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There are many falls on a pilgrimage. No one teaches us this more poignantly than Jesus. His humanity was on full display when He fell three times under the weight of the Cross on His way to be crucified.
It’s both alarming and relatable to see the God-man fall and get back up again. He carried the heavy burden so that we can carry the light one. These falls are even memorialized in Stations 3, 7 and 9 of the Way of the Cross, but would you be surprised to learn that the New Testament provides no clear reference to them?
It’s true – and I’m okay with that. For one, Jesus did many things that aren’t recorded in Scripture (Jn. 21: 25). Secondly, I think the three falls can be reasonably inferred from what we do see in Scripture. Jesus had already suffered significant physical and emotional trauma before He even started towards Golgotha. He sweat like blood (Lk. 22: 44). He was betrayed and abandoned (Mt. 26: 48-49, 56). He was spit on, blindfolded and beaten (Mk. 14: 65). He was scourged (Mt. 27: 26). He was mocked and crowned with thorns (Mt. 27: 29-31). Jesus must have been struggling to carry His Cross or the soldiers would not have asked Simon to carry it for Him (Mk. 15: 20-21).
As I consider the struggles in my own life, Jesus’ falling is powerfully instructive and inspiring to me. These events of His Passion have taught me so much that, biblical or not, I can’t help but believe them.
BUT THERE’S MORE
Recently, a friend asked me, “If you could use one word to describe your spiritual life, what would it be?” I said, “Tired.” Sometimes I think my whole spiritual and moral life can be summed up in the endless cycle of falling and getting back up again. Fall. Get up. Fall. Get up. Fall. Get up.
It’s tiring! And on days when hopelessness creeps in, I think I’d rather either not fall, or not get up again. At least then the cycle would be over. I wouldn’t have to exhaust myself anymore. I wouldn’t have to try so hard anymore.
I poured all this out to my friend. He listened. He nodded. I could tell he understood. Then he spoke a powerful truth: “There’s more to your spiritual life, to morality, to being a Christian, than falling and getting back up again.”
BEHOLD THE MAN
This may seem like a no-brainer, but for me, at that moment, it was a revelation. Suffering can trick you into thinking it’s all there is, and I was falling for it. As I prayed about it more, I realized that all I had to do was “behold the man” (Jn. 19:5) to discover the truth of the matter.
Jesus’ Way to the Cross – and through the Cross to victory – was not made up solely of falling and getting back up again. Yes, He did that. But, Jesus also preached (Lk. 23: 28-31). He prophesied (Lk. 23: 43). He prayed (Lk. 22: 41-42). He cried (Heb. 5:7). He healed (Lk. 22: 50-51). He served (Jn. 13:3-5). He was strengthened (Lk. 22: 43) and defended (Lk. 23: 40-42). He forgave (Lk. 23: 34). He loved to the very end (Jn. 15: 13).
In this, Jesus teaches us how to walk our own Way, and, in Him, we learn there is much more to life than striving. Yes, we fall. Yes, we get back up again. We should! But, with Jesus, we also rest. We listen. We learn and grow. We use our imagination and our unique gifts. We are strengthened and defended. We are humbled. We are forgiven. We are blessed. We are befriended. We love and are loved by Jesus. With Him, we are victorious!
In Jesus, suffering never has the final say. In Jesus, there is always more to life – and, I can assure you, there’s nothing more biblical than that.
Nicholas Hardesty is the associate director of Adult Evangelization and RCIA for the Center for the New Evangelization, an archdiocesan initiative that empowers parishes and schools to equip the laity for missionary discipleship. [email protected]
This article appeared in the August 2021 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.
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