Friday, March 22, 2013

They Crucified Him: Station VII

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 Seventh Station.
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It is likely that Our Saviour fell several times for He was more dead than alive as He stumbled along the cobbled streets. In this case, there would have been a first fall and a last fall, and three or four — perhaps even more — in between. The fall we commemorate in the seventh station then, may be regarded as being representative of that uncertain number occurring between the first and the last.

As the sinner contemplates it in this light, he can scarcely avoid recalling his own falls into sin from that sad day when first he grievously offended God down to the last mortal sin. How many such falls were there? Impossible, it may be, to reckon. He remembers good confessions made and firm resolutions taken, but after a while, these were forgotten and world and flesh and devil returned to the attack and captured once more the citadel of his soul. He recalls fervent missions or retreats. He thinks of the earnestness with which he assured the Lord “never more will I offend You.” He thinks of the hymns he sang and meant, expressive of his sorrow, but, somehow, that contrition did not last, and when the atmosphere changed and the old sinful associations came back, he forgot all about his promises to God and all his good intentions.

The falls in-between! Suppose a child had the insolence to strike his mother a deliberate blow across the face.

But presently, realising the wickedness of the act he falls on his knees and begs pardon. And mother, because she loves, easily forgives and tries to forget. But lo, the next day, perhaps even that very night, the same offence is repeated. It is followed by another apology, but yet a third and fourth time, at every opportunity, that child raises his hand and strikes his mother. What would you think of the genuineness of his act of sorrow? Possibly indeed, he is sincere, but taking the whole proceeding at its face value, you would be inclined at least to doubt if that boy meant what he said when he assured his mother of his grief for his often-repeated sin.

Treat a human friend like this and the chances are that you sever the friendship for ever. Treat even a loving mother in this hard-hearted way and even she will ultimately grow tired of forgiving. But so immeasurably does divine love exceed even the strongest and purest human love, that it is prepared to go on forgiving even till seventy times seven times.

If, through God’s mercy and grace a man or woman has kept free from all mortal sin, or at least has done so for a long time, there is still much matter for thought and prayer in connection with this seventh station. Looking back over those years such a person will see innumerable infidelities and venial sins, and an apparent inability to eradicate them. After so many years, trying to serve God there is still that bad temper which makes one impossible to live with. There is that slanderous tongue. There is that seeming lack of all love of prayer. There is petty jealousy. There is laziness. There is the shirking spirit which leads a man always to seek what is easiest for himself and let the difficult and disagreeable part go to his neighbour. There is love of ostentation, and worldly ways, and pride and censoriousness.

All this and more like it has been going on for years. And, during these years too, that man or woman has been perhaps almost a daily communicant. Who can estimate the opening such people give for hard criticism of religion?

Others will argue, illogically of course, but yet they will voice their opinion loudly and with conviction, that if such religious people can speak so harshly or treat their servants with such injustice or fly into tempers that are a source of constant trial to others — if religious people are like this, what’s the good of going to sacraments and Mass, and saying prayers? Looking at Jesus lying flat under the cross in this second fall, one sees what good reason there is to strike one’s breast for the innumerable falls sustained on the road of life, even though they did not amount to mortal sin.

Though, these lesser faults have a consoling aspect too. Saint Francis of Assisi, when he saw how pride had brought one of his brethren to ruin, lay down on the ground saying: “Only here is a man safe!” The memory of these lesser faults and one’s inability to grapple with them can be turned to account by increasing that virtue which lies at the foundation of all true holiness — genuine humility. A merciful Lord permits them in order to warn us that if we are weak in face of comparatively small temptations, we may not pride ourselves because we do not fall into mortal sin.

“Our Lord,” writes Saint Francis de Sales, “treats us in just the same way as a good father or mother, who lets the child walk quite alone when it is in a soft meadow where the grass is thick, or upon a mossy bank, but on bad and dangerous roads carries the little one carefully in his arms. We have often seen souls courageously bear great assaults without being overcome by their enemies, who have afterwards been vanquished in very trifling encounters. And why is this except that Our Lord, seeing that they would not be much hurt in falling, has let them walk alone, which He did not do when they were among the precipices of grave temptations whence He delivered them with His almighty hand?”


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