Today Pope Francis will lead the annual “Way of the Cross” service in the Colosseum in Rome. As an interesting aside, it was Franciscan friars that popularized the devotional series of meditations known as the “Way of the Cross” in its earliest years because of the in ability of pilgrims to make a physical trip to the Holy Land during the shameful and devastating years of the crusades. Walking the “Way of the Cross” in one’s local church allowed Christians to enter into the experience through imagination, meditation, and prayer. Traditionally, each station included the (real) prayer of St. Francis, also known as St. Francis’s prayer before the crucifix:
We adore You, Most Holy Lord,
Here and in all of your churches throughout the world,
And we bless You, Because by Your Holy Cross
You have redeemed the world.
Since the first versions of the “Way of the Cross” devotions there have been a variety of approaches to the series of meditations that focus on how the prayerful reflection on the Passion of Christ might apply to our times and places. For example, the Maryknoll is sponsoring an “Economic and Ecological Way of the Cross” today in Washington, DC. Others have focused the meditations on the condemnation and suffering of Christ in terms of the violence and suffering of our world today or other injustices that might persist.
This year’s Vatican-sponsored “Way of the Cross” is very social-justice oriented. The meditations and prayers feature reflections on injustices in our world, the recognition of our complicity in systems and acts of injustice, and the hope that we might work for justice and peace with God’s grace. The stations include reflections on today’s tyranny, the suffering of families, homelessness, poverty, the indignity many women experience, the problems of drugs and gangs, and so many other themes. These are well worth reflection and perfect for those looking for something to pray with on this Good Friday.
Station I: Jesus is Condemned to Death
A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark 15:12-13, 15
Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man whom you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas; and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
From Pilate, the man with power, Jesus ought to have obtained justice. Pilate did indeed have the power to recognize Jesus’ innocence and free him. But the Roman Governor preferred to serve the logic of his personal interests and he yielded to political and social pressures. He condemned an innocent man in order to please the crowd, without satisfying truth. He handed Jesus over to the torment of the Cross, knowing that he was innocent … and then he washed his hands.
In today’s world, there are many “Pilates” who keep their hands on the levers of power and make use of them in order to serve the strongest. There are many who are weak and cowardly before the spectre of power, and mortgage their authority to the service of injustice, trampling upon man’s dignity and his right to life.
do not allow us
to be among those who act unjustly.
Do not allow the strong
to take pleasure in evil,
injustice and tyranny.
Do not allow injustice
to condemn the innocent
to despair and death.
Confirm them in hope
and illumine the consciences
of those with authority in this world,
that they may govern with justice.
Read the rest of the “Way of the Cross” Meditations here…