Jesus takes up his Cross
“If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily
and follow me” (Lk 9:23)
Lord Jesus, it is easy to wear a crucifix on a chain around our neck or to use it to
decorate the walls of our beautiful cathedrals or homes. It is less easy to encounter
and acknowledge today’s newly crucified: the homeless; the young deprived of hope,
without work and without prospects; the immigrants relegated to slums at the fringe
of our societies after having endured untold suffering. Sadly, these camps, unsafe
and insecure, are being razed to the ground along with the dreams and hopes of
thousands of marginalized, exploited and forgotten women and men. How many
children, too, suffer discrimination on the basis of their origin, the colour of their skin
or their social status? How many mothers suffer the humiliation of seeing their
children mocked and deprived of opportunities open to their schoolmates and others
We thank you Lord because by your own life, you have taught us how to show genuine
and selfless love for others, especially for our enemies or simply those who are
different from ourselves. Lord Jesus, how many times have we, your disciples, been
ready to be identified as your followers when you performed healings and wonders,
when you fed the crowd and forgave sins. Yet we have not found it so easy when you
spoke about serving and forgiving others, about self-sacrifice and suffering. Grant
that we may put our lives always at the service of others.
Simon the Cyrenean helps Jesus to carry the cross
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2)
Lord Jesus, on the way to Calvary you were crushed by the weight of carrying that
rough wooden cross. In vain, you hoped for a sign of help from a friend, from one of
your disciples, from one of the many persons whose sufferings you relieved. Sadly,
only a stranger, Simon of Cyrene, out of obligation, came to your aid. Where are the
new Cyreneans of the third millennium? Where do we find them today? I think of the
experience of a group of religious women of different nationalities, places of origin
and communities with whom, for more than seventeen years, every Saturday, we
visit a centre for undocumented immigrant women. Women, often young, anxiously
waiting to know their fate, whether it be expulsion or the chance to remain. How
much suffering we see, yet at the same time how much joy when these women find
Sisters from their own country, who speak their language, dry their tears, share
moments of prayer and celebration, and make easier the long months spent behind
iron bars and on cement pavements.
For all the Cyreneans of our history, that they may never falter in their desire to
welcome you in the least of our brothers and sisters, in the knowledge that in
welcoming the poorest members of our society, we welcome you. May these
Samaritans speak out on behalf of those who have no voice.
Jesus meets the women
“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your
children” (Lk 23:28)
The social, economic and political situation of migrants and the victims of human
trafficking challenges and disturbs us. We must have the courage, as Pope Francis
firmly maintains, to denounce human trafficking as a crime against humanity. All of
us, and Christians in particular, must come to realize that we are all responsible for
the problem, and that all of us can and must be part of the solution. All of us, but
above all we women, are challenged to be courageous. Courageous in knowing how
to see and take action, as individuals and as a community. Only by being united in
our poverty can we make it a great treasure, capable of changing people’s approach
and alleviating humanity’s sufferings. The poor, the foreigner, the other, must not be
seen as an enemy to be rejected and resisted, but as a brother or a sister to be
welcomed and assisted. They are not a problem, but a precious resource for our
fortified citadels, where prosperity and consumption fail to alleviate our growing
weariness and fatigue.
Lord, teach us to see with your eyes, with that welcoming and merciful gaze with
which you see our limitations and our fears. Help us to imitate you in how we regard
different ideas, behaviours and points of view. Help us to realize that we are part of
the same human family, and to find bold new ways of accepting diversity and working
together to build communities, families, parishes and civil society.
Jesus falls for the third time
“He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb
that is led to the slaughter” (Is53:7)
Lord, you fell a third time, exhausted and humiliated, beneath the weight of your
cross. Like all those girls forced onto the streets by groups of traffickers in human
slavery. Like you, they cannot hold up under the exhaustion and humiliation of seeing
their young bodies manipulated, abused and ruined, together with their hope and
dreams. Those young women feel divided in two: sought out and used, while at the
same time rejected and condemned by a society that conveniently ignores this kind
of exploitation, the fruit of its throwaway culture. On one of many nights spent on
streets of Rome, I looked for a young woman recently arrived in Italy. Not seeing her
in her group, I kept calling out her name: “Mercy!” In the darkness, I caught sight of
her curled up and half asleep at the edge of the street. When she heard me calling,
she awoke and said she couldn’t go on. “I can’t take it any more”, she kept repeating.
I thought of her mother. If she knew what had happened to her daughter, she would
burst into tears.
Lord, how many times have you asked us this disturbing question: “Where is your
brother? Where is your sister?” How many times have you reminded us that their
heartbreaking cry rises up to you? Help us to share the sufferings of all those treated
as refuse. It is all too easy to condemn people and difficult situations that offend our
false sense of decency. It is less easy to accept our responsibilities as individuals, as
governments, and as Christian communities.
Jesus is stripped of his garments
“Put on then compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience” (Col 3:12)
Money, comfort, power. These are the idols of every age. Especially our own, which
can boast of enormous progress in the acknowledgment of individual rights.
Everything can be bought, including the body of minors, stripped of their dignity and
hope for the future. We have forgotten the centrality of the human being, the dignity,
beauty and strength of each man and woman. Even as the world is building walls and
barriers, we want to recognize and thank all those who in various ways during these
past months have risked their own lives, especially in the Mediterranean, to save the
lives of so many families in search of safety and opportunity. Human beings fleeing
poverty, dictatorships, corruption and slavery.
Lord, help us to rediscover the beauty and richness present in every person and
people as your unique gift, to be placed at the service of society as a whole and not
used for our personal profit or gain. Grant, Jesus, that your example and your
teaching on mercy and forgiveness, on humility and patience, may make us a little
more human, and thus, more Christian.
Jesus is nailed to the Cross
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34)
Our society proclaims equal rights and dignity for all human beings. Yet it practises
and tolerates inequality. It even accepts extreme forms of inequality. Men, women
and children are bought and sold like slaves by the new traders in human lives. The
victims of trafficking are then exploited by others. And in the end, they are cast aside,
discarded as worthless goods. How many people are growing rich by devouring the
flesh and blood of the poor?
Lord, how many men and women even today are nailed to a cross, victims of brutal
exploitation, stripped of dignity, freedom and hope for the future! Their cry for help
challenges us as individuals, as governments, as society and as Church. How is it
possible that we continue to crucify you by our complicity in the trafficking of human
beings? Give us eyes to see and a heart to feel the suffering of all those who today
too are nailed to a cross by our systems of life and consumption.
Jesus dies on the Cross
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk 15:34)
On the cross, Lord, you too bore the weight of scorn, mockery, insults, violence,
abandonment and indifference. Only Mary, your Mother, and a few other women
stayed with you as witnesses to your suffering and death. May their example inspire
in us a commitment to stand by all those dying today on Calvaries throughout the
world: in transit camps, on boats denied entry to safe ports, in shelters, hot spots
and camps for seasonal workers, amid protracted negotiations about their final
Lord, we implore you: help us to be true neighbours to those newly crucified and
despairing in today’s world. Teach us to wipe away their tears, to