Life gets tougher as we grow older and the grim realities of a world damaged by sin become obvious.
The agony in the garden
Jesus must choose. If he lets the Father rescue him with His legions of angels he will be treating his opponents as enemies to be fought, contrary to his teaching; if He allows the worldly authorities to take charge he will die, and, apparently, his teaching with him. Sometimes we all must choose between betraying our principles and risking harm. It is so easy to let the moment pass; the opportunity passes quickly, and by hesitating I can avoid making myself unpopular. Let us pray for grace to allow time to make decisions and have the courage to take a risk if necessary.
The scourging at the pillar
The lash has many strands and each strand has three little bobbles on the end. These little bobbles do not do harm on their own, but many of them, applied to the back with venomous force up to 39 times (forty is not allowed) will strip the skin off your back. Bullying and harassment work this way. Each individual comment or injury claims to be minimal, such as can be healed with an apology, but coming with relentless frequency and harsh intent they destroy their victim. We should take care to avoid all repeated criticisms even of bad behaviour – a calm conversation will work much better.
The crowning with thorns
Jesus wears a purple robe and crown, emblems of authority we all might aspire too, but wait – the robe sticks to his lacerated back and the crown is made of thorns which prick his scalp and send streams of blood running down his face. Authority is painful; criticism, competition and conflict put relentless pressure on any authority figure, and we see it in the face. Look at the difference between the face of Pope Francis when he first appeared on the balcony and the way it looks now. Let us pray for generosity in the way we respond to all forms of authority great or small, religious, or secular.
The carrying of the cross
This is familiar territory. We all know people who must live daily with some great difficulty. Be it poverty, illness, or a child with may difficult needs, the problem does not go away. They struggle on, now falling, now getting desperately needed help or support. There is no good end in sight, and the mystery deepens as the only relief will come through death. Let us pray for all those who do what they can to make this terrible journey just a little easier, and for those who suffer, that God will come very close as they share the suffering of His son.
Death between two thieves
Jesus is defeated, his disciples scattered, his teaching declared blasphemous. Exhausted by the suffering of his journey to Golgotha, Jesus still has the strength to give up his life himself. It is his decision, not the natural result of his injuries. He says, ‘It is finished’ and goes, like a worker at the end of the day. The thief on his right also makes a choice. He decides to believe Jesus and his teaching about eternal life and is immediately rewarded. The other thief expects someone else to get him out of trouble. Let us pray that we all take responsibility for our actions, seeking the best even in the most desperate circumstances.