STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Thirteenth Station — Jesus Is Taken Down From The Cross, by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin

Bernardin stations of the cross

From The Journey to Peace

There were also women present looking on from a distance.  Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James the younger and Joses, and Salome. These women had followed Jesus when he was in Galilee and attended to his needs.  There were also many others who had come up with him to Jerusalem.  As it grew dark (it was Preparation Day, that is, the eve of the Sabbath), Joseph from Arimathea arrived – a distinguished member of the Sanhedrin.  He was another who looked forward to the reign of God.  He was bold enough to seek an audience with Pilate and urgently requested the body of Jesus.  Pilate was surprised that Jesus should have died so soon. He summoned the centurion and inquired whether Jesus was already dead.  Learning from him that he was dead, Pilate released the corpse to Joseph.  Then, having brought a linen shroud, Joseph took him down, and wrapped him in the linen. (Mark 15:40-46)

We Are All Part of the Holy Family of God

Paul’s letter to the Colossians (3:12-21) tells us that love within a family is not something beyond our reach.  It is kind, humble, meek, patient.  It forgives; if avoids bitterness; it is obedient; it does not nag.  That kind of love is painful; it is never cheap.  The real thing costs something, but the price must not deter us.

In writing of the Holy Family, Father Walter Burghardt, S.J. – a well-known writer and friend of mine – wrote:

One day Jesus and Mary folded the lifeless hands of Joseph on his breast – and loneliness lay over Nazareth.   One spring afternoon Mary waved to her son as he disappeared round the bend, bound for souls and a cross at the end; one spring afternoon the mother, who first cradled the naked body of her baby in a stable, last cradled that same naked body beneath a cross – and loneliness lay over Jerusalem.  And one lonely evening the mother of God, grown old as gracefully as the petals fall from the rose, left this Earth; and the son, who had come to her without pain, without pain folded her forever to his sacred breast.

All of us have families, but some of us are not with them.  Death may have taken a beloved spouse, or children may have moved away to start their own families.  Others may have chosen not to marry, but they are not with us.  However, whether united or separated, all of us are part of that holy family of God.

God, creator of all, it is very moving to stand near
Jesus’s mother, Mary, as she holds the body of her
dead son before allowing it to be prepared for burial.
So many people die or are killed with no family
present to console them or to embrace their bodies
afterward.  Help me to understand – and act 
accordingly – that everyone I encounter belongs to your
holy family and is my sister or brother.
Amen.

Jesus Crucified Is a Window On Our World and a Mirror For Ourselves

A small community of women and a man circled the foot of the cross to be with Jesus in his passion.  More at a distance, other women and men stood and watched.  Matthew’s account states, “Many women were present looking on from a distance.  They had followed Jesus from Galilee to attend to his needs.” (Matthew 27:55)

But Matthew (27:45-54) holds before us the crucified Jesus and invites us to draw close, to look intently, and to believe.  And in doing so, we find life.

      • To draw close
      • To look with faith
      • To respond to the need that is seen

That was the way of that early band of believers.  And that is also our way.

Do you see the account of the crucified son of Joseph and Mary as a “window” on our world and a “mirror” for ourselves?

Do you see in the body broken and the blood poured out an expression of the passion and compassion of God?

Do you see the darkness that descends upon the whole countryside as both a foreshadowing of the darkness of our own day as well as the creative atmosphere in which God secretly weaves our salvation?

Can you imagine the Earth quaking?  Can you see the boulders splitting and the tombs releasing their prisoners – a work that the cross, driven into the resistant earth, has accomplished?

Do you detect the seismic rumblings of our own day that are both the pains of labor and the promise of life?

Do you see in  your own struggles a participation in God’s passion and compassion that bonds you to one another and to all who suffer and struggle?

I sense that you do see all these things – and much more.  That is why we have much to celebrate in the Eucharist.

Your experience in the church and in the world gives you a “window” on the struggles of all people.  And by holding the mirror up to your own experiences in Christ, you draw near to the passion, to the cross, which opens onto the fullness of life.

Women are raising their prophetic voice in response to injustices in church and in society.  It is a voice that is strong, imaginative, and much needed.  It has great power.  What if a community of faith raised their voices in communion with other women and men of faith?  The Earth would still quake, the boulders split, and the tombs open before the truth spoken in love.

The prophetic voice is ultimately one of compassion, not condemnation.  God chooses women and men to raise their voices as an alarm to awaken the world to the destructiveness of its ways.  God calls them to express the divine longing that all draw nearer, that all turn back.  One of the realities that we celebrate in the Eucharist is the presence here of a prophetic spirit that is both passionate and compassionate.

What is more, we offer to God your identity as a community of believers.  Your prayer together generates an atmosphere of support and challenge that breathes life into the various ministries and services that you have undertaken.  That is an important witness for laity and clergy alike, as we all seek to understand the necessary community dimension of our faith.

How crucial are the choices that we make!  How important that our discernment be choices for light and not darkness, for life and not death!

Almighty God, to enter into the scene of the 
Thirteenth Station is at first to experience helplessness
in the face of death, especially the violent death of an
innocent person.  But as I stand here, I am reminded
that I, too, have a mission – to carry on Jesus’s own
mission and ministry, transforming darkness into
light.  Most important, I resolve to make choices for
life and light, not death and darkness.  Help me to
do this!
Amen.

We Are God’s Instruments of Light Who Dispel Darkness

The recognition that life is a precious but also fragile gift generates both a sense of responsibility and specific obligations.  Human life is not meant to be lived in isolation from others.  In our increasingly interdependent world, no one truly lives alone.  Rather, we live on various levels of human community, called both to defend our brothers’ and sisters’ right to life and to work toward enhancing the quality of their lives.

We must create an atmosphere within our society, a climate in which the value and sanctity of human life are acknowledged, affirmed, and defended.  Moreover, we must be consistent in our respect for and protection of human life at every stage and in every circumstance.  A commitment to human dignity and human rights requires protection of human life from conception until natural death.  It also requires a constant effort to assure every person a fullness of opportunity and a legitimate share in the material benefits and advantages of the modern world.

My dear brothers and sisters, who will bring light to dispel the darkness of our world?  If not you and me, then who?  And if not now, today, then when? 

Let us carefully heed and generously respond to the word of God: “I will make you a light to the nations that my salvation may reach to the ends of the Earth.” (Isaiah 49:6a)  We are the instruments God uses to dispel the world’s darkness.  There are no others.  So even if what we can do might seem insignificant, our effort is needed.  Let us, then, live up to our responsibility!

God of light and life, it is difficult to resume our
journey when someone beloved has been taken from
our midst.  we know that our lives will never be the
same.  It is time to begin the transition, however, to
the next phase of our journey.  Send your Spirit to
enable me to protect and defend, nurture and 
enhance every human life I encounter.  Help me
to be a light to the nations!
Amen.

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