During my college days, a retreat leader introduced me and my friends to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. It was a very emotional experience for me because I found myself literally feeling pain. I was hyperventilating and shaking and gasped as I opened my eyes and broke out of the meditation. The Spiritual Exercises are not for the faint of heart and it still baffles me that Our Holy Father did these Exercises twice. (And mind you, he has only one lung!) Usually, the exercises are done as part of a 30-day retreat and the meditations that focus on the Passion of Christ are particularly intense (if what I experienced was any indication).
From what I learned from the retreat leader, the idea of the Spiritual Exercises is to put yourself in the moment you’re meditating on. For the purposes of this blog post, I will take you through the Stations of the Cross. I’ll do two a day, leading up to Good Friday.
Without further ado, let’s begin with the first station of the Cross: Jesus is condemned to death.
The scene that immediately comes to mind in this station is the scene from the divisive film Passion of the Christ, directed by Mel Gibson. In this scene, Jesus speaks in Latin, even though throughout most of the film, he spoke in Aramaic. Pilate knows that a man of Jesus’s background shouldn’t be able to speak Latin like a Roman citizen.
We can imagine ourselves as Pilate in this scene or imagine ourselves as part of the crowd, as shown in the song “Crucify Him” by Danielle Rose. The song puts the scourging at the pillar in a modern context. It always reminds me that whenever people ask “Who killed Jesus?” I always want to answer “We all did.” Everyone involved had a role in crucifying Jesus, but on a spiritual level, we all condemned Jesus to death and had a part in the crucifixion. So stop trying to find the blame and start realizing that Jesus had to die in order to save us.
Second station: Jesus takes up his cross
After being sentenced to death by the crowd, Jesus is given the cross to carry. For this station, let’s imagine ourselves in Jesus’s place and meditate on this verse from the Gospel of Matthew:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25)
How often do we compare our problems to other people’s? How often do we focus more on other people’s problems rather than our own? How often do we wish we were living other people’s lives, unaware that they have their own sets of problems that we couldn’t probably handle? As we meditate on this particular station, let us remember to deny ourselves and focus on our cross as we follow Jesus.