STATIONS OF THE CROSS

Why a “Steward’s Way of the Cross”? Stewardship is all about receiving God’s gifts gratefully and sharing them generously. But to be good stewards, we have to understand first that we have been blessed – that all we have are the gifts of our good and loving God. Only then can we make our use of those gifts an act of Thanksgiving to the God who gave them. Our greatest single gift from God is Jesus, his life and ministry, his death on the cross and his resurrection for our salvation. It is appropriate to look at the gift of the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection through the lens of stewardship; to reflect on the Stations of the Cross and consider what gifts are being given and received in each one so that we are able to receive and rejoice more fully in the gift of God in Christ. Good and loving Father, we bring you praise and thanksgiving for the gift of your beloved Son, our Savior. As we walk this way of the cross, devoutly recalling his passion and death, send your Spirit to open our eyes to your gifts of grace that we may do this and all things in union with Christ. Amen.

THE FIRST STATION:  Jesus is condemned to death “Why? What evil has he done?” The gift of this first station is innocence. Pilate offers Jesus up for crucifixion. Jesus says nothing, but is in fact innocent of the crimes of which he is accused. An ancient Eucharistic prayer says “Jesus, your Son, innocent and without sin, gave himself into our hands and was nailed to a cross.” Through that selfless act, through his death and resurrection, we are saved. Save us, Savior of the world, for by your cross and resurrection, You have set us free.

THE SECOND STATION:  Jesus carries his cross …carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull We see in this station the gift of acceptance. Following Jesus may mean accepting burdens of one kind or another, and those burdens are also a gift. Saying “Yes” to the Lord means accepting the joys and sorrows that discipleship brings. Save us, Savior of the world, for by your cross and resurrection, You have set us free.

THE THIRD STATION:  Jesus falls the first time He himself was tested through what he suffered… The gift of this station is fortitude. The way of the cross is long and painful, and under the weight of the cross, Jesus stumbles and falls. But he gets up and begins again – and so must we when adversity brings us to our knees, confident that our Lord is with us in our troubles. Save us, Savior of the world, for by your cross and resurrection, You have set us free.

THE FOURTH STATION:  Jesus meets his mother … he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” There are many gifts here – the gift of relationships, the gift of Mary to John and in that way, to the whole Church – but the most important gift of this station is compassion. In her anguish, Mary came out to be present to her son, and even in the pain and cruelty of the crucifixion, Jesus made sure his mother would be loved and cared for. Save us, Savior of the world, for by your cross and resurrection, You have set us free.

THE FIFTH STATION:  Simon helps Jesus carry his cross …this man they pressed into service to carry his cross. The gift of this station is service. Big, strong, and available, Simon of Cyrene was a steward in spite of himself, putting those gifts to use in the service of the Lord. We have gifts to share, too, and we share them best when we are “bearing one another’s burdens,” engaged in the loving service of our neighbor. Save us, Savior of the world, for by your cross and resurrection, You have set us free.

THE SIXTH STATION:  Veronica wipes the face of Jesus “…whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Loving kindness is the gift of this station. Heedless of the danger to herself in a crowd of angry men, Veronica presses forward to wipe the sweat-stained face of Jesus, her love for Him overcoming her fear. In this small, loving act, we see that no gift of ours is too small or too insignificant to be offered. It is good stewardship to “do small things with great love.” Save us, Savior of the world, for by your cross and resurrection, You have set us free.

THE SEVENTH STATION:  Jesus falls the second time …it was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured. The gift here is endurance. Jesus falls a second time, but struggles to his feet and continues. In the Garden, He had prayed to be spared this, but rose from prayer strengthened to do the Father’s will, not his own. Following Jesus is the work of a lifetime, and to fall is not to fail. With the strength of the one who bore our burdens, we can begin again and persevere on our Christian journey. Save us, Savior of the world, for by your cross and resurrection, You have set us free.

THE EIGHTH STATION:  Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem These women had followed him when he was in Galilee… These women who had faithfully followed Jesus during his ministry were drawn by their love for him into this scene of unimaginable horror. They brought emotional gifts of sympathy and concern. And, like women of every age, just by being there, they also brought the gift of presence to the one whose suffering they were not otherwise able to ease. Save us, Savior of the world, for by your cross and resurrection, You have set us free.

THE NINTH STATION:  Jesus falls the third time By his wounds we have been healed. The gift of this station is selflessness. A man for others, Jesus teaches us to bear one another’s burdens, to set aside self interest and use our gifts to help the poor, the suffering, and the forgotten. Weary and weak, He summons his remaining strength to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Good stewards must follow His example. Save us, Savior of the world, for by your cross and resurrection, You have set us free.

THE TENTH STATION:  Jesus is stripped of his garments “They divided my garments among them…” Here we see true humility. Stripped naked on that first Good Friday, Jesus invites us to strip away the nonessentials in our lives and focus on what really matters. Good stewards know that they have nothing – even their very life is a gift – that has not come as a gift from God. And humbly acknowledging that fact, they then use their gifts for others, in thanksgiving. Save us, Savior of the world, for by your cross and resurrection, You have set us free.

THE ELEVENTH STATION:  Jesus is nailed to the cross “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Forgiveness – even for his tormentors – is the gift of this station. Discipleship is not an easy road. “If you wish to come after me,” Jesus said, “you must deny yourself and take up your cross daily and follow me. For if you wish to save your life you will lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake you will save it.” And here’s the hard part… If we are truly following Jesus, we must forgive from the heart all who have hurt us in any way. Save us, Savior of the world, for by your cross and resurrection, You have set us free.

