Taking the Stations of the Cross to Heart

In his passion Jesus prays, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Seeing a child suffer so intensely, one wonders how earthly parents could contain themselves without some form of desperate outbursts. To be scourged by an instrument designed to inflict maximum of pain. To be probed, pushed, hustled and abused to carry the heavy cross. His dignity violated as he was despoiled of his garments, an action which was painful in itself because it reopened the wounds where the garments, soaked in his blood, were stuck to his flesh. Then mercilessly, they drove nails through his hands and feet to transfix him to the cross. And finally, they raised the cross and saw him suffer intense pain for three hours till he was overcome by asphyxia.

How many times we have blamed God when calamities and disasters hit innocent people? We question how God answered Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane? The key to the mystery is in the last part of his prayer, “yet, not my will but yours be done.” The supreme consciousness, we may say, is detached from the tumbles of the world’s cause and affects. He is the essence of mercy and compassion, but He waits for all things to conform to His holy will. The will that is made holy only by His love. With our limitations we may not be able to fully understand God’s will. But, what He wills is for us is to be absorbed in His love. Everything is important to Him in that it inter-twines with His plan. Little bubbles form but fall back into the swirl of the refining wave of His intention. He can intervene in history at any time but chooses when and how in order to fulfil His purpose. He chose to send His Son into the world as our redeemer and had already chosen his role in human history. If His son could suffer the humiliations, temptations, thirst and the worst physical torture and pain, cannot we see the blessings in the cross we must carry as his disciples?

Meditating on Today’s Lectio

“Do it with love,” my mother always said. Which made each chore reasonable, and obedience an act of love. Later, I worked in a factory that prided itself at not only meeting all its legal obligations, but was always trying to improve on intended rules. As a result employees too were in return loyal, creative and co-operative.
Jesus, like a football coach, is always asking for that extra effort. Sometimes he states the impossible. “It is easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle”. “Be perfect as I am”. “You can move mountains,” and so on. But, he also shows he has power over the underworld when he calms the sea. He can tell the paralytic to take up his mat and walk. He teaches with authority and wisdom, backing up his words with practical acts of mercy, compassion and love. Who would not follow him? But, like the coach he sets the game plan. “You want to be my disciples, follow me”.
A paradox arises when he says things like,” I did not come to abolish the law but to fulfil it “, and again, “Not a letter of the law will be altered”. How does this sit with one who claims to be the “Master of the Sabbath”? And, one who constantly seems to challenge not only the law but also the custodians of the law? The answer seems to be more in the method of the teaching rather than the teaching itself.
To me he seems to say, “I do not want a slavish adherence to dogma. Challenge it in your environment and validate it. I have given you gifts of reason, discernment and freedom of choice. Do not belittle my law by bovine following. Thank me for setting higher standards for you. Do not be dismayed, for I am always with you to hold your hand, to show you the path and to meet you at the end of the journey. In this you will find that my yoke indeed is easy and my burden light”.

On “Recognising and Healing the Wounds of Spiritual Abuse”. Flora Slosson Wuellner, Presence, Vol 22,No1, March 2016

Flora’s article resonates like a clear bell chiming through years of relationships, encounters and self-questioning. It weaves through the spiritual meanderings; with stops and starts; rejections and affirmations. How blessed I feel. There are no festering wounds or requitable guilts and unsettled business. I have been more a spectator and sponge in the journeys made by other psyches. I had an areligious childhood, a Catholic education, and the privilege of formation in a diverse ethnic, religious and secular society. Like a butterfly, browsing, with only vague commitments; cherry picking and establishing a ground compatible with the modern world, yet essentially based on accepted understandings of the scriptures. A spirit free on anchor where guided by faith and conscience. Being pragmatic, with no dogmatic attachment, I could escape deep-seated wounds of guilt and shame.

Someone very dear has been a victim of the negativity of religious fundamentalism. What he heard from the keepers of wisdom, and their admonishments, stirred in an impressionable young person, obsessive feelings of guilt. It affected his attitudes and self-worth. No amount of absolution and reassurances at the confessional could change the morbid propensities. About the same time came the tsunami of liberal opinions attributed to Vatican II. Confusion was further compounded when confronted by irrefutable facts and seductive logic of empiricism, modern science and technology. They challenged the foundations of his religion and attitude to God. Readings and obsessions expanded to take up the space of beliefs, so far enjoyed as gospel, further and further into recesses of irrelevance. The new position offers comfort and relief; scarring over the deep wounds inflicted by a misplaced spirituality.

There is an elderly lady who comes from God-fearing parents and studied under nuns who were brought up in a tradition that remained unbroken for hundreds of years. Very definite rights and wrongs were inculcated in childhood. She has nurtured her cocoon of spirituality despite the opening of windows and airing of Catholicism’s cobwebs. Family and friends allow her to continue in what could be a blissful relationship with her God. Only. Among the solid chunks of Faith there are traces of fragile hope. If she misses mass, through no fault of hers because she dependent for transportation, she will not receive communion unless she has had an opportunity to confess this “sin”. She carries the load of several innocuous slips and misses as though her salvation were at risk. She has not yet come to terms with the idea that Jesus, as the Lord of the Sabbath, constantly challenged those seeking to imprison others within the letters of the law. Her wounds though apparently self-inflicted, date back to the obsequious acceptance and entrenchment of a dated spirituality.

Having understood the condition, apportioning responsibility is academic. One could, for example, point at archaic, insensitive systems, or simply ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Without remedial action the victim continues to be captive of an “us and them” situation. More meaningful than looking for a mote, it’s more rewarding to remove the log from one’s own eye first. Then, facing the dilemma, one could flee, fight, place one’s hope in time’s opiate of forgetfulness. Or. Learn to recognize and assimilate. The choice also takes cognizance of the fact that one lives with the consequences of the decision and results. For spiritual progress one chooses the way that leads to progress and perfection in the object of the search. A sincere mea culpa could set up the right path – “This is the situation and I am ready to resolve it in order to obtain healing and to make progress on the Way”? The act of humility affirming the desire for healing and moving forward on the spiritual journey.

Defining the cause and objective clears the path for action, having due consideration of the topography and likely hazards ahead. The world view has been turned upside down within a single generation. Gone are the props and pillars that generations had relied on for guidance and comfort. God is no longer in His heaven and all does not seem well with the world. All is shrouded in confusion. Progress through the labyrinth is based on the infallibility of empirical tests and laws of physics. But, for the sensitive mind there are more transcending things than this world dreams of. It is important to find a sensible and morally balanced perspective for both things of the flesh and things of the spirit. Preferably in a seamless pattern.