From: The Way of the Cross
There is something about the taste of failure that damps the spirit. But when the failure comes time after time, as it does in this ninth station when, having already fallen twice, Jesus falls again, then the very marrow of a person’s soul is frozen in place. What is the use? we say. Why bother? we begin to wonder.
At these moments, there are parts of life that die in us. Our dreams wither a bit. What we had hoped to be able to do has come undone. What we had planned for years to do is no longer in the realm of the possible, we think. Everything we were sure we could do alone, could do at all, could do maybe as well as anyone else if not better, has come to dust.
Then, there is nothing left for us to do but to accept the failure and retire from the fray or to reject the failure and risk the thought of being forever second class, not quite up to it, behind everyone else in the race of life.
There is a third option, of course, and that is to go on anyway, go on despite the effort of it all. There is a classic short movie making the rounds of the digital world. In it, a handicapped child runs a marathon with his class of normal runners. They all outrun him. But he is the one who wins. Why? How? Simply by crossing the finish line – not with them but long after them. After all of them had done what was easy, he did what looked to be impossible for him, what had indeed seemed almost deadly for him – he simply ran the race all the way and crossed the finish line. And, in crossing it, he showed the world that it is not what we do “pretty” that calculates the depths of a person’s soul. It’s what we do beyond all the odds that matters.
Life is a matter of going on beyond the possible. When the work is draining but we do it despite that because others will suffer if we do not, we are fully alive. When the great ideal of our hearts is far, far beyond our resources, but we strive for it regardless, we are fully alive and the world is better because we were here. When we continue to do what is difficult for us because it is worth doing, then we have become the fullness of ourselves. Then there is nothing we want to do that is impossible; like the child in the race, it will only take us a little longer to do it.
The call of the ninth station is to refuse to give up doing what the world needs to have done simply because we do not succeed at it on the first try. The call is to see failure as part of the process of our lives and to learn from it accordingly.
There is no call as important as refusing to quit doing what is worth doing.
The ninth station of the cross demands that we persevere in doing good, in being what we must be, in holding our course even when the pressures around us mount to break our spirits. Just when we think we have come to a plateau in life, things change. The job disappears, the home begins to fragment, sickness slows us down, relationships break our heart. It all seems useless. All the efforts seem to be for nothing. Then it is time to realize that there is nothing we now take for granted in life that wasn’t first considered either untenable to do or insane even to think about. That’s when getting up and starting over becomes one of the miracles of life. When Jesus falls, Jesus certainly wants to quit. But Jesus’s life was about accepting the consequences of love and justice, whatever that might be. Quitting was not an option.
The questions with which the ninth station confronts us are challenging ones: Are we about something impossible enough to be worth every effort of our lives? And, if not, why not? What great contest, what inconceivable race, is life about for us?
Since when did complacency become a virtue when love is in need of repair and truth is in need of proclamation? If we are not involved in something that demands the unstinting best of us and threatens the very core of us, what is life about?
When we refuse to give up, when we go on trying – whatever the odds against success – something new is born in us. Instead of a sense of failure, the very matter of trying recreates our sense of purpose, our sense of commitment, the perpetuity of the dream. What does it matter if justice never comes, as long as we refuse to abandon the ideal? What happens to the vision of equality if we never let go of our demand for it? And on the other hand, what will happen to the will of God for the world if we will doggedly go on giving our own lives to it so that others may know its fullness in their own?
To rise to new life in our own time, it is necessary that we rise to every call of every station to which Jesus leads us.