Fourth Station Meditation

I wrote this short piece a while ago, but it seems fitting for Good Friday so I am posting it now:

While attending a Saturday vigil mass at All Saints Church in Syracuse, I listen as Father Fred, a thin priest with glasses and a strong voice, recites the Words of Consecration. He retells the story of how Jesus, at his last meal, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples and said: “Take this, all of you, and eat of it. For this is my body which will be given up for you.”

Father Fred lifts the cup of wine and continues: “Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant …”

From my pew located on the left side of the church near the Fourth Station of the Cross—“Jesus Meets His Mother”—I look outside and see drops of rain splatter the mullioned window. Gray clouds hang low in the sky and the wind peels away leaves from some trees perched on a hill that slopes down to the parking lot.

The rain reminds me of the tears Mary must have shed when she saw her son standing in front of her. She must have felt helpless knowing she could do nothing to save him. She could only weep as she watched Jesus walk by on his way to Golgotha. She had to let him pass. She could not intervene or obstruct the will of God. She knew Christ’s mission had to be fulfilled.

Jesus Meets His Mother

Jesus Meets His Mother

But the hurt persisted. As a mother, she suffered the pain of watching her son carrying the heavy wooden cross on his shoulders. She saw him stripped, beaten, whipped and wearing a crown of thorns.

She shuddered when the Roman soldiers pounded the nails into his hands—the same hands she caressed when Jesus was a babe—and she must have closed her eyes and turned away when the lance pierced his side. Comforted by John, she stood idle as the soldiers taunted her son and then executed him. And then she held Jesus in her arms when they took his body down from the cross.

The Fourth Station

The Fourth Station

The mother of the Word Made Flesh endured the horror of this ordeal, and as the Blessed Virgin Mary, she did not allow hatred of the soldiers and the crowd to enter her heart. Yet as a woman, she could not hide the pain that gripped her face. Just like the rain that falls when the clouds fill with moisture, the hurt had to come out; and it was released in the tears that ran down her face—like the raindrops streaking the window beside my pew on this dark autumn afternoon.

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A Reminder

I rarely write about my faith life. But I thought I would share this story because it seemed important to me.

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I often forget about the Lord, and my Christian faith becomes an afterthought. I get preoccupied with work, with my side projects, with daily errands and to-do lists. The result—Christ gets shoved out, pushed to the side.

He never enters my mind during the course of my day.

And that’s when the Holy Spirit steps in and prods me. He never lashes me across the back or drops a tree branch on my head. But I receive a gentle nudging and a whisper: “Wake up Francis. I’m still here. Remember me?”

On a recent Saturday night, after I finished working out at the Marshall Square Mall Fitness Center, I walked down University Avenue toward my apartment on Genesee Street. The cold air felt good against my skin, and I was bundled up in my black pea coat, knit hat and winter gloves.

I was listening to “Mr. November” by The National on my iPod as I passed by Grace Episcopal Church at the corner of Madison Street and University Avenue.

Grace Episcopal Church. Photo by ZeWrestler.

Grace Episcopal Church. Photo by ZeWrestler.

I looked up and saw through the circular stained-glass window light coming from inside the church. It looked warm and inviting; I also stopped and peered at the stone cross perched on top of the pitched roof.

And that’s when it hit me. “Oh right. I am a Christian too.”

I realized I had not spoken to or acknowledged the Lord the entire day. I said no prayers and I failed to express gratitude for the gift of my life. I went about my day in pursuit of worldly ambitions; I served myself and Jesus did not fit into my plans.

And it seems I repeat this scenario often. There is little room for God in my world these days.

But on this Saturday night, while swinging my arms to keep warm, I said a quick prayer as I hurried toward my apartment building.

It went something like this:

“Dear Lord, break open my heart. Shatter it. Let it fall away. And then rebuild it according to your model. Let my heart be like your heart, full of love for others. Let me pour out this love and not save it all for myself.”

Heart Sunlight. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

Heart Sunlight. Photo by Francis DiClemente.

I felt better after I said the prayer. And I hope it will serve as a reminder to myself to reserve space in my day for what I need most.

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