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This Lent comes as the Church prepares for the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s appearance at Fatima. After the Year of Mercy, it is a time to pray for the conversion of sinners.
Pope Francis has said that the most damaging characteristic of our world is that it has lost the sense of sin. What better way to remember the horror of sin and the beauty of conversion than to meditate on the Passion of Jesus, who died for our sins? Here are Way of the Cross meditations on the tragedy of sin in each life, using art from Fatima, Portugal.
Lord Jesus, in obedience to Our Lady of Fatima, I pray today for the conversion of sinners. As I retrace the steps you took on your way of the cross, I remember that I, too, am among those sinners who are in need of conversion.
Lord, help us understand the gravity of sin and work to root it out in our lives. As St. Francis of Assisi said: “Since our sins made the Lord Christ suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts.”
“Crucify him!” they said. “The verdict of Pilate was that their demand should be granted.” Luke 23:21, 24
From Eve in the Garden to Pilate in the praetorium, the first step to sin has always been the same: We turn God into a tyrant, and condemn him.
We have before us Jesus, our Lord and friend. He wants to know us and love us. But we hear other voices, as well. Satan whispers, “Don’t trust him. He only wants to limit you.” The crowds demand we side with them, against him. Like Eve, like Pilate, we too easily give in. We pretend God is a bully and that his kingdom of truth is irrelevant to our lives.
We tie a sign around him — “King of the Jews” — and send him away.
Pray: Jesus, when we are tempted to shut out your voice and condemn you, help us imitate your response to Pilate. Help us stand for love against the powers of this world. Help us stand with you.
“Carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha.” John 19:17
True love doesn’t count the cost — it does everything for the beloved. Once a lover starts asking, “Why should I help you? Why should I accept you? How can I get more out of you?” love has started to die. When we say, “How far can I go? Why shouldn’t I do as I like? Why should God matter?” love is dying.
The burden of a calculating, conditional love is a weight too heavy even for Jesus to bear.
Pray: Jesus, once we start counting the cost, every ounce of our love is too much. When temptation comes, give us the grace to imitate how you accepted your cross, how you gave all for love.
“Standing by the cross of Jesus [was] his mother.” John 19:25
If the celebration is great in heaven over one repentant sinner, then imagine how great must be the sorrow when a soul falls away. Whenever we stick with our sin, this scene is repeated: Jesus exchanges with his mother a look of unutterable sadness. And they invite us to stop.
Pray: Our Lady, Refuge of Sinners, you want to lift us out of our misery, redirect us from our folly, and fortify us against the evil one. Mother of mercy, look after the poor banished children of Eve!
“They met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they pressed into service to carry his cross.” Matthew 27:32
We twist that so easily to, “Get others to do what you won’t do for them.” Or, “Do unto others before they do unto you.” In our sin, we judge people according to how useful they are to us, or what threat they are to us. We become like the Romans, dragging Simons into our misdeeds.
But as we use those around us, Jesus sees them for what they are, and loves them.
Pray: Jesus, teach us to love those around us as you do, embracing and helping them. Give us the grace to draw them not into sins but into our own life of love and service at your side, united by your cross.
“Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” 1 Corinthians 15:49
Or, instead of sinning by using others for their utility, we use them for pleasure.
An image of Jesus’s face appeared on Veronica’s cloth. Veronica means “true image.” But lust makes us objectify others people, turning a True Image of God into a bit player in our base desire. Then, our sin feeds off of their sin. We use them (in person or in a picture, in our minds or in our actions) as long as lust lasts, then cast them off.
But Jesus stamps his face on everyone he made, saying “What you do to them, you do to me.”
Pray: Jesus, when we are tempted to use others for passing physical pleasure, give us the purity of heart that sees the permanent spiritual value each person has in your eyes. Help us see your image, and love.
“Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” 1 Corinthians 10:12
“Do you reject the lure of evil, so that sin may have no mastery over you?” They asked. “I do,” we said.
But just as Eve “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes,” we are easily dazzled by the slick, shiny things that we know are not for us. The glamour of evil looks so much more enticing than the sacrificial suffering of Jesus.
But when we choose a small, gaudy thing over our creator, the weight of our betrayal is crushing.
Pray: Lord Jesus, give us the grace to value the beauty and worth of sacrificial love over the slick and superficial attraction of the sins we spend our time with.
Jesus said “Do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children.” Luke 23:28
The warning voice that comes after each sin now comes from Jesus himself.
