The Eighth Station: Jesus Speaks to the Women of Jerusalem.
A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?”
Seized and condemned, he was taken away.
Who would have thought any more of his destiny?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
struck for the sins of his people.
Tonight I am borrowing a reflection by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) on the Eighth Station.
Hearing Jesus reproach the women of Jerusalem who follow him and weep for him ought to make us reflect. How should we understand his words? Are they not directed at a piety which is purely sentimental, one which fails to lead to conversion and living faith? It is no use to lament the sufferings of this world if our life goes on as usual. And so the Lord warns us of the danger in which we find ourselves. He shows us both the seriousness of sin and the seriousness of judgement. Can it be that, despite all our expressions of consternation in the face of evil and innocent suffering, we are all too prepared to trivialize the mystery of evil? Have we accepted only the gentleness and love of God and Jesus, and quietly set aside the word of judgement? “How can God be so concerned with our weaknesses?”, we say. “We are only human!” Yet as we contemplate the sufferings of the Son, we see more clearly the seriousness of sin, and how it needs to be fully atoned if it is to be overcome. Before the image of the suffering Lord, evil can no longer be trivialized. To us too, he says: “Do not weep for me, weep for yourselves… if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
As Holy Week begins, let us raise our voice in prayer with the Psalmist:
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul,
my God, in you I trust;
do not let me be disgraced;
do not let my enemies gloat over me.
No one is disgraced who waits for you,
but only those who are treacherous without cause.
Make known to me your ways, Lord;
teach me your paths.
Guide me by your fidelity and teach me,
for you are God my savior,
for you I wait all the day long.
Remember your compassion and your mercy, O Lord,
for they are ages old.
Remember no more the sins of my youth;
remember me according to your mercy,
because of your goodness, Lord.
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 how the women wept with compassion seeing Jesus so distressed and dripping with blood as he walked along. Jesus said to them, “Weep not so much for me, but rather for Your children.” (Kneel)
R: My Jesus, laden with sorrows,
I weep for the sins which I have committed against You
because of the punishment I deserve for them;
and, still more, because of the displeasure they have caused You
who have loved me with an infinite love.
It is Your love, more than the fear of hell,
which makes me weep for my sins.
My Jesus, I love You more than myself;
I am sorry that I have offended You.
Never allow me to offend You again.
Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.
(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.)
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Good Friday 2005, at the Colosseum in Rome
St. Alphonsus Liguori’s Stations of the Cross