They’ve been having Eucharist Adoration on the Fridays of lent at St. Andrews and I can’t begin to explain what a wellspring of grace I find sitting in the silent church before the Blessed Sacrament. It is the place I can unload my burdens, take a deep breath, and find peace.
Another huge well where I draw the mother lode is in the contemplation of the Stations of the Cross- the beautiful, traditional “action prayer”, calling to mind at each of the fourteen stops the different scenes from the final sufferings of Jesus.
I was focusing particularly today on the ninth station: when Jesus fell a third time. This had to be at what I would call mile twenty-one of His marathon. Hitting the wall. So many runners told me about the common experience during a marathon (somewhere around miles 19-22) when the system just shuts down- mentally as well as physically. Then I found out for myself, around mile twenty, with another six to go- another WHOLE HOUR- what hitting the wall meant. There is no more strength or energy to go on. Everything hurts more than it has ever hurt before. Everything in you that is sane screams for you to stop. That’s the point when you have to dig deeper than what can be gleaned through the physical reserves to places you never even knew existed within yourself.
I can see in my mind’s eye Jesus, poured out onto the gravel roadway, the crown of thorns digging into his skull, the blood and sweat streaming in His eyes to block His vision, the heavy weight of the lumber He carried oppressive on His lacerated back and shoulders. And He was thirsty! “As dry as a potsherd is my throat; my tongue sticks to my palate…” (Psalm 22:16)
At least for us, when we hit that wall have the comfort of an audience cheering and encouraging us. “You got this!” “Come on!” “Not much farther!” And water, and bands playing, and cowbells ringing, and smiling faces giving you a high-five. There are even motivational signs and a guy dressed like Elvis performing on a roadside stage for your enjoyment!
For Jesus, He met only with derision- insults, mockery, hatred. No one gave Him a hand up, no one encouraged Him. And He was doing all of this to save us, not just competing in a silly race.
He had to be really low. At the bottom.
I’m haunted each time at this station by the words from Lamentations 1:12-13:
Come, all you who pass by the way, look and see whether there is any suffering like my suffering, which has been dealt me when the Lord afflicted me on the day of his blazing wrath. From on high he sent fire down into my very frame; He spread a net for my feet, and overthrew me. He left me desolate, in pain all the day.
I think, “Look!” “Look and see!” See Him there; thrown into the mud and trampled underfoot, He Who is our creator! Who did all that to save us! He showed us, He taught us what the depth of real love is and His desire to drink the entire cup of suffering for each one of us when, instead of simply dying in the street like a dog, He did the following:
Then, from reserves that could only come from the Divine, He took deep, gulping breaths, He yelled out in anguish as He pushed up from that place in the dirt and put one unsteady foot on the ground. He grit His teeth, a stream of blood mixed with spittle and His sacred tears fell to the ground as He muscled that cross back onto His ravaged shoulder. He sobbed out again, but no one could hear Him through the shouting and insults.
With everything He had He set that other foot back onto solid ground and raised Himself up. He fixed His eyes on the road ahead. And He put one foot in front of the other. And He moved on.