Last night I attended Stations of the Cross in my parish, St. Hubert. My experience of Stations is varied, with different stations touching more deeply at some times than others. One that always touches me, however, is the ninth station, Jesus falling for the third time.
Sometimes our crosses seem so heavy. Pressures at work, tension with a family member, money problems, the illness or death of a close friend or family member. Or maybe not a big thing, but just an accumulation of little irritations, of too many things not going our way. We get tired, frustrated. I know myself, there have been times, when I’ve wanted to say, “No more, God. Please, make it stop. I just can’t take any more.”
By the time Jesus falls for the third time, He is exhausted. He can barely see through the blood and sweat covering His face. He is in worse pain than we can easily imagine and can barely move forward under the crushing weight of the cross. The thought of going one step further, let alone the thought of what awaited Him at the end of the road, must have been almost impossible to bear.
By the time Jesus falls for the third time, the fall must have almost seemed like a blessing – a moment of rest from this painful walk to his death. As Jesus lay on the ground, how tempting it must have been to stay there, to say – “No more, Father. Please make it stop. I can’t take any more. Please, let it end now.” And what just and merciful God, what loving Father, could have failed to hear that plea?
But Jesus doesn’t do that. Slowly, painfully, with a will sufficient to overcome the unwillingness in his arms and legs, with a strength that could only have been born of his limitless love, Jesus pulls himself up, takes back his cross and resumes on his way.
And that is what speaks to me in this station: not the action of the station itself – Jesus falling for the third time – but the action that followed, Jesus getting up again and picking back up that cross – that cross that was so much heavier to bear than any cross we are asked to carry. And although we mark only three falls during the 14 stations, we are confident that no matter how many times Jesus fell, He would keep getting up.
In those moments, when I feel weighed down, when I want to just crawl under the blankets and say, “No more. Leave me alone,” what I see is Jesus picking himself up and taking back his cross. And Jesus turns to me (as he turns to each of us) and says, “Look. If I can do this, so can you. Come. Walk with me. We’ll carry our crosses together.”