He warns us that sin breeds sin. Small rejections of God today spread and grow tomorrow. “If they do this when the wood is green, imagine what they will do when it is dry?” He predicts that sin will mount on sin to build a world where children are seen as a burden. “The days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’”
He describes where our sin leads: To a culture of death and kingdom of lies.
Pray: Lord Jesus, help us never forget that our lives, and our decisions, do not affect us alone. Nor do our virtues. Help us become the citizens of the kingdom of God you need us to be.
“For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again; but the wicked are overthrown by calamity.” Proverbs 24:16
The Church asked us: “Do you reject Satan, the author and prince of sin?” We answered “I do.”
But sometimes we don’t reject him. We know we should, but we just don’t want to. There is a war in us. “What I do, I do not understand,” says St. Paul. “I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self … but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin.” He asks: “Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body?”
Jesus today answers, “I will.”
Pray: Lord Jesus, our sin enslaves us. Our sin builds a kingdom for our enemy. But you are stronger. You are more lovable. Your grace is sufficient. Come and save us.
“They took his clothes and divided them.” John 19:23
Eventually, all the misunderstandings and misrepresentations we had about God are stripped away.
Jesus stands for us. Once the warnings have passed unheeded, once we have indulged in our sin and led others to sin, we are left naked before God. We can no longer hide who we are. We can no longer explain away our sin. And we can no longer pretend God is anything but what he is: Our loving Lord and protector.
Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, we will always learn the same lesson: You can’t hide from God. His love will find you out.
Pray: Lord Jesus, when we finally see you for who you are, we are ashamed of our sin. We are humiliated. But sometimes that’s good: It ends our pride. It leaves us with no choice but to turn to you.
“They crucified him with two others, one on either side.” John 19:18
“They crucified him with two others, one on either side.” John 19:18
We watch in horror as Jesus is nailed to the cross.
When we finally repent, the first thing we notice is how much more terrible our sin was than we thought. We thought it was no big deal. We see how Jesus meant to live in us, but instead we pinned him down. Now we see how our sin kept us from the good we could have done, and hurt the souls we were sent to help.
But even now, he says, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Pray: Lord Jesus, we love you. We are so sorry. May we nail our old self to the cross with you, and stop the progress of sin in our life.
“Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.” Matthew 15:37
Here is the ultimate conclusion to sin: The death of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity.
He created us to be extensions of his love in the world. We promised to reject sin, the glamour of evil, and Satan. But we failed. And that meant we made him fail in our lives and in his mission for us.
But the cross also means sin failed — because, in Christ, sin died.
Pray: Lord Jesus, you died so that I might live. Your death for my sin is not a tragic end — it is a new beginning. May we make the most of the gift of grace you have given us by dying for our sin.
“Now there was a virtuous and righteous man named Joseph … of Arimathea [who] was awaiting the Kingdom of God. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.” — Luke 23:50-52
The goodness of so many Christians surprises us.
When we think we are traitors, outcasts, exiles, the followers of Christ appear to reach us, direct us, and carry us back to him.
The Church never gives up on us, just like Jesus never gave up. They had to drag him off the cross after he gave everything.
Pray: Lord Jesus, give us the grace to be your friends and helpers, reaching out to others in the field hospital that is the Church. May we replace the story of sin’s triumph with the story of love in the world.
“Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it in clean linen and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock. Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and departed.” — Matthew 27:59-60
As the stone shuts Jesus in the closet of the tomb and he descends into hell, we know what we must do.
We, too, must enter the tomb of the confessional. There Jesus defeats each of our three falls. We gave over our freedom; in the confessional, our free choice reclaims it. We were dazzled by the glamour of evil; in the darkness of the confessional, we side with the subtler good. In sinning we became the dupes of Satan; in the confessional we side with Jesus Christ again.
All we have to do is enter the tomb with Jesus, tell him everything and beg his forgiveness.
Pray: Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of the sacrament of Penance. Help us always approach you there, confident that if we enter into your death, we will exit in your resurrection to new life.
When Pope Francis consecrated the world to Our Lady of Fatima, he celebrated in her “the great works of God, who never tires of lowering himself in mercy over humanity, afflicted by evil and wounded by sin, to heal and to save it.”
Now that this Way of the Cross is done, let us enter a new way: The way of a life in the service of our Savior.
This appeared originally at Aleteia.
Photos: Santuário de Fátima, Wikimedia commons