STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Nine — Jesus Falls For The Third Time, by Henri Nouwen

stations of the cross nouwen

From Walk With Jesus

A man stumbles and falls to the ground.  He is so weak and filled with pain that he cannot get back on his feet without help.  As he lies there powerless, he reaches out and opens his hands, hoping that another hand will grasp his and help him to stand again.  A hand waits for the touch of another hand.  The human hand is so mysterious.  It can create and destroy, caress and strike, make welcoming gestures and condemning signs; it can bless and curse, heal and wound, beg and give.  A hand can become a threatening fist as well as a symbol of safety and protection.  It can be most feared and most longed for.

One of the most life-giving images is that of human hands reaching out to each other, touching each other, interconnecting and merging into a sign of peace and reconciliation.  In contrast, one of the most despairing images is that of a hand stretched open, waiting to be touched with care, while people walk heedlessly by.  This is not only an image of the loneliness of the individual person, but of the loneliness of a divided humanity.  The hand of the poor world reaches out to be touched by the hand of the rich world, but the preoccupations of the rich prevent them from seeing the poor, and humanity remains broken and fragmented.


When Jesus fell for the third time, he lived in his body all the loneliness of a despairing humanity.  He could not get up again without help.  But there was no one reaching out to him and offering him the support to stand again.  Instead, his open hands were struck with a lash, and cruel hands pulled him back to a standing position.  Jesus, God-made-human, falls so that we can bend over to him and show him our love and compassion, but we are too busy with other things even to notice.  God, whose hands molded the universe, gave shape to Adam and Eve, touched every suffering person with tenderness, and who holds all things in love, became a human person with human hands asking for human hands.  But those very hands were left open and pierced with nails.


Ever since I came to know God’s hand – not as the powerful hand controlling the course of history, but as the powerless hand asking to be grasped by a caring human hand – I have been looking differently at my own hands.  Gradually, I have come to see God’s powerless hand reaching out to me from everywhere in the world, and, the clearer I see it, the closer these outstretched hands seem to be.  The hands of the poor begging for food, the hands of the lonely calling for simple presence, the hands of the children asking to be lifted up and held, the hands of the sick hoping to be touched, the hands of the unskilled wanting to be trained – all these hands are the hands of the fallen Jesus waiting for others to come and give him their hand.

There is always in me the temptation to think about the begging hands of the people in Calcutta, Cairo, or New York, far, far away, and not to see the open hands reaching out right into my own living space.  Every night I go to rest and look at my hands.  And I have to ask them: “Did you reach out to one of the open hands around you and bring a little bit of peace, hope, courage, and confidence?”  Somehow I sense that all human hands asking for help belong to the hands of our fallen humanity and that wherever we reach out and touch, we participate in the healing of the whole human race.

Jesus falling and seeking help to get up again to fulfill his mission, opens up for us the possibility of touching God and all of humanity in every human hand and experiencing there the true grace of God’s saving presence in our midst.

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