“I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father” (John 16:28)
My earthly journey is now at an end. When I was born, my Mother laid me in a manger. I lived almost my whole life in Nazareth. I immersed myself in the history of the Chosen People.
On my journey as the One sent by the Father, I preached the breadth of his love, which overlooks no one; the length of his love, which is faithful in every generation; the height of his love, a hope which triumphs over death itself; and the depth of his love, which sent me to call not the righteous, but sinners.
Many heard and followed me, becoming my disciples; others did not understand. Some even fought me and ultimately condemned me. But at his moment I am called, more than ever, to reveal God’s love for all mankind.
Lord Jesus, your third fall prefigures the falls we all take, and also Your ultimate fall. May we always recognise that from our fall we can rise again, as You rose on the third day.
“A great number of people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children’” (Luke 23:27-28)
Just a few days ago, I entered Jerusalem. A small crowd of disciples was there to welcome me. They even greeted me with the words: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. For all its simplicity, that moment was also most solemn. And yet the Pharisees showed their displeasure. The joy did not stop me from weeping at the sight of the city. Now as I make my weary way towards Golgotha, I hear the cries of women weeping for me as they beat their breasts.
Lord Jesus, you have many followers. Like the women of Jerusalem, they look to you as their teacher, even in your time of suffering. May we, as your followers, always listen to your words and be taught by them.
“Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane… and prayed. He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them: ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here and stay awake with me’. He prayed: ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want’” (Matthew 26:36-39)
“Then an angel from heaven appeared and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground” (Luke 22:43-44)
It is not simply physical weariness. There is something deeper I have to endure. Last night I prayed long and hard to the Father, stretched out on the ground. My sweat was like drops of blood. My death was already upon me. Now I am sharing the ultimate, painful experience of every human being near death. Thank you, my Father, for sending an angel from heaven to comfort me at that moment!
Lord Jesus, we pray that we may never lose sight of You in our moments of despair. You are our greatest comfort and help, like a caring parent. Be with us, stumbling children, comfort us when we fall and give us the strenght to continue on the path you show us.
“[Jesus] went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources” (Luke 8:1-3)
There are many women in the crowd. Kindness inspires one of them to come and wipe my face. This makes me think of so many other encounters. One was just a week ago. I went to dinner in Bethany, as the guest of my friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Mary anointed my feet with perfume made of pure nard. I said, to her surprise, that she should keep it for my burial.
I can also remember sitting beside the well in Sychar. I was tired and thirsty. A Samaritan woman then came by, carrying a water jar. I asked her for water. I spoke to her about water which springs up to eternal life. She seemed to be waiting for this gift, to open her heart. She wanted to tell me everything about herself. I saw her, in amazement, delving into her conscience. And she returned home speaking of me and saying: “Could he be the Messiah?”.
Lord Jesus, we pray that we may recognise Your face in those around us, especially those who have need of our attention and help. Sometimes an open eye or ear is attention enough. May Your face, stained by blood and sweated, inspire us to love for our neighbours.
“As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus” (Luke 23:26)
All around me I hear shouting. They have forcibly laid hold of a labourer who was passing by, perhaps by chance. Without much explanation they force him to shoulder my burden. I feel relieved. They tell him to walk behind me. Together we will go to the place of execution.
More than once, when proclaiming God’s kingdom, I had said: “Whoever does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple”. But now this man is carrying my cross. Perhaps he doesn’t even know who I am, yet he is helping me and following me all the same.
Lord Jesus, we often keep the burdens we carry to ourselves, as if we are afraid to impose ourselves on others. Teach us to see the helping hand, to know that we are not alone. We pray for everyone who cares for others in their material and spiritual needs, often to their own expense.
“Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother, ‘This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed, so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul too’ … His mother treasured all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:34,35,51).
My Mother is part of the crowd. My heart is racing. I can only catch a glimpse of her. Blood is streaming down my face.
When I was just forty days old, I was brought to the Temple to be presented according to the Law of Moses. A prophet spoke to my father and mother. His name was Simeon. He took me in his arms. He said that I would be a “sign of contradiction”, and he told my mother that “a sword will pierce your soul”. Those words have now become a searing reality, for her and for me. Today my presentation is complete.
Lord Jesus, we pray for our mothers and mothers everywhere. Theirs is often a heavy burden of fear and hope, concern and joy. We ask You to help us lighten their burden. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Your Mother, always speak for them and us. Make the hearts of mothers strong.
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5)
I stagger as I take my first steps towards Calvary. I have already lost a lot of blood. It is hard for me to bear the weight of the wood I have to carry. And so I fall to the ground.
Someone helps me up. I see people all around me. Surely there are some who love me. Others are just curious bystanders. I think of John the Baptist, who at the beginning of my public life, said: “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”.Now the truth of those words is revealed.
Lord Jesus, the first step is often the hardest. As you fell under the weight of the Cross, you must have known this. May our first steps, even if they make us fall, always show us that there are people to help us, and that there is a way forward, a way to get through our difficulties, with You at our side.