The Way of the Cross
By Fr. Ron MacDonell
This Way of the Cross was prepared by Scarboro missioner Fr. Ron MacDonell. It follows the Stations of the Cross introduced by Pope John Paul II in 1991, in which some of the traditional stations have been omitted and others added so that all 14 stations are based on Scripture. After meditating on each station, we invite you to pray the Jesus prayer:
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
1. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
At certain times in our lives, we are faced with a dilemma. We spend the night awake, tossing and turning. We worry. In times like these, we pray to discern God’s will and we receive courage from the example of Jesus who endured the agony in the garden. Among the poor of Brazil, many mothers and fathers spend sleepless nights watching over a sick child, praying that God’s healing Spirit will permit the child to live. Let us work as Church to create a more just society where basic needs are met to ensure better health and a life of dignity.
2. Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested
Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him. (Mark 14:45-46)
Have you ever felt betrayed by someone, a person you considered a friend? A biting word or action can bring your world down around you. In areas of conflict around the world, the spirit of Judas still lives and betrayals can lead to arrest and death. Let us pray for people in countries like Syria and the Ukraine, that they will have truth and peace. Let us pray that the dignity of each human being will be respected.
3. Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin
They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.” (Luke 22:70-71)
Innocent people are condemned to death in many regimes throughout the world at the whim of their political leaders. The verdict is known before the trial begins. The International Criminal Court in The Hague is a just court of appeal to prosecute individuals engaged in genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Let us pray that judges and tribunals be fair and just in their deliberations. Let us pray for an end to human rights abuses and violations of international laws.
4. Jesus is denied by Peter
Those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” (Matthew 26:73-74)
Have you ever denied knowing Jesus? We do not like to think of ourselves as Peter who gave in to his fear of being recognized and arrested. Yet when we deny someone’s dignity, when we pass by the street person, when we don’t speak out in defence of the marginalized or the persecuted, we deny Christ. Let us pray to be more courageous in standing in solidarity with others.
5. Jesus is judged by Pilate
So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate. “Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate. “You have said so,” Jesus replied...Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. (Mark 15:1-2, 15)
Pilate was a Roman governor representing the oppressors in Judea, an out of the way province. He handed Jesus over in order to satisfy the local leaders. As Canadians living in one of the richest and most developed countries on the planet, what is our attitude towards other nations? Do our international policies take into account the poor and the marginalized? Do our investment policies consider that Jesus is alive in each person in the Sudan, in Guatemala, in the Philippines? Do we consider their welfare or do we wash our hands of these matters? Let us commit ourselves to working for justice and peace in our world.
6. Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns
The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face. (John 19:2-3)
Right at this very moment, in some dark hole in some corner of the world, someone is undergoing torture: beatings, electric shock, water boarding, sleep deprivation…. We pray that God’s Holy Spirit with give them the strength to endure the pain. We pray that the torturers will stop, that they will recognize their common humanity. We are all sisters and brothers. We thank God for people who work against torture and help victims heal after they have been released. Let us support organizations such as the United Nations Human Rights Committee Against Torture.
7. Jesus takes up his cross
Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull, Golgotha. (John 19:16-17)
Jesus knew the physical suffering that he would undergo on the Cross. Painful too was the rejection by his own people as they shouted for his crucifixion. He was totally misunderstood: his Kingship is not of this world. He is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, the meek and gentle Anointed One of God whose message of love and compassion was too simple for a world caught up in an intricate web of greed, profit, power, and control. God is love. Jesus is love. Let us open our hearts to him.
8. Jesus is helped by Simon to carry his cross
A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. (Mark 15:21)
Jesus, overwhelmed, weakened by the scourging, now carries the heavy wooden cross in the hot sun. He gratefully feels the burden lifted a little as Simon helps him. We can all remember times when a friend has sat with us and listened to our pain. We, too, have been present to others as they struggled with some darkness in their lives. We are not alone. Let us humbly accept help when it is offered to us. Let us be generous in helping others to carry their cross. Let us live our lives in solidarity.
9. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.” (Luke 23:27-28)
The women cry for Jesus, deeply moved by his suffering and recalling his life of healing and kindness. Jesus’ mother Mary now understands Simeon’s prophecy at the Presentation, “And a sword will pierce your soul too.” How many women have stood aghast at the suffering and violence in our world, while bearing much of that suffering? In Argentina, starting in 1977, the “Mothers of May Square” stood in silent protest at the disappearance of their sons and daughters. Over 30,000 people were abducted, tortured, executed, and dumped into mass graves at the hands of the military during the dictatorship. The women’s tears of lament drew attention to the criminal attack on the innocent. Let us stand in solidarity with those who suffer the loss of human rights.
10. Jesus is crucified
When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:33-34)
Crucifixion was the standard execution method of the Romans, used to maximize pain and induce fear. The victim suffered for hours and even days under the hot sun of the Holy Land. The nails hammered into wrists and feet tore nerves in arms and legs. Any movement was agonizing as the victim had to raise up in order to breathe. Eventually weakened, death came by suffocation. As Jesus suffers this atrocious torture unto death, his heart of love forgives those committing these acts. God is love. The Son of God loved even unto death.
11. Jesus promises his kingdom to the repentant thief
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43)
Two thieves were crucified with Jesus. One of the thieves keeps a hardened heart, mocking Jesus. Pride and self-sufficiency are at the root of his sin. The other thief, however, embraces humility and recognizes Jesus’ innocence. He repents and converts—he literally “turns toward” Jesus—and receives pardon, walking with Jesus into Paradise. Let us pray for the grace of humility and repentance.
12. Jesus entrusts Mary and John to each other
When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” (John 19:26- 27)
In his pain, Jesus consoles his mother by entrusting her to his beloved disciple. John is the first disciple to call Mary, the mother of Jesus, his own mother too. Jesus calls us to be one family. When told by his dis-ciples that his family sought him, Jesus proclaimed, “Who are my mother and my brothers? Anyone who does the will of God is my brother and my sister and my mother.” Jesus also entrusts us to one another. We are all family. Let us care for one another.
13. Jesus dies on the cross
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:44-46)
As Jesus breathes his last breath, he calls upon God the Father and entrusts his spirit to him. “Spirit” means breath in Latin, and it calls to mind God’s breath, ruah, hovering over the water at the beginning of creation, and the breath of life that God breathed into Adam and Eve. Jesus is the Son of the Living God, the living breath of life. On the cross, he gives his final breath, his spirit, to the Creator. Later, as the Resurrected Christ, he breathes on the apostles, gifting them with the Holy Spirit. He will send this Holy Spirit to them again at Pentecost. It is the Holy Spirit, the holy breath of God, that lives and moves in us. Let us breathe and move in the Spirit.
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb
Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. (Matthew 27:59-60)
Jesus is placed in the tomb, his still body enveloped by darkness. “He descended into hell,” we proclaim in the Apostle’s Creed. Yet there is light in the darkness. God raises Jesus to new life: “On the third day he rose again from the dead.” We have all experienced the death of loved ones. Are they gone forever? We believe they are alive because Jesus conquered death and offers us new life. The Resurrected Jesus was transformed, the same yet different, embodying new and eternal life. This is our hope, this is our faith: the love of Jesus will give us eternal life and peace. “Glory be to God whose power in us can do infinitely more that we can ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20)