The Sixth Station:
Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus
My Jesus, where were all the hundreds of peoples whose bodies and souls were healed by you? Where were they when You needed someone to give You the least sign of comfort? Ingratitude must have borne down upon Your heart and made the cross nearly impossible to carry. There are times I too feel all my efforts for Your Kingdom are futile and end in nothingness. Did your eyes roam through the crowd for the comfort of just one individual – one sign of pity – one sign of grief?
My heart thrills with a sad joy when I think of one woman, breaking away from fear and human respect and offering You her thin veil to wipe Your bleeding Face. Your loving heart, ever watching for the least sign of love, imprinted the Image of your torn Face upon it! How can You forget Yourself so completely and reward such a small act of kindness?
I must admit, I have been among those who were afraid to know You rather than like Veronica. She did not care if the whole world knew she loved You. Heartbroken Jesus, give me that quality of the soul so necessary to witness to spread Your Word – to tell all people of Your love for them. Send many into Your Vineyard so the people of all nations may receive the Good News. Imprint Your Divine Image upon my soul and let the thin veil of my human nature bear a perfect resemblance to your loving Spirit.
Prayers for the Sixth Station of the Cross
It was a beautiful fall afternoon, I had just picked up my son from school and we were headed to our car. Behind us was a boy about 7 or 8 walking with his mother. The kid was whining loudly in a voice so nasal voice Alipio glanced up at me and we both winced. I prayed to God that wasn’t his real voice and for his mother who had to listen to that all day if it was. As we walked his whine graduated into a beg not have to go to CCE class. “It’s sooooooo boring” he whined, and he had been in school all day. To go to Catholic school after school was just torture. Intrigued I waited for his mother to respond. She said “look, I know it’s boring and stupid but you only have to do until your first communion, ok? Once you get that you never need to go to Church again.” My mouth dropped, chest dropped and I’m pretty sure blood dripped out my ears. Months later, writing about that afternoon I find I still need to pause and rest my head in my hands.
Get what you need and get out. That conversation has haunted my mind since that afternoon and often emerges while I’m reading from the gospels. The thousands of people who listened to Jesus preach on the mount or plain – how many were there purely to get something? The people who followed him, who pledged their faith, who lowered their friends through ceilings and sat patiently as he smeared mud and spit on their faces, did they really love him or did they just want the stuff? The Jesus swag? The bragging rights that they had been healed by that famous healing guy? Furthermore, there lies the more awkward question: why do I want to be near Jesus? I know so often – too often – it’s because I too need something in my life fixed. That is a super comfortable place to be and Jesus is the type of guy who will let us stay there. We can pray when it’s only at times when it’s convenient or our life is a mess. We can go to church when there is nothing else to do or when they is nothing else we can do. Jesus appears to be completely fine with that.
The problem is, I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want to treat God like a Trader Joes; where I go for those unique things I can’t get anywhere else. I want to be like Veronica on the Via Dolorosa, unthinking in her acts of pure love towards God. Several of us have been practicing Centering Prayer during the season of Lent. Basically it means you sit in silence for 5-20 minutes and every time your mind wanders you have a word which helps you refocus your mind on Christ’s presence. Everyone has their own word or phrase, mine began as “Be still and know that I am God”. It has since been reduced to simply “still” and I find it helpful to focus mentally on the dot above the “i”. It’s a hard way to pray, it’s also a very humbling way to pray. I’m not in control as my usual prayer methods easily let me believe, instead, I realize I am ridiculous for thinking I ever was. It’s also almost uncomfortable to be in the presence of someone who loves you so much, who knows you so much and yet still loves you so much. Also, someone who expects nothing in return. I find I’m tempted to return to my ways of commodifying God. I know that I can at any time, in fact I almost feel God offering that as an option. It’s scary to stay silent in God’s presence, stepping out and into Christ’s space requires my own effort and the hope I will catch him as he passes by.