STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Three — Jesus Falls For The First Time, by Henri Nouwen

stations of the cross nouwen

From Walk With Jesus

Alittle Vietnamese boy is left behind.  Why?  Maybe his parents were killed, abducted, or put in camps.  Maybe they tried to escape from the enemy and got caught in an ambush.  Maybe they were boat people who drowned,.  Maybe, maybe. . . but their child is left alone.  As I look into these eyes gazing into an empty future, I see the eyes of millions of children crushed by the powers of darkness.  This small, tender child needs to be held, needs to be hugged, kissed, cuddled.  He needs to feel the strong, loving hands of his father, hear the tender words of his mother, and see the eyes of those who say: “How beautiful you are.”  Where will this boy be safe?  Where will he know that he is truly loved?  Where can he run to when he gets scared and confused?  Where can he let his tear flow freely, his pain be received, his fearful dream be dispelled?  Who tickles his feet?  Who squeezes his hand?  Who rubs his cheeks?  He sits there, vulnerable, lonely, forgotten.  He is left behind by a humanity that can no longer hold on to its future.

All over the world, children fall under the weight of violence, war, corruption, and human anguish.  They are hungry, hungry for affection and food.  In the cold halls of institutions, they sit. . . waiting for someone to pay attention.  They sleep with strangers who use them to satisfy their own desires.  They roam the streets of the big cities, trying to survive alone or in small bands.  There are thousands, yes, millions of them all over the world.  They have not heard the voice that says: “You are my beloved, on you my favor rests,” (Luke 3:22).

Nowhere is our fallen humanity so painfully set before us as in these children.  They reveal our sins to us.  Abandoned and alone, they tell us that we have lost the grace to love our own.

What will become of these children when they grow older and become the men and women of the future.  Will they grab the gun in a desperate search for revenge?  Will they withdraw into lifelong silence in the wards of mental hospitals, or be locked behind bars as dangerous criminals?  Will they become terrorists, gangleaders, drug smugglers, pimps, or prostitutes?  Or will they discover that beyond and behind all human manipulations there are hands that hold them safe and offer a love that has no conditions?


Jesus fell under his cross.  He continues to fall.  Jesus is not the conquering hero who undergoes suffering with staunch determination and an iron will.  No, he who was born as a child of God and a child of Mary, adored by shepherds and wise men, never became the proud self-possessed leader who wanted to lead humanity to the great victory over the powers of darkness.  When he had grown into maturity, he humbled himself by joining penitent men and women and receiving baptism in the river Jordan.  It was then that he heard that voice deeply entering his heart: “This is my Son, the Beloved, my favor rests on Him,” (Matthew 3:17).  That voice carried him through life and shielded him from bitterness, jealousy, resentment, and revenge.  He always remained a child and said to his followers: “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven,” (Matthew 18:3).  Jesus is the innocent child falling under the heavy burden of the cross of human anguish – powerless, weak, and very vulnerable.  But there we can touch the mystery of the compassionate heart of God that embraces all children, around as well as within us.


I know that I am a child, a child who, underneath all my accomplishments and successes, keeps crying out to be held safe and loved without conditions.  I also know that losing touch with my child is losing touch with Jesus and all who belong to him.  Each time I touch my own child, I touch my powerlessness and my fear of being left alone with no one to give me a safe place.  Jesus falls beneath the cross to allow me to reclaim my child, that place in me where I am out of control and in desperate need of being lifted up and reassured.  The abandoned children of the world are in me.  Jesus tells me not to be afraid, to face them in my heart and suffer with them.  He wants me to discover that beyond all emotions of rejection and abandonment there is love, real love, lasting love, love that comes from a God who became flesh and who will never leave his children alone.

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