Headline: The Stations of the Cross

Posted on: 2015-02-17

The Lonely Hour

Today's pleasure-oriented world rejects the cross. This is hardly verbally or directly done, We however hear more than enough evidence of it from the " fire preachers" and "prayer warriors" of contemporary noisy and boisterous religion. An old-time Christian chorus runs: "There is power in the blood of Jesus". In our day it is as if the power of religion now resides in the amount of noise it generates. The lyrics have changed considerably too. "All to Jesus I surrender, all to him I freely give" has been replaced with "It is not my portion", "I reject it in Jesus' name", I bind and cast it into the deepest part of the sea". Trials, tribulations and unfavourable events or situations are banished with well-crafted Christian choruses such as: "Me I no go suffer, I no go beg for food", "Make me No 1 everywhere I go", "The God that answereth by fire, let him be my God" and so on. While it is true that the Bible affirms that everything works out for good for those who love God,(Rom 8:28), the same Bible firmly teaches that gold must pass through fire before it becomes the precious metal that we all cherish. "There is cause for joy, then, even though you may for a time, have to suffer many trials. Thus will your faith be tested like gold in a furnace. Gold, however, passes away, but faith, worth so much more, will bring you in the end praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ appears" (1 Pet. 6-7). That we never forget this and that we reject the falsehood of permanent pleasure and profit in this world is one of the purposes of the period of Lent. If we had unbroken uninterrupted pleasure here what would we really need heaven for?

The purpose of Lent

If we all seek only the victory and pleasure of the risen Christ, then it must be a lonely hour for Jesus who today continues to be crucified in the betrayal of truth, the oppression of the poor and the killing of the innocent among us. Is it not amazing that we still find Christians in Church in the parts of Nigeria devastated by anti-Christian insurgency and terrorism? These are people who "watch" with Jesus. Those of us, lucky not to suffer their predicament, need to be cross-compliant to understand such steadfastness in time of trials. Lent helps Christians to reaffirm the primacy of purpose over interest in our lives. The main purpose of Christianity is to bring all believers to salvation and to the good things of heaven (Jn 3:16). It is not first of all to help us achieve our individual interests of the good things of this life; get a new job, a new car, a life partner, defeat an enemy etc. If it does, wonderful, but that is not its first purpose. Jesus Christ, the most powerful and most divine human being that ever lived taught us that the way to achieve that purpose of salvation is by self denial, love of the neighbour, service, generosity of heart and humility. It is for those who pass through these necessary stages that the promise is assured that all things will work out for good. One of the transforming devotions recommended for the Lenten periods is called "The Stations of the Cross".

The stages of Jesus' passion    

"The Stations of the Cross" is a popular devotion because it celebrates the passion and death of Jesus Christ in fourteen steps. The faithful are encouraged to meditate on those fourteen steps and through them develop the virtues and spirituality to guide their lives; the obedient submission of Jesus to the will of God, his compassion for others even in the heat of his own suffering, his forgiveness of those who crucified him and his the meek acceptance of his mission by his mother, Mary. The popular negro spiritual "Lord, I want to be like Jesus in my heart" here finds its source. Imitation, they say, is the best form of flattery. Those whom we truly love, we try to emulate and accompany. To imitate Jesus in this way, must be a supreme way of showing him love. That is why catholic believers walk the way of the cross meditating on the trials, tribulations, passion and death of Jesus. Do you not remember that intimate and popular hymn in Christendom? "Just a closer walk with thee, oh sweet Jesus is all I ask. I'll be satisfied as long, as I walk, you let me walk close to thee".

Everything still works out for good

The commonest phrase in the prayers of "The Stations of the Cross" summarizes the purpose of the devotion itself. "We adore you, O Christ and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world". Such living close to the cross of Christ is perfectly in tune with the  will of the Master and with the Scriptures, given the contemporary obsession of the "Is it in the Scripture school". Jesus himself said: "If you want to follow me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life for my sake will find it (Matt. 16:24-25). So, "No cross, no crown", and as the old hymn states, "I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown". Since all the way to heaven is heaven, in walking that way of the Cross the Christian already experiences the joy, victory and bliss of paradise. God alone can make that happen. Did Jesus not say to the thief crucified with him: "Today you will be with me in paradise"?