Reflections on the Stations of the Cross
Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
There are times when I want to reach into the Gospels and shake Jesus. It’s not all his fault, of course. Some of the blame lies with the evangelists–these guys were not telling a complete story, only the highlights. No story makes complete sense when you’re missing the subplots. Over two millennia things have gotten lost. Context. Tone of voice. Facial expressions. You know. Minor things.
Even so, there are an awful lot of times in the Gospels when Jesus seems determined to willfully misunderstand. To be deliberately obtuse–quarrelsome, even. He gets up to read in the synagogue, and people are impressed with his wisdom and understanding, until he gets done insulting them, at which point they want to stone him.
This is another one of those times. Jesus is carrying the cross he’s about to be nailed to, and some women are weeping for him. Does he thank them for the love they show? No, he gets all, “Hey, don’t cry for me–you’re the ones on the you-know-what list.”
The set of Stations we used when I was a kid (and which they use at Alex’s school to this day) interpreted this as Jesus setting aside his own suffering to comfort the women of Jerusalem. All I have to say is, if that’s comfort, I’ll take suffering.
Ah well. Jesus was constantly setting people back on their heels, not just Pharisees but his own disciples. So I’m in good company. And the fact is, every time a Gospel story makes me say “Whaaaa?” I respond by thinking and reflecting on it.
In this case, I think the takeaway is about the purpose of grief. When we confront untimely death, either of a loved one or a complete stranger (think Malaysian jet liner and mudslides), we tend to focus on how tragic it is for them.
And yet the sorrow we feel is really not for them, but for ourselves. I think everyone knows that on an intellectual level, but sometimes we don’t follow that knowledge to a point of deeper self-awareness.
Loss can open our eyes to ways in which we’ve gotten our priorities out of whack, or to character flaws we’ve chosen to gloss over. When I find myself confronted with untimely death, I think, What things did that person leave unfinished? What relationships went unrepaired? What regrets might they have had? What regrets do their loved ones have?
And then I begin to ask myself the same questions–and that is when things change.
Weep not for me. Weep for yourselves and for your children. It’s provocative, and I’m sure there’s more to the story than what we’re given in the Gospel. Even so, maybe this is Jesus’s way of saying, “Don’t wallow in your grief and then go back to business as usual. You’re heartsick over the suffering you see, but how is it going to change you? How will it redirect the trajectory of your life?”
Some questions can’t be asked too often.