29 Feb 2012

III Station: Jesus falls the first time

We adore you O Christ and we bless you
For by thy holy Cross, you have redeemed the World

Jesus falls the First Time

Jesus Christ, burdened by the weight of the cross and our sinfulness, collapsed on His way to Calvary. Jesus was the One whom His disciples had hoped would set Israel free (cf. Lk 24:21). He was the promised Messiah, the “Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16) and yet there He lay, exhausted, in pain, enduring the insults and mockery of the onlookers.
The account of Jesus’ first fall comes to us through the Tradition of the Church, rather than Scripture, but we can easily enter into the spirit of the account with a little imagination.
Over the Christmas period I slipped on some ice. It happened so quickly that I was on the ground before I could prevent myself from falling. I was on my own and could not pick myself up, so I had to turn over and crawl on my hands and knees towards the nearest support. I had a bruised tail bone, but my pride was bruised even more! It was a lesson in humility.
On a much deeper level, we experience falling into sin, which wounds us much more than any physical fall. Sin diminishes us, blocking our path to fulfilment (cf. GS 13). We read in Scripture that the righteous one “falls seven times a day” (Proverbs 24:16), but the first time we experience a major fall can sometimes surprise us. Perhaps we had ignored the slippery ground we were on? Perhaps we realised too late? And now not only have we fallen, but our ego is bruised and we are hurting.
The little phrase from Proverbs is essential to helping us put our fall into perspective: the righteous one “falls seven times a day, and rises again” (Proverbs 24:16). When we experience a fall in our life, especially a first fall, a fall in something we would never have thought we would fail in, the temptation to give in may be very great. It may seem easier to stay down than to struggle to our feet again. Where do we get the strength to rise again.
Jesus, true God and true man, is like us in every way except sin (cf. Heb 4:15), but He took on the burden of our sinfulness so that He could save us. When we fall, by contrast, it is usually the result of our own faults, not someone else’s. In falling Jesus is overcome by the weight of our sins that He is carrying for a few moments. Yet He gets up and continues to carry on unselfishly. What happened when Jesus fell for the first time? He rose again.
The Resurrection of Christ gives us strength to rise again. God knows what it means to be human. He knows how weak we are. He knows our crosses and He knows before we do when we are going to fall. He may not be able to stop us falling because of our free will, but when we do, He reaches out to us with compassion and love offering us the Sacrament of Reconciliation to heal our wounds.
All it takes on our part is to accept His love. It might mean ‘crawling on our hands and knees’ metaphorically by acknowledging that we have fallen, but that’s not such a bad thing. Humility comes from the Latin ‘humus’, meaning the earth. To be humble is to be grounded – to acknowledge both the reality that we are beloved children of God and the truth of our sinfulness. We acknowledge this most of all when we confess both our sins and our trust in God’s mercy and holiness (cf. CCC 1424) in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

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