For the next fourteen days leading up to Easter Sunday I am going to write a brief reflection on the 14 Stations of the Cross. Every time I pray the stations I am struck by a few things: the love of Christ revealed in its fullness in the Passion, the nature of Christ’s suffering and loneliness, and the greater love I have for Him the more I meditate on them. Click here for the most current list of the stations.
The Third Station: Jesus Falls the First Time
Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Though harshly treated, he submitted
and did not open his mouth;
Like a lamb led to slaughter
or a sheep silent before shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
I’ve always felt deeply moved by the thought of the grain of wheat falling to the ground. The other day at school I was working with some of my students at a literacy center. We were reading about how acorns fall from trees, split open, and from that seed bursts forth a new tree. The truth of life springing forth from death is woven into the very fabric of the universe. I remember hearing a priest reflect on this in Mass once, saying that Jesus uses this illustration, not because nature provided a good metaphor. Rather, he said, Jesus created nature in that way so that one day he could teach the mystery of life to his disciples in a way they could understand.
Jesus, the Grain, falls the first time. Consider, for a moment, the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13. The sower throws seeds on three unfit soils before they fall on the good soil. In the Stations we remember three occasions of the Lord falling on the way to Calvary.
The sower’s seed first lands on the path, where the birds come and eat it up (Mt 13:4).
How often is my faith and understanding so shallow as to receive the Grain, only to have it snatched away by the Evil One? “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart” (Mt 13:19, ESV). Perhaps this is more often represented by my desire to know more about God than I know of him.
In Spanish there are two words we translate as “to know”: saber, which means to know information, and conocer, which means to know a person. As I watch in my heart’s eye Jesus falling under his cross in his struggle to redeem the world, I ask for the grace to know (conocer) him and to understand what this moment means for me and for the whole world.
V: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. (Genuflect)
R: Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. (Rise)
V: Consider the first fall of Jesus. Loss of blood from the scourging and crowing with thorns had so weakened Him that He could hardly walk; and yet He had to carry that great load upon His shoulders. As the soldiers struck Him cruelly, He fell several times under the heavy cross. (Kneel)
R: My beloved Jesus, it was not the weight of the cross
but the weight of my sins which made You suffer so much.
By the merits of this first fall, save me from falling into mortal sin.
I love You, O my Jesus, with all my heart;
I am sorry that I have offended You.
May I never offend You again.
Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.
(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.)
St. Alphonsus Liguori’s Stations of the Cross