Third Station: Jesus Falls the First Time
+We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
Because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.
“I hear, and my body trembles; at the sound, my lips quiver. Decay invades my bones, my legs tremble beneath me. I await the day of distress that will come upon the people who attack us. For though the fig tree blossom not nor fruit be on the vines, though the yield of the olive fail and the terraces produce no nourishment, though the flocks disappear from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet will I rejoice in the LORD and exult in my saving God. God, my LORD, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of hinds and enables me to go upon the heights.” Habakkuk 3:16-19
It’s easy to believe when everything is going your way. I had a friend in high school whose faith rose or fell depending on how well his life was going. When all was well, his faith was strong. When difficulties came, he abandoned his faith. It seems that God, for him, was a sugar daddy. When the sugar kept coming, he was all too happy to give God due praise. But, when life’s bitterness invaded, he rejected God out of anger and spitefulness. I know of one man who was a man of faith, who taught Sunday school at his church. He was married but, sadly, his wife passed away. He remarried, but his second wife also passed away. He married again, but the death of his second wife after losing his first was too much for him, and he abandoned his faith. I know of another man who was a man of faith. He, too, was married and, sadly, his wife passed away. He remarried, but his second wife also passed away. He married again, but felt a call to the priesthood and received a dispensation so he could be ordained. Two men who experienced similar sufferings. The first man abandoned his faith. The second man committed himself more deeply to his faith.
I’ve heard it said that you don’t know how strong your faith is until it’s all you have left. It’s tempting to get mad at God when life gets rough. But the rough times are precisely what prove our mettle. If we give up when the going gets rough, what does that say about our faith during the good times? Was our faith ever genuine if it’s so quickly abandoned?
Those who truly love the Lord will not abandon Him. When life becomes more struggle than joy, those who love the Lord will rely on Him all the more. None of this is to minimize genuine suffering. But, what do we expect from God? Do we expect blessings without end? Do we expect protection from all suffering? Do we expect that others will suffer, but we will be spared? No one can reflect on the life of Jesus or the life of the Apostles and hold such expectations. If we abandon our faith in God, our hope for redemption, then what is left, after all?
Jesus suffered terribly. Here is the God of the universe, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Word made flesh falling to the ground under the weight of His cross, a cross He took on for the sake of our salvation. Yet, God was His strength. He showed us how to endure and remain faithful in the midst of our struggles. His path is the path we follow. We look to Him as the example of perfect faithfulness in the face of torment, attack, misfortune, and tragedy. His was a radical faith, that is, to the root of His being. He believed and trusted when all seemed lost, when faith and trust seemed unreasonable. Even as He fell to the ground, He believed that He would be raised.
Even as we fall, we must believe that we will be raised. That is the essence of faith. When God feels so distant, faith believes Him near. When others attack unjustly, faith believes that God will vindicate. When our resources are thin, faith relies on God to provide. This is not Pollyanna. This is radical faith, faith to the root of our being. This is faith that allows us, empowers us, to see the big picture and not just this brief snapshot. The big picture is in God’s hands. He knows the end. He knows the whole truth. And, He loves us. Because He loves us, we believe He will not abandon us, even as we fall. We will rise again, as Jesus did, if we hold firm to faith.
Father, when all else was lost, Jesus’ trust in you remained firm. He knew His mission and He relied on your grace to see Him through to the end. Suffering, He knew He would be glorified. Falling, He knew He would be raised. Give us the grace to follow Jesus in every way. Even when we fall under the weight of our cross, give us faith to know we will be raised. Amen.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.