For this season of Lent I would like to reflect on The Stations of the Cross.
There is a cartoon going around this week titled ‘Lenten Observance’; it shows the pope listening to a cardinal. The cardinal is saying something and he looks astonished. The caption at the bottom reads: “You’re giving up what!?’ – a little humor during a trying time.
Funny as it is; it does, however, bring to light a very important aspect of our Lenten journey especially; and our whole journey of faith as well – our ability to discern truth and allow it to affect us.
One of the basic aspects of Lent is to review ourselves, to take stock of our relationship with our Lord and each other. To truly do this we need to seek for the truth about ourselves and allow what we find to affect us; and this is one of the hardest things we can try to do.
In the first station of the cross ‘Jesus is condemned to death’ we meditate on the dialog between Jesus and Pilate, and Pilate with the Sanhedrin and their crowd. We see Pilate ask Jesus ‘What is truth?’ Blessed John Paul the Great, in his 2000 Way of the Cross meditations, comments about this question: ‘This was no philosophical question about the nature of truth, but an existential question about his own relationship with truth. It was an attempt to escape from the voice of conscience, which was pressing him to acknowledge the truth and follow it’
And as we see by Pilate’s actions – that even though he knows somewhat what the truth is – he finds it too hard to follow; he succumbs to outside pressure and internal weakness. His question to Jesus is a convoluted, desperate attempt to assuage his own guilt and erase shame. He can’t or won’t allow truth to lead him, to affect him. His refusal to follow the truth leads him nowhere.
St. Paul, on the other hand, the premier adversary of Christ’s church is struck by the Truth and allows it to affect change in his life. Regardless of the cost St. Paul understands who he is now and what he should be and follows the Truth to his Lord. It wasn’t an easy journey, as his Epistles and the Acts of the Apostles relate to us, but it was the right one.
This week our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has followed the example of St. Paul and has followed the Truth. Through prayerful discernment he too has realized who he is now and, even though it wasn’t an easy decision, he made the choice to follow Christ’s plan for him and the Church. His trust in God; both as his guide and as the world’s ruler and protector gives him the strength to follow the truth.
This week, Pope Benedict looked within himself, in the light of the truth, and in doing so has grown closer to God. He put into action the words from his first encyclical Deus Caritas Est: ‘In all humility we will do what we can, and in all humility we will entrust the rest to the Lord. It is God who governs the world, not we. We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength. To do all we can with what strength we have, however, is the task which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ always at work: “The love of Christ urges us on”’ (2 Cor 5:14).
May each of us allow the truth to affect us, may we allow the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to who we truly are so that we can improve and grow closer to God.