I grew up Lutheran and, until last year, had been in a Catholic church only once to attend a funeral. I was asked by a Catholic friend to attend the Stations of the Cross. Stations of the Cross is most often observed on Friday evenings during Lent. I found it very moving and discovered that it enriched my understanding of the suffering Jesus endured for our sins.
Everyone in attendance is given a booklet to follow along and respond. Each image on the church wall is a station that portrays a point of Jesus’ journey. The congregation listens while the priest reads the text for each station, and an altar boy stands in front of the window that represents that station.
In the first station, Jesus is condemned to death. The priest continues through the story of the crucifixion to the 14th station, where Jesus is laid in the tomb, and closes with the resurrection.
It was striking to me that the images and emphasis on each station helped me feel Jesus’ suffering. Through the pictures in the book and by the responses we made, we focused not only on the resurrection, but also on the punishment Jesus experienced. These were acts of cruelty and barbarism that are hard to imagine. Jesus’ suffering becomes real, not just words that are said. His pain confronts us and shows us that, even as the son of God, the pain he felt was the pain any man would feel.
Jesus did not die because of his actions but because of ours.
The Stations of the Cross strengthened my faith in a way that only recognizing the extent of his suffering can. He accepted the cruelest punishment and yet, in the end, brought peace and worth and meaning to the world.
We learn that, even in the presence of darkness, there is a pinhole of light that shines through. The darker it is, the more intensely that light shines. We feel an attraction to the light because that light stands out within the blackness that surrounds it. Darkness clarifies the light. Like lamplight that during the daylight can go unnoticed, in the darkness that same light will illuminate our surroundings.
Jesus showed his commitment to us through the darkness of human cruelty. His crucifixion was for us. Through evil, through suffering, through immense pain, the light Jesus showed us was love. Love is stronger than all else because it is truer and mightier than all the horrible acts committed in this world.
The lessons of Christianity are love and forgiveness. Jesus’ death and resurrection make us aware of the kind of compassion and mercy that touches our heart. That which touches our heart is more powerful than that which pierces our skin. An event that could have inspired rage inspired love; cruelty that could have created hatred spawned forgiveness. The verdict of death resulted in eternal life.
Jesus shows us the depths we are capable of and offers us a chance for renewal.
Following Lent, Easter is a time when we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. Sometimes seeing familiar ideas from a different perspective can reawaken our faith and allow us to grow in significant ways. I found the Stations of the Cross expanded my understanding of all Jesus was willing to endure for us.