Monday, March 10, 2008

7th Station: Jesus falls a second time

That had to have hurt! Jesus will not be able to walk much further and it was with difficulty that he just stopped himself from falling when he caught his foot on a stone.

I can see that he is much weaker even though I, Simon the Cyrene, an innocent man, am the one who is carrying his Cross. We are not far from Calvary, but the road surface has already deteriorated considerably. The Romans were interested in having an efficient infrastructure for their own needs, not for those condemned to death to have a less traumatic journey. Yes, the road is still made of large, flat stones, but they are smaller than the ones in the city. It is much easier to stumble and trip over one that stands slightly higher than its neighbours. It is a road that now needs concentration.

Jesus is too weak to concentrate on anything other than putting one foot in front of the other and slowly, painfully, continuing the journey to Calvary. Me? Although I am fit and strong, carrying this heavy piece of wood is tiring and my shoulders are aching. There is no way known that the Nazarene could have borne this weight thus far without collapsing and perhaps dying from the effort. His heart would have given up, a heart that, in spite of everything, seems determined to carry him onwards, ever onwards.

I myself have already stumbled once or twice since the soldiers forced me to carry the Cross lest Jesus die on the way. I have been fortunate insofar as I have not fallen, but my shoulders are bruised and I can feel that some splinters have already forced their way through my tunic. Perhaps they have even drawn blood.

That is a thought. When Jesus dies, his blood and mine will be together on the Cross! I am not sure what that means because I am not yet sure what I think of Jesus of Nazareth. A man of courage and determination, certainly. From all that I have heard, he is also a man of wisdom, compassion and understanding. What was it, then, that led to such foolishness as to denounce the temple authorities?

They do say that there are only two types of people in this world who can speak the truth without fear: the honest and the fool. Something makes me think that Jesus was both: honest enough to speak out regardless of the cost to himself and a fool because he could easily have thought out the consequences for himself. Was he so on fire with righteous indignation against the authorities and so burning with concern for others, especially the poor and downtrodden, that he found himself compelled to speak out even if it meant that he would die in the process?

Where are his friends? Has he been deserted? He is to die because he claimed to be the King of the Jews, yet, with so many Jews here in Jerusalem for the Passover, why are they not trying to protect, defend and liberate him? He is not completely alone because I have seen one or two people who seem to be close to him. There is a young man escorting a woman who, I presume, must be his mother, judging by the agony in her expression when she looks at Jesus. She can barely take her eyes away from him, as if she is trying to absorb all his sufferings upon herself. Even if someone speaks to her, she barely averts her gaze from Jesus. It is as if she is willing her thoughts into his mind, telling him that he is not alone and that she is with him. Does he know that she is there? Does the presence of his mother comfort him or is his brain too filled with pain and the ordeal he must still face?

There’s a quiet dignity about Jesus and also his mother, for I presume that only a mother could share such agony and still keep on going. Even in the midst of all this horror, even though he shows no sign of being a king, regardless of the degradation that he has already experienced, there is something within him that has not been destroyed by the violence that he has experienced. It is also true of his mother.

It seems to me that the crowd now senses that there is something different about this execution for, instead of becoming increasingly rowdy and insulting, they are, if anything, quieter. In spite of everything, Jesus is almost in command here. I do not know how to describe it. He has been beaten, but not vanquished, and I think that message is starting to filter through to the onlookers. It is strange. It is as if all that has happened to him has only served to show the High Priests, Herod and even Pilate, for what they are. Regardless of their authority, they are increasingly, even if invisibly, present as mindless, self-seeking, power-hungry thugs.

Is it possible that a victim of violence criminalizes his or her abusers? By that, I do not mean that by perpetrating violence they were not already criminalizing themselves. Yet, the victim, through sheer goodness and without intending to do so, actually allows the thuggery to be seen in its true horror, as inflicted upon a totally undeserving human being. Somehow the abusers’ absence of compassion is highlighted by its presence in one who, through being violated, has something of a right to fight back.

I think that this is what is happening with Jesus as we head towards Calvary.

I am seeing more and more, that this is an innocent man for whom I am carrying the Cross. With each step that we take, I am seeing the guilt of those who condemned him. In fact, I am beginning to reflect that for the blood of Jesus to be mixed with mine will be an honour far beyond anything I could ever have deserved.

Jesus has just tripped upon a stone and has fallen. His pain and weakness are all too visible. The crowd, however, is not jeering as it did only a short while ago. True, there are some who are hurling insults, but they are not everybody. Even some of the soldiers, especially the Centurion heading the procession, are beginning to look at their prisoner with different eyes. They, too, are starting to ask questions of themselves. These battle-hardened veterans are not totally insensitive. They have the ability to question and to challenge.

As Jesus falls for a second time, they are starting to challenge themselves.

God bless,

Sr. Janet