Begin with the Prayer of Abandonment.
“Why do they call it ‘Good Friday’?” my nine-year-old wanted to know. It was a fair question, why we should commemorate the day of the Lord’s death, calling it “good”? Many other adjectives spring to mind: “merciful” … “sad” … “dark” … “deadly.”
And yet, the Church calls it “good,” for without Good Friday, there is no Easter. Without the heartache of the Cross, we would never experience the victory of Resurrection.
On today, the next-to-last day of the Challenge, we come to the last letter of the alphabet, “Zzzzzzzz.” It recalls the rest that is such an essential part of every life, from beginning to the end. “In peace will I lay down and rest, for Thou, O Lord, makest me to dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).
In marriage, too, we have times of rest — sometimes peaceful, other times fitful. When my husband’s burden becomes too heavy and he grows restless, as his wife I’m in a unique position: I can’t tell him what to do and expect instant obedience, as a parent would. Nor am I a casual acquaintence, who has the luxury of shrugging it all away. As his life’s partner, I have the serious responsibility to walk alongside him, to help him where I can and pray when I cannot.
As wives we must each walk our own “Via Dolorosa,” experiencing vicariously the pain of our beloved. Just as Mary followed her Son in his suffering, so we must endure with courage when those we love suffer. And so, for this final “Challenge,” I’d like to take up the Stations of the Cross that Pope John Paul II first celebrated on Good Friday, 1991.
Station One: Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus, just as you prayed until you sweated drops of blood, so may I persevere faithfully in my vocation, even when I feel alone and afraid, until the darkness of Gethsemane gives way to Eden’s dawn.
Station Two: Jesus is Betrayed by Judas. Jesus, as you looked into the eyes of that wayward apostle, you did not hate him for his weakness and unfaithfulness. Rather you embraced with renewed certainty the way of the Cross. Create in me such a heart of love, that no betrayal or infidelity or weakness of any kind can possibly extinguish it.
Station Three: Jesus is Condemned by Sanhedrin. Jesus, you did not turn on your accusers, men whose religious sensibilities blinded them to the reality before their very eyes. When I am tempted to shield myself from truth behind a wall of false piety, draw me into the light of your Sacred Heart.
Station Four: Jesus is Denied by Peter. Jesus, you understood the hearts of your apostles, their weaknesses and strengths. In Peter you saw both the man who would deny you . . . and the man who, filled by the Spirit, would one day lead your Church. Fill me with your Spirit, that in strength as well as weakness, my life will be a testiment of faithful service to my family . . . and to you.
Station Five: Jesus is Judged by Pilate. Jesus, as you stood before Pilate, you did not defend yourself even though you saw that the man was more concerned about pleasing the people than administering justice. When I am unfairly judged, give me the courage to trust in the providence of God, who “makes all things work together for good.”
Station Six: Jesus is Scourged and Crowned with Thorns. Jesus, in your moment of vulnerability you could have called the hosts of heaven to your defense. Instead you bore it all for love for us. When the one I love is suffering, give me strength to offer up his pain as I do my own, that nothing will be wasted in self-pity or bitterness.
Station Seven: Jesus Bears the Cross. Jesus did not push away the instrument of his own death, but put one foot after another, willing to face whatever was ahead out of love for God. When I am surrounded by doubt and uncertainty, dear Jesus, send your angels to walk alongside me, taking each moment as it comes.
Station Eight: Jesus is Helped by Simon the Cyrene to Carry His Cross. Jesus, in your moment of fear and desperation you were not too proud to refuse the assistance of those who came to your aid. When I am tempted to keep my burdens to myself with unseemly self-reliance, give me the humility to accept the help that comes to me.
Station Nine: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem. Jesus, even in your great pain and torment you had compassion on the crowds pressing all around you, speaking the truth to them in love. Help me, Lord, not to get so caught up in my own drama that I neglect to see the needs around me, and to minister to them as you give me strength to do so.
Station Ten: Jesus is Crucified. Jesus, you did not shy away from the most painful moment of your divine call. Give me the strength to persevere in mine, even when the rest of the world does not understand why I would choose this path.
Station Eleven: Jesus Promises His Kingdom to the Good Thief. Jesus, you recognize the goodness in the heart of one that the world had judged as evil. Forgive me, Lord, when I am so persuaded by the “hopelessness” of a particular human soul, that I refuse to pray for him. Help me to love him, rather, as you love him.
Station Twelve: Jesus Speaks to His Mother and Disciple. Jesus, in your agony you did not forget to attend to the welfare of those closest to you, creating spiritual bonds of love that would transcend all time and space. Enlarge my heart, Lord Jesus, for my brothers and sisters all over the world, that their concerns and needs would become my own.
Station Thirteen: Jesus Dies. “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” This was your cry, Lord Jesus, as you drew your final breath. Make this my most heartfelt cry, as well. “Lord Jesus, I trust in You!”
Station Fourteen: Jesus is Placed in the Tomb. Lord Jesus, as the hands of those who loved you placed you in the tomb, they must have believed that they would never see you again. When the world seems hopeless, Lord Jesus, give me grace to keep my eyes on you, and to trust you to breathe your divine life that restores my soul. For nothing is impossible with God!
Today’s Challenge: Is someone you know struggling in their marriage? Offer these stations on their behalf, and pray for the miracle of new life into that “hopeless” situation.
Today’s Prayer: “We adore you, Christ, and we bless you. For by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.”