Wednesday, March 20, 2013

They Crucified Him: Station V

This series is not my own work, but all taken from Rev Robert Nash, S.J.'s reflections on the Stations of the Cross: They Crucified Him. I will post one Station a day in these final days before (and concluding on) Good Friday. Here is the Fifth Station.
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Jesus could quite well have carried the cross the whole way Himself, had He not freely renounced supernatural help. But He needs help because He wills to need it. So Simon of Cyrene is forced to share His burden. God condescends to want the assistance of His creature. Just as last night, when Jesus lay prostrate in agony, He deigned to receive comfort from the angel — who after all was a mere creature — so now on the road to Calvary He is willing that a creature too should be privileged to give Him the help required to finish the journey.

The truth that God makes men’s salvation depend, to some extent, on our co-operation is, in the words of Pius XII, “a subject of inexhaustible meditation.” Let it be realised and the realisation must shake our souls to their very foundations. It is actually left to me to decide whether a certain number of souls is going to bless God throughout eternity in heaven, or blaspheme His holy name for endless ages in hell. How many are thus dependent upon me?

That is God’s secret, but it is beyond question that if I make myself the instrument He expects me to be, He will use me to save others, and if, through my neglect and selfishness I fail Him, these souls will not receive the grace which otherwise would have come to them. And, as our holy Father is careful to point out, this weighty responsibility for the souls of others rests, not only on priests and religious, but in due measure on all members of the Church. The issues involved leave us baffled and speechless in our effort to express their gigantic importance.

If I fail to answer an urgent letter I can, perhaps, make good the omission by sending a telegram or a phone message. But my failure to render myself fit for use as an instrument in God’s hand for men’s salvation — this is fraught with irreparable losses of daily and perhaps hourly opportunities affecting the welfare which is eternal of the souls for whose sake He is going to Calvary. “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel!” cried Saint Paul. Small wonder!

Seize upon these opportunities, having made myself, as nearly as I can, what Jesus means me to be, and He pours into souls the healing graces of salvation and sanctification. Let these opportunities pass me by, let me resist His invitations and offers to myself, and it is more than possible that souls are excluded from heaven for ever as a result. Yes, assuredly, it is “a subject of inexhaustible meditation.”

But my co-operation is much more than a responsibility and a duty. It is also an honour. You know how jealously men guard for themselves positions and tasks which will redound to their own praise or help to swell their own bank account. Often indeed, in order to oust another, they will stoop to methods that cry to heaven for vengeance. If a man wins the sweep, his instinctive reaction is to hug the prize to his own heart. If he is manager of a big firm, or shareholder in a lucrative policy, or if he has climbed to the head of his profession, you will frequently find that when he is getting old he wants to pass on these honourable posts to his own friends or relatives, and tries to exclude others.

Jesus Christ is very different. It is an inestimable privilege to help in the work of saving souls. It is a work that brings to him who engages upon it rewards and merits immeasurably above the highest pinnacle of worldly power or worldly prestige. Although it is the most divine of all divine works, still so pressing is it in its demand to be undertaken that anyone can help, anyone may have the honour, anyone and everyone is capable of learning how to do it.

Anyone and everyone. Before we pass on to the next station let us recall two anecdotes which have a bearing on our considerations here. A Legionary of Mary went one Sunday with a companion to mind the children of a poor woman and, by so doing, give her an opportunity of going out to Mass. But the woman declared she could not go, the reason being that she had no shoes. Whereupon this excellent apostolic Legionary took the shoes off her own feet, put them on the woman and promptly packed her away to Mass!

A certain artist used to spend long months perfecting the details of his pictures. Others would turn out six or seven pictures for a single one of his. A friend remonstrated. “Well,” said the artist, “this is how I see it. The others are painting for time merely, and merely for money. But as for me — I am painting an eternity. I want to turn out works of real art that will endure.” When men have long forgotten the victories won by generals and mighty statesmen, when hard-earned and closely-guarded money has long ago slipped like water through men’s fingers, when edifices and cities that are monuments to men’s pride have been reduced to a heap of ruins, when this world itself has crashed in — even then that zealous Legionary’s act will still be living and remembered and rewarded by God.

Jesus deigns to want my co-operation — as He wanted Simon’s and His wanting is my responsibility, and His wanting is my privilege. Aeternitatem pingo! ‘I am painting an eternity. I intend my work to endure.’


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