STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Thirteen — Jesus Is Taken From The Cross, by Henri Nouwen

stations of the cross nouwen

From Walk With Jesus

In December 1980, Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Jean Donovan, and Dorothy Kazel were brutally murdered on the road between the airport and San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador.  They had been stopped by Salvadoran security forces as they returned to their home after a short stay outside of the country.  They were raped, tortured, and killed, and their bodies thrown into a common grave dug in a cow pasture.  What was their crime?  They had cared for the poor of El Salvador.  They had tried to bring food and medicine to the people who had been driven from their homes and villages and were trying to survive in isolated mountain areas.  These four faithful, hardworking churchwomen had no other desire than to alleviate some of the immense suffering of their oppressed neighbors and to show them, in the midst of hatred and violence, that people can truly love one another.

But their care and concern had fired the rage of the oppressors and had put their names on the death list.  Their existence could no longer be tolerated; they had to be annihilated, eradicated from the face of the Earth.  Their simple presence had become unbearable for the enemies of life.  The hatred was blatant and undisguised.  They must be killed immediately.

Shortly after they had been assassinated and their bodies covered with dirt, they were found.  Their friends and the poor people of the area stood there in unspeakable sorrow, gazing in anguish at the slaughter of the innocent women.  An immense grief pierced their hearts, and grief screamed out through all the world: “How long, how long, O Lord, before justice will reign?”

After Pilate had been assured of Jesus’s death, he granted the body to Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council “who himself had lived in the hope of seeing the Kingdom of God,” (Mark 15:43).  Joseph “bought a shroud, took Jesus down from the cross, and wrapped him in the shroud,” (Mark 15:46).  Mary, the mother of Jesus, was there.  Long ago, when she had let old Simeon hold her child in his arms, she had heard his words: “A sword will pierce your soul,” (Luke 2:35).  Now, as she received the body of Jesus in her arms, these words were being fulfilled.  Jesus had suffered and died, but the sorrow of her who had loved him as mother now brought forth a pain such as had never been suffered before by any human being.  Mary’s sorrow was as deep as her love.  She who had embraced the Son of God with her love, now embraced the whole of humanity with her sorrow.  She whose heart had been so pure that it could be a fitting abode for the Savior of the World, was called now to carry all human suffering in that heart and so become mother of all.  Mary stood beneath the cross; Mary received the body of Jesus and held him in her immense solitude.  The intimate union between love and sorrow that was formed as she held her son in her arms, would continue to exist in all those who chose to live close to the heart of God.

To love truly is to be willing to embrace sorrow.  To love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength is to expose your heart to the greatest sorrow a human being can know.  Love for Jesus made the four American churchwomen carry in their hearts the sorrow of the poor of the world, especially those in El Salvador. Their deaths, in turn, caused an immense sorrow in the hearts and minds of their brothers and sisters.  The life of a Christian is a life of love for Jesus.  “Do you love me?”  That is the question he asks us three times.  And when we say: “Yes, Lord, you know I love you,” he says: “You will be taken where you would rather not go,” (see John 21:15-18).  There is never love without sorrow, never commitment without pain, never involvement without loss, never giving without suffering, never a “Yes” to life without many deaths to die.  Whenever we seek to avoid sorrow, we become unable to love.  Whenever we choose to love, there will be many tears.  When silence fell around the cross and all was accomplished, Mary’s sorrow reached out to all the ends of the Earth.  But all those who come to know that sorrow in their own hearts will come to know it as the mantle of God’s love and cherish it as the hidden mystery of life.

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