February 24, 2019 - Pastor Message07/17/2019
THE YEAR OF PRAYER PART 7: THE STATIONS OF THE CROSS (cont.)
“Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same attitude (for whoever suffers in the flesh has broken with sin), so as not to spend what remains of one’s life in the flesh on human desires, but on the will of God...Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that, when his glory is revealed, you may also rejoice exultantly” (1 Peter 4:12, 13).
For the past few weeks in this column we have reflected on the history of the Stations of the Cross and on the origins of the now traditional fourteen stations we find in nearly every Catholic church, including our own, today. We conclude our reflection this week by looking at some reasons why we could benefit from including the Stations of the Cross in our own prayer life.
When we pray the Stations of the Cross, we meditate on the climactic moment of Christ’s saving work. His whole life was an act of God’s saving love for us, from his conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary to his ascension into glory with the Father, but no other mystery of Christ’s life so powerfully reveals God’s love for us and offers such rich fruits of grace than his suffering and death. The sinless Son of God “was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole; by his stripes, we were healed” (Isaiah 53:5). And he freely and willingly did it all out of love for us, sinful as we are. When we meditate on the sufferings he endured for our salvation, we experience his love for us and grow in our appreciation of it.
The Stations of the Cross also provide us with the clearest and most inspiring example of Christ’s virtue. “Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help” (Hebrews 4:1416). By enduring the suffering and humiliation of the cross with unwavering faith in the Father’s plan, unshakeable hope in the resurrection to come, and unyielding love and mercy even for those who crucified him, Jesus showed us that the virtues of the kingdom of God will always triumph over the powers of this world, even in the face of the worst suffering imaginable. When we meditate on his example, we cultivate Christ-like virtue in our own lives and receive strength to put those virtues into practice when we face suffering and difficulties.
Finally, when we pray the Stations of the Cross, we are able to enter into the experience of Christ’s suffering, not as an ancient story or distant memory, but as a living reality, present in our midst. Christ’s suffering becomes more immediate for us, confronting us now as it did his disciples 2000 years ago and forcing us to make a choice: to take up our cross and follow him, or to betray him, deny him, abandon him. But as we enter into Christ’s suffering through our meditation on his cross, we are reminded that he is also with us in our suffering, giving us the grace we need to follow him wherever he leads, together working out our salvation and that of the world. “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:1820).
For these reasons and more, consider making the Stations of the Cross a regular part of your prayer life. We have a beautiful set of stations in our church, and we have outdoor stations at Mount of Olive Cemetery across the street. Prayer booklets can be easily printed off of the internet or accessed on your phone or other portable devices. I also encourage you to stay tuned for information about our communal Stations of the Cross, which we will offer during Lent. Discover this moving devotion for yourself and let it draw you ever closer to our Lord, who suffered and died for you.
Fr. Marc Stockton