul is very sorrowful even to death’ and going a little farther he fell on the ground and prayed that if it were possible this hour might pass from him (Mark 14:34)


When I see Jesus falling for the second time, my thoughts and prayers go out to those who suffer a relapse into illness or addiction. I think of those who had cancer, who went into remission and then discovered it was back. These are the people close to Jesus who fall once, get up and fall again. It takes supernatural strength to get back up after falling again. Yet this is the grace that people receive when they turn to Jesus for that strength to persevere and keep going. I pray also for those caught in the snare of addiction and who have ‘fallen off the wagon’. May they never tire of asking for God’s mercy and never despair of his forgiveness. To be human is to fall, many times. But to get up again with trust in God’s mercy is divine. It is never too late. This is the hope that Jesus offers us in this station.


Father of the poor in spirit, look with love on all those afflicted again by sickness and addiction after battling it before. Help us to make peace with our mortality. Broaden our hopes beyond what we would like to happen to what you will for us. Help us never to despair when we fall but to trust in your infinite mercy by rising again and with your strength, to carry on our journey


THE EIGHTH STATION: JESUS COMFORTS THE WOMEN OF JERUSALEM


We adore you O Christ and we bless you. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.


‘And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turned to them and said: ‘daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me but weep for yourselves and for your children’ (Luke 23:27-28).


When I was sick and before I departed to return to my Father’s house, Jesus and Mary looked after me when I was weak and dying. They cared for me and were sad because my time had come. I tried to reassure them that I would be looked after, that God would take care of me. I also asked them to look after each other after I was gone. In this station I see Jesus deflecting sympathy away from himself and towards those who are sad and sorrowful. This is his nature, to think of others before himself. In this station, my thoughts and prayers go to the sick and dying who, like Jesus, think not of themselves but of those they leave behind. Here is the love that Jesus gave us – a love that gives itself away and a love that is costly; a love that makes room for as many as possible. By meditating on this station, I pray that the suffering of the sick and dying might connect them, somehow and someway, to the suffering and salvation of all humanity.


God our Father, when sickness and suffering comes to us, may the example of your Son save us self-pity and resentment. May the love of your Son in our hearts move us outwards to think of our families and friends who suffer with us and who care for our welfare. May the experience of this virtual pilgrimage and the presence of those suffering worse than me, give me strength that I am not alone and to see my life in a broader context. May my sickness give you glory and my patience draw others to faith in you. Amen.


THE NINTH STATION: JESUS FALLS A THIRD TIME



We adore you O Christ and we bless you. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.


‘Come to me all who labor and are heavily laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (Matt. 28:30)


In this station, I, Joseph, ponder the lives of those paralysed by fear. I think of those who are sick and fear what the future holds. When I discovered that Mary, my beloved, was pregnant with a child that was not mine, I too was overcome by fear – I feared for her and her safety; I feared for myself and what the neighbours would say. But then I had that dream where the first words the angel said to me were: ‘Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife’. After that dream, my mind was an ease and I felt great peace because I knew what God’s will for me was. Here I pray for those whose spirits are crushed with fear and who find it hard to rise again. May they receive the grace that I did, not to be afraid but to trust in the providence and the plan of God. May all who are afraid surrender to the loving providence of God and do his will. For in his will is our peace.

Merciful Father, in your Word, you ask us 356 times not to be afraid. You remind us through St John that perfect love casts out fear. Tonight, we pray for all those who are laden with the burden of fear because of the loss of health or abilities. May they receive the grace to trust in you and surrender themselves to your will, whatever that might be. And may they know the gift of peace at the center of their being that is the rock of their strength. Amen.


THE TENTH STATION: JESUS IS STRIPPED OF HIS GARMENTS


We adore you O Christ and we bless you. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

‘They divided his garments among them, casting lots for them to decide what each should take’ (Mark 15:24).


Jesus is stripped of his clothes and humiliated before the jeering crowd. In this station, my heart goes to people who share in this experience of Jesus by being humiliated by their sickness. With the Church, I think of people humiliated by the loss of independence, not being able to care for themselves and the loss of basic bodily functions. To all of you who have been humiliated in these ways, I want you to know that Jesus has gone before you and knows what you have been through. Yet, it was to restore your dignity that he came. When he met Bartimaeus and cured him of his blindness, he was given new clothes. When the prodigal son was welcomed back by the merciful Father, he was given new clothes instead of filthy rags. Everyone who believes in Jesus and follows him is a new creation and is conferred with a dignity that sickness can never take away. Let this be your strength when you feel humiliated by your illness, limitations or old age.


Loving God, in solidarity with suffering humanity, you did not spare your Son from humiliation by the mob. Hear our prayers for all who feel humiliated by illness, failing strength and old age. May they always know that Christ is close to them as they share in his passion and will share, in time, in joy and the restoration of the dignity you bestow on them as your beloved children and co-heirs with Christ your beloved Son. Amen.


Stations 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 to conclude next week