America StaffMarch 28, 2021
Photo by Thomas Despeyroux on Unsplash.

In a year of pandemic, praying through the Stations of the Cross in person—in a church or otherwise—may not be accessible to you. But Jesus is of course among us, the one of us who took up the holiest cross of love, the one who stands always with the marginalized. You can pray the stations in any location, even at your computer, and we at America want to help you do that. 

Below, we invite you to read through reflections for each station, each of which situates Jesus among the people suffering in our world today. We invite you to bring your mind, body and heart into a prayerful space as you accompany Christ through each station, which will include relevant readings and video. Take it all at your pace. We hope that you allow God to open your heart and speak to you as you encounter each station in a new way; perhaps you may feel yourself led to a concrete course of action to accompany Christ further in our suffering world.


Christ is condemned to death.
In this moment, Jesus is close to those who are on death row.

You are arrested—does it matter what for? You have committed what the state and maybe even God calls a crime. You go through court proceedings with a “jury of your peers,” and you stand there as a judge tells you that this jury has decided that you deserve to die, so die you shall. This is where Christ’s Passion begins, at the moment his neighbors actively choose death for him. Today there are people sitting within four walls and waiting, people who have been told that they do not deserve to live. People into whom God has breathed life, so that they might know love. Jesus is with them. And where are we?

Read more about the death penalty to more deeply connect with Christ through the suffering among us:

                     

We adore you O Christ and we bless you. 
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.


The cross is laid upon him.
In this moment, Jesus is close to those who have disabilities.

The weight of sin and reconciliation was laid upon his back. Jesus took on the burden of mankind’s failures to love. In our world, people with disabilities are forced to take on this very same burden. All people are created in the image of God, forming together the body of God. When a community excludes and discriminates against people with different abilities, there is a gaping lack of true love. This is a cross. A cross has been laid upon those who are beloved by God and spurned by their neighbors because they do not fit an ableist mold. Few communities make sure to intentionally include and make accessible their spaces and activities, to extend that sense of belonging to people with disabilities. This dehumanization manifests itself as a daily cross of ostracism or barriers that other people lay upon them out of mindlessness, prejudice or apathy. 

                   

We adore you O Christ and we bless you. 
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.


Jesus falls.
In this moment, Jesus is close to those who have a mental illness.

And what of the mind? Pushed to a bodily limit, betrayed and detained and shoved and beaten and crowned with thorns that dig blood from your scalp and forehead, knowing you are to die, you must keep climbing with the cross hung over your back. And you must do it even though your own mind may ensnare you into a reality of deep desolation. You yourself may know a particular cross of the mind—someone in your life definitely does. Mental illness, for millions upon millions worldwide, is an agony “invisible.” Whatever it may be, whatever diagnosis or duration or swirling pool of symptoms and thought patterns, Christ is there, in each fall. He knows the tumble, even when much of the world still refuses to acknowledge this particular cross of disease.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you. 
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.


Christ meets his mother, Mary.
In this moment, Jesus is with parents and families experiencing distress.

For many, family is a source of encounter with God’s love on this earth. For many, family is also a source of pain, trauma and obstacle; every person’s experience with family—even the idea of family—is unique and complex. Jesus had to meet his mother on the way to his execution, had to look into her eyes and feel the tsunami of her despair, and Mary had to watch her child be crucified. Sometimes, it may be a parent-child relationship that does the crucifying. Sometimes, it may be the foster system that does the crucifying. Sometimes, it may be abuse, generational trauma, a lack of resources or an unwillingness to forgive that does the crucifying. Jesus looks on all of it and takes on the whole cross of family into his own heart.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you. 
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.


Simon of Cyrene is made to bear the cross.
In this moment, Jesus is close to those suffering from economic inequality.

The plight of the worker is near and dear to Christ, and this was something recognized by St. Óscar Romero and the other architects of liberation theology, which is concerned with economic justice and seeks the liberation of the poor from the evils of poverty. Christ, who we must remember was not only fully divine but also fully human, would not have been able to carry his cross without assistance from Simon of Cyrene. Simon, who was commanded by the Romans to help Christ, did not initially want to help. But it was through this act of compelled generosity that Christ was able to complete his mission on earth. So too must we accept our social and economic responsibility to those who are less fortunate, to the workers who are breaking their backs to make ends meet, even if we ourselves are inconvenienced. In the end, we will be like Simon of Cyrene and play our own small part in God’s call to accompany one another and to alleviate earthly suffering.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you. 
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.


Veronica wipes Christ's face.
In this moment, Jesus is close to all those who act as caretakers, whether in their own families and communities or as professional first responders.

The very brief story of Veronica and her insistent discipleship has captured the imaginations of believers for centuries. In the many moments of need in the pandemic, first responders have stepped up to help, in big, life-saving ways and in small, intimate ways that mirror Veronica’s delicate wiping of Christ’s face. In the midst of such deep, profound suffering, Veronica’s example suggests a question we all can ask ourselves: “What is it that I can do to help?” Not all of us will be health care workers, making a direct impact on the front lines. But how can we be helpful in our families, our households? What small acts of care can we show to strangers with whom we share space for a short time? Simply, where can we identify needs that we have the ability to compassionately and lovingly meet?

We adore you O Christ and we bless you. 
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.


Jesus falls the second time.
In this moment, Christ is close to those who are barred from receiving good health care.

