STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Seventh Station — Jesus Falls For The Second Time, by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin

Bernardin stations of the cross

From The Journey to Peace

When the just cry out, the Lord hears them.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
And those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
Many are the troubles of the just man,
But out of them all the Lord delivers him.
(Psalm 34:18-20)

We Encounter the Cross in Our Daily Lives

At times when we think about taking up our cross daily, we may first think of the discomforts or problems we face each day.  We may think of a chronic illness, a recurring headache, or a digestive problem.  We may identify our cross as a difficult person in our lives – a brother or sister, a co-worker, a neighbor.

But when Jesus talks about our daily cross, he is truly referring to the difficulties and obstacles we encounter in striving to live a good Christian life, the opposition we often meet when we live as his faithful disciples.  When we live in accord with his gospel, we discover that its message is countercultural – it goes against the stream of conventional human wisdom and culture.

In following Jesus, we walk with him and listen attentively to his word.  It is pleasant and comforting to be with him when he heals a blind man, or a deaf woman, or a child who is near death.  It is much less comfortable to follow him into the temple precincts and observe his controversy with the chief priests, the scribes, and the Pharisees.

Similarly, in our personal lives we may find it easy to share our religious faith and moral values with those who agree with us.  It is much more difficult to stand firm when our values are tested or attacked, when others encourage us to keep our beliefs and values separate form our work or community life.

Lord, let the light of your countenance shine upon me.
I acknowledge my weakness..  There are times I
do not stand firm when my beliefs or values are
tested or attacked.  When I fall, please help me get
back up.  And keep me on the path of your kingdom.

Even When We Stumble, We Can Serve God

Several years ago, in a conversation I had with several priest friends, I was asked what were my two greatest fears.  Without much reflection, I told them that I had always had two fears: One was being falsely accused of anything serious; the other was being afflicted with an aggressive type of cancer.  Within two years, both occurred!

The first has had a happy ending.  My accuser, Steven Cook, and I were reconciled.  More important, he was reconciled with the church.  Last week he died peacefully – no longer an angry, alienated man.

The second fear was realized, as you know, this past June.  I was feeling great, had many good things planned for the summer, including a vacation.  For the first time in my life I was confronted not only with the possibility but also the probability of a premature death.  Somehow, with God’s grace and the prayers and support of many people, including yourselves, I was able to move beyond the fear; I was able to put aside the unimportant , non-essential things that so often hold us hostage.  I was able to see things from a new perspective.

This evening I wish to conclude by telling you how I hope I can be of help to you – personally and ministerially – as together we walk in the future.  In the final analysis, my best contribution or gift is to help you grow in the Lord, who alone can bring your efforts to fruition.  My best gift to you is myself.  Beneath the titles of archbishop or cardinal is a man – Joseph Bernardin – who is weak and sinful like you, in need of affirmation and support, at times full of doubts and anxieties, very sensitive, easily hurt and frustrated.  But this Joseph is a man of great faith, one who is in love with the Lord, one who struggles each day – sometimes with little obvious success – to decrease so the Lord can increase in him, a man whose life is full of crooked lines but who is willing to let the Lord write straight with them.

Know that this man, Joseph, has a great affection for you.  Know that when you fail, he understands.  Know that when you do crazy things that bring grief to others (as he himself does so frequently), he forgives you.  Know that as you try to cope with the realities of life – both personally and ministerially – he is at your side, ready to help in every way he can.  Know that when you succeed, he smiles and shares your joy and satisfaction.  Know that when you are sad, hurt, demoralized, he cries with you.  Know that this man, Joseph, loves you, that he is proud of you, and that for the sake of the Lord he is ready and willing to give his life for you!

God, Lord Most High, help me to address my fears
so that I can let go of them and rely on your great
love for me and all your children.  I know this will
not be easy, but draw me closer to Jesus, who knew
human frailty so well and can help me rise from
my falls to resume my journey, the journey that
leads to peace.

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