Jesus stands in the most human of places. He has already experienced profound solidarity with so many on this earth, by being beaten and tortured. Pilate washes his hands of the whole affair. Jesus' hands are tied behind his back. Now he is wrongfully condemned to punishment by death. His commitment to entering our lives completely begins its final steps. He has said "yes" to God and placed his life in God's hands. We follow him in this final surrender.
Jesus is made to carry the cross on which he will die. It represents the weight of all our crosses. What he must have felt as he first took it upon his shoulders! With each step he enters more deeply into our human experience. He walks in the path of human misery and suffering, and experiences its crushing weight. Let us remember the times when he had to carry our cross in the form of sin, sickness, pain, worry, despair, loneliness, guilt, loss of loved ones, financial problems and so on.
The weight is unbearable. Jesus falls under it. How could he enter our lives completely without surrendering to the crushing weight of the life of so many on this earth! He lays on the ground and knows the experience of weakness beneath unfair burdens. He feels the powerlessness of wondering if he will ever be able to continue. He is pulled up and made to continue. Let us remember the first time when we gave into temptation and sinned. We fell into sin and moved away from God.
Jesus' path takes him to a powerful source of his strength to continue. All his life, his mother had taught him the meaning of the words, "Behold, the handmaid of the Lord". Now they look into each other's eyes. How pierced-through her heart must be! She knows the sorrow in every mother's heart, who has lost a child to tragedy or violence. Mother Mary can intercede for us and obtain all graces we need in our lives. Let Mother Mary be our comfort and strength during this earthly journey.
There can be little doubt that Simon must have been less than pleased to that he was forced to help carry the cross. When we were burdened with our cross, when the cross was too heavy for us to carry, Jesus would have sent someone into our lives to help us carry the cross. It may have been your spouse, your parents, your children, your friends or even a stranger. Jesus would never abandon us. Let us thank Jesus for all those people who gave us hope.
Jesus' journey is at times brutal. He has entered into the terrible experiences of rejection and injustice. He has been whipped and beaten. His face shows the signs of his solidarity with all who have ever suffered injustice and vile, abusive treatment. He encounters a compassionate, loving disciple who wipes the vulgar spit and mocking blood from his face. She saw him as a brother in need. Let us remember our family members and friends who were there to comfort us during the most painful times.
Even with help, Jesus stumbles and falls to the ground. In deep exhaustion he stares at the earth beneath him. "Remember, you are dust and to dust you will return". He has seen death before. Now he can feel the profound weakness of disability and disease and aging itself, there on his knees, under the weight of his cross. Let us surrender our hearts to the Lord and be truly repentant and sorry. Let us strive not to keep committing the same sins over and over.
The women of Jerusalem, and their children, come out to comfort and thank him. They had seen his compassion and welcomed his words of healing and freedom. He had broken all kinds of social and religious conventions to connect with them. Now they are here to support him. Let us be compassionate and merciful to the people around us. Let us open our eyes to the people suffering in this world.
This last fall is devastating. Jesus can barely proceed to the end. Summoning all this remaining strength supported by his inner trust n God, Jesus collapses under the weight of the cross. His executioners look at him as a broken man, pathetic yet paying a price he deserves. They help him up so he can make it up the hill of crucifixion. Lord Jesus you persevered to the end. Help us to persevere in our efforts to conquer human weaknesses with your grace.
Part of the indignity is to be crucified naked. Jesus is completely stripped of any pride. The wounds on his back are torn open again. He experiences the ultimate vulnerability of the defenceless. No shield or security protects him. As they stare at him, his eyes turn to heaven. Surrender all those moments in your life which you wish had never ever happened and want to forget forever.
Huge nails are hammered through his hands and feet to fix him on the cross. He is bleeding much more seriously now. As the cross is lifted up, the weight of his life hangs on those nails. Every time he struggles to pull himself up to breathe, his ability to cling to life slips away. Let all our sins be nailed to the cross so that we can live a new life in Jesus.
Between two criminals, a mocking title above his head, with only Mary and John and Mary Magdalene to support him, Jesus surrenders his last breath: "Into your hands I commend my spirit". I stand there, at the foot of the cross, side by side with all of humanity, and behold our salvation. I carefully watch and listen to all that is said.