Jesus healed many people in his short ministry. This was indeed a focus of his ministry, the physical health and well-being of those he encountered and loved. On his way to the crucifixion, Christ experienced bodily pain that places him alongside those who know this pain, whether it be chronic or temporary illness or injury. And Christ was made to suffer it, as many are made to suffer further in their sickness because they are actively hindered in a variety of ways from receiving the medical care they need. Because they are poor, because of systemic racism, because they are not prioritized by society as people worthy of quality life and precedence, many suffer more than they would if they had access to health care. The health care exists, but is not available to them—and many even die because of this exclusion. 

We adore you O Christ and we bless you. 
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.


The women of Jerusalem weep over Jesus.
In this moment, Jesus is close to all women who are excluded and underappreciated.

When the cross-bearing Jesus passes the women of Jerusalem, their care and concern for his predicament boils over into visible emotion. Even in his own pain, he acts as a caretaker to those who share his grief. As they will continue to do throughout his Passion and then after his resurrection, women put their bodies and their hearts in close proximity to Christ. In today’s church and world, this legacy persists. Though they do not always receive appropriate credit or recognition, women are leaders in the church and in the world. Their compassionate and insightful contributions sustain our communities in moments of both triumph and tragedy.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you. 
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.


Jesus falls the third time.
In this moment, Christ is close to all migrants and refugees who suffer at the hands of conflict, violence and instability.

In the desert at the southern border of the United States, too many people lose their lives as they undertake a treacherous journey away from their homes and toward some hope of safety. Around the globe, migrants, refugees and displaced persons suffer persecution and dangerous physical conditions as they attempt to start their lives anew and recreate a sense of home in a new place. Christ accompanies them on their journey, but violence, conflict and oppression by their neighbors produce a degree of suffering that cannot be overstated. May the politicians, public servants, voters, neighbors, all who have the power to stand in solidarity with the vulnerable remember their duty.

                    

We adore you O Christ and we bless you. 
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.


Christ is stripped of his garments.
In this moment, Jesus is close to all members of the L.G.B.T. community who experience exclusion and prejudice at the hands of the church and others.

As Jesus is stripped of his garments, he is exposed to shame and publicly labeled as an outcast. Time and time again, our L.G.B.T. brothers and sisters have been mocked and chastised in the moments of their greatest suffering. Their very identities and lived experiences have become the subjects of public debate. In our church, they fight for the acknowledgment that they belong in spaces that are meant to be welcoming to all. Signs of progress toward their inclusion are stifled when familiar biases and prejudices rear their heads. In personal conversations with L.G.B.T. Catholics, though, a deep-seated hope and determination is apparent. Even in public shame, hurt and exclusion, their commitment to the justice Christ himself represented is unshakeable.

                      

We adore you O Christ and we bless you. 
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.


Christ is crucified.
In this moment, Jesus is close to those oppressed by racism.

Far too often, people are marginalized, singled out and killed because they are convenient targets. Let us not forget that Jesus himself was the subject of a political killing and the victim of the machinations of those who were above his station in Roman-occupied Judea. In today’s world, there are entire cadres of people who are used as scapegoats for the ills of society. Just as Jesus was blamed for sowing division among Jews, so too are minorities unfairly blamed for creating conflict. There is a reprehensible history of authority figures diminishing the power of Black communities in a racist attempt to keep them where they are; the fight against structural and systemic racism continues to this day. Jesus stands beside them, however, knowing what it is like when the powerful were afraid of the unification of the powerless. When you see the unjust killing of a Black man, imagine Christ’s face in place of his, and you will understand what place Jesus had in society.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you. 
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.


Jesus dies on the cross.
In this moment, Christ is close to all people who face death.

There is a lot of death in our world. Jesus knew it well. Jesus saw it everywhere he went. Jesus wept when Lazarus died. And then Jesus died a horrific death and continues to die a horrific death, because he is with all people suffering the horrors and brutal slaughter of war. Remember the people of Yemen, who by the tens of millions are in need of humanitarian aid because of the ramifications of civil and proxy war. Because of direct hostilities of battle and humanitarian crisis, 233,000 in Yemen have died since 2015. The United Nations has warned that projections show 400,000 Yemeni children may die in 2021 from starvation. Christ is as close to them as their very breath.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you. 
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.


Jesus is taken down from the cross.
In this moment, Jesus is close to those who are grieving the loss of loved ones.

In addition to remembering the lives we have lost, we must take a moment to turn our thoughts to the many family members and friends who are left struggling in the fresh absence of their loved ones. To continue living one’s life with purpose when there is a persistent and palpable feeling of loss following you everywhere is uniquely painful. When Jesus was crucified, all those who loved him felt the hopelessness that so many people know today in the wake of this enormous loss of life. We can form support networks for one another, knowing that the collective experiences of grief we have had in the past year can aid us in understanding each other and showing love to our neighbors in their struggle.

                      

We adore you O Christ and we bless you. 
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.


Jesus is laid in the tomb.
In this moment, Jesus is close to all those who have courageous hope in the midst of tragedy.

When contemporary listeners hear that Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb, we already know that this is not the end of the story. We are able to have hope because we know that resurrection is not far away. The disciples of his day, though, did not have that sure knowledge to ground their hope. And when it comes to the loss and troubles experienced in our world today, neither do we. It is creative, brave, even radical for us to imagine that the days ahead will bring us out of the pain we feel now and into times of peace. While we cannot know exactly what that resurrection will look like, it is our act of bravery to trust that, in one way or another, it will come. And it will bring us Easter joy.

We adore you O Christ and we bless you. 
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

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