Reflection from Fr. Joseph Mele on Stations of the Cross in Wilkinsburg

In the Second Station of the Cross, Jesus is made to carry the cross on which he will die. I am always touched that in most depictions of this station, the cross is lowered upon the Lord’s shoulders. These traditional artistic renditions are meant to convey that it wasn’t Pilate or the soldiers that sentenced Jesus to crucifixion. It was not even the devil. The Cross was lowered down from heaven. Therefore it was a blessing cup taken for the good of all. By his Cross we are saved. But his Cross is our guide; we are also asked by God to follow Jesus’ Passion and mourn his continued suffering in people today.

This came home for me powerfully in the Pax Christi Stations of the Cross prayed through the streets of Wilkinsburg as well as the version of the Stations of the Cross prayed inside Saint James Church on Good Friday. I was told that this year’s Stations on our neighborhood streets engaged the largest crowd that gathered in many years. We stopped at various sites in an effort to relate that location to a particular cause of sorrow and suffering of our day, whether economic, social or military.

As the contemporary spiritual writer Father Michael Gaitley points out, that’s the catch when we follow Jesus and dare to live the radical demands of the Gospel. There’s a big catch when it comes to offering our lives to Christ’s Merciful Love. But the Stations of the Cross help us not to be afraid. Mourning the Passion of Christ gradually heals our hardened hearts so they’ll become more sensitive, compassionate and loving like the Lord’s Sacred Heart. The catch is that our hearts will begin to become more as they should be: deeply moved by the suffering of others. And that’s a beautiful thing! It is a beautiful thing to be moved by the suffering of our neighbor. It’s a beautiful thing to “weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15) and to “comfort those who are in any affliction” with the same consolation we have received in Christ (see Cor 1:4).

Now, while it’s beautiful to have a compassionate heart, it does hurt. After all, the very definition of compassion is “to suffer with.” But that is not scary. Why not? Stations of the Cross show us that we can put all our trust in Jesus. He will not disappoint us. We found ourselves right in the midst of the story during the Stations. Will we respond by picking up the Cross of those suffering from hunger, inadequate education, war, disease? The Stations remind us that we do not walk alone. Jesus walks with us. So we do not need to listen to the inner voices of fear. Instead we want to listen for the quiet, prayerful voices of encouragement. Christ will lead us.

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