THE TWELFTH STATION:  Jesus dies on the cross “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” Here we see the ultimate gift – the total self sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus who has always given himself to the will of the Father, now gives his life as well. “There is no greater love than this, than to lay down one’s life for a friend,” he had told his disciples. Here on the cross as he breathes his last, he shows the depth of his love for them – and for us. Save us, Savior of the world, for by your cross and resurrection, You have set us free.

The body of Jesus is taken down from the cross Joseph of Arimathea… came and took his body. A tentative disciple at first, Joseph of Arimathea now braves the wrath of the authorities and asks for the body of Jesus. The gift we see in him is faithfulness. Once having committed to follow Jesus, he was faithful to the end, giving this last act of love and service. Good stewards are like that – always and everywhere saying “Yes” to the will of God, even when it’s difficult or dangerous. Save us, Savior of the world, for by your cross and resurrection, You have set us free.

The body of Jesus is laid in the tomb Joseph wrapped it in clean linen and laid it in his new tomb The gift of this station is generosity. Joseph of Arimathea gives his own new tomb to Jesus. What a bittersweet joy he must have felt to be able to give this one last gift to the Lord. But the truth is, whenever we give generously of the gifts God has so bountifully given to us – to anyone — we give them to the Lord. It is the duty and the blessing of good stewards to give freely, as we have freely received. Save us, Savior of the world, for by your cross and resurrection, You have set us free.

 

WALKING ALONGSIDE JESUS WITH COURAGE AND HOPE

On Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, we are at the entrance to Holy Week. We’ve made a Lenten journey and now stand with Jesus before the gates of Jerusalem. We know that once we enter through those gates we shall be swept up in events that we cannot control and that will bring us to the very edge of what we can bear, as we walk with Jesus to Calvary and the tomb.

Our Lenten journey with COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has become an unusual one indeed. We have walked into the valley of the surreal. The new pandemic has left most members of our society feeling afraid, anxious, isolated and alone. In an increasingly tension-filled society, the Coronavirus could rapidly mutate into an epidemic of despair.

But Christian stewards are strengthened by their faith, courage and hope as they have for centuries in times of pandemic. It is precisely at times like these that their stewardship of faith and love of neighbor make the Gospel of Jesus Christ real and not just a mere sentiment. More than ever, their lives of faith give them the courage to live with an open heart even at the center of seemingly unbearable tension.  Holy Week teaches us that God is able to transform everything about us, especially our fears and anxieties, our unfaithfulness and sinfulness. But to be open to that transformation in our lives requires some radical changes in our hearts, so much so that we might be stunned and frightened at the thought. It requires the will to endure some dying to self.

Let us start with our stewardship of prayer: Prayer is the great mediating force that gives us hope. Jesus instructed his disciples to pray always and not lose heart. Let us make a commitment to prayer as we have never done before, with great trust that our prayer has real power.

Stewardship of health: Let us embrace a new health regimen that includes obsessively maintaining a scrupulous hygienic routine so that we may take better care of ourselves and avoid infecting others. Stewardship of our neighbor: Let us follow Jesus’ injunction to love our neighbor as ourselves. Let us remember to check in on our neighbors and older family members and help where we may. And let us ultimately be ready and willing to sacrifice for others without counting the cost to ourselves.

The gates to the city of Jerusalem are open. Jesus does not steer us away from the gates and send us back into the silence of the desert. He keeps us close to him as we stand at the entrance. He bids us peace and assures us that he will always be with us if we will only listen. With the help of God’s grace, let us embrace stewardship more fully and find the strength to enter into the great city with Jesus, to walk with him to his cross and his resurrection with courage and hope.

BLESSED JAMES OLDO: Good Steward of His Neighbors during a Pandemic

Giacomo Oldo was born in 1364 to a prosperous family in Lodi, Italy near Milan. His father died while he was young, leaving him a legacy that made him a wealthy man.

Giacomo was married at a young age to Caterina Bocconi, and they had three children. The young couple enjoyed a life of extravagance and luxury. In the late 14th century, when the Black Death pandemic of 1347 reemerged in northern Italy, Giacomo, like many other wealthy citizens of Lombardy, took Caterina, his mother and three children and secluded them in one of their country houses to escape the disease. Despite their precautions, however, two of his daughters died from the plague. Giacomo’s grief was deep, but it was not until he attended the funeral of a close friend who died from the pandemic that he experienced a profound radical conversion to Jesus Christ.

He became a Secular Franciscan and began using one of his houses as a hospital where he took care of the sick and provided for the poor in his region of Lombardy. Caterina was initially opposed to his work, as was his mother. But after seeing his devotion and tireless efforts on behalf of the sick, they eventually joined him in caring for the afflicted. Caterina became a Secular Franciscan herself. In 1397 Caterina passed away, and soon thereafter, Giacomo was ordained a priest by the bishop of Lodi. His house was transformed into a chapel where small groups of people, many of them fellow Secular Franciscans, came for prayer and support. He became a celebrated preacher, and was known to have inspired many to enter consecrated religious life.

Giacomo died in 1404 at the age of 40 after contracting a disease from one of his patients. He was buried at the church of Saint Julian, the construction of which he and Caterina had financed. In the 18th century, his body was finally interred at the cathedral in Lodi. Giacomo was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1933.