Recently on Morning Air, John Morales hosted Father James Wallace to talk about the people we see in the Stations of the Cross and what their significance is to the Passion of Our Lord and our own Lenten journey.
As mentioned in a recent segment by Patrick Madrid, there are different types of prayer and while many people aren’t able to reach the plateau of mental prayer or contemplation, Jesus, through the Church, has given us the tools to succeed in nurturing our spiritual lives using recited prayer and meditation. Fr. James brought up that two of the most powerful tools to use in that process are the Stations of the Cross and the Holy Rosary.
The first of these characters that we meet is Pontius Pilate, a man who represents all of us to an extent. Here is a man who was sent to Judea to do something very simple, yet very difficult: keep the peace. As has long been the case, the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East was not an easily navigable path. And here presented to Pilate was a man who had done nothing wrong, but his own people wanted to put Him to death. If he has Jesus executed, he is spilling the blood of an innocent man. If he does nothing, he will have a riot on his hands and likely lose his position as governor.
That may not sound relatable, but how often do we find ourselves in a position to do the right thing, but unable to do so for fear of the consequences? All the time! We are presented daily with a choice to serve Our Lord and yet we fail every day. Ultimately, sooner or later, we try to wash our hands of the decision and simply give in to our weaknesses. Thankfully, Jesus gave us the sacrament of confession and we have every opportunity to return to His embrace.
The next character we see is Barabbas, the infamous murderer and thief, imprisoned for his crimes by the Romans. As is custom around the Passover, Pilate allows the Jewish people to choose one prisoner to be released back to them. He offers them Jesus, He who claims to be the King of the Jews, or Barabbas, a man charged with murder, thievery, and other violent crimes. The mob, so incensed with hatred and bloodlust for Jesus, choose Barabbas. And so, Christ’s Passion continued with His path to Calvary and His crucifixion. As Jesus breathed His last on that cross, He died for your sins, He died for my sins, and He died for Barabbas’s sins. He died for the salvation of all, not just the righteous.
Rewinding slightly to Jesus’s walk from His trial to His execution, we recall two characters that crossed His path: Simon of Cyrene and St. Veronica.
Simon of Cyrene, a simple countryman, must have been dumbfounded and perhaps annoyed at this inconvenience at first. What did he, an innocent bystander have to do with the execution of this man? Why did he have to get dragged into this for no reason? But, not wanting to resist the Romans, he does as he is told. He reaches down, grips the cross, and locks eyes with the man about to be nailed to it. It is then that he realizes, he has been given a tremendous privilege. It is a grace to help Our Lord as He walks the last stretch of His earthly ministry. Years later, his sons Alexander and Rufus would become distinguished and respected Christians.
And St. Veronica, the figure of compassion amidst fists, insults, and spit that rained upon Jesus from every direction. Little to nothing is known about her except as the woman who offered her cloth to Jesus as He stumbled up the path to Calvary. He is covered in wounds, lacerations, cuts, bruises, sweat, blood, and dirt. He has undoubtedly sustained broken bones and life-threatening injuries. As Jesus looks from face to face in the crowd, He sees very few that bear sympathy. He met His Blessed Mother in the fourth station he would later meet the weeping women of Jerusalem. But what can they do besides pray? Here, in the face of the most intense suffering the world has ever seen, a woman offers her veil, a simple cloth. It’s not much. In fact, it’s hardly anything. But it’s enough. Jesus wipes His face with it and upon its surface, He leaves His likeness.
As we draw toward the close of our 2022 Lenten journey, let us renew our drive and vigor for mortification, fasting, and almsgiving. We should strive to enter the Easter season as renewed Catholics, filled with God’s grace and eternally grateful for the Incarnation, Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Listen to both segments in their entirety below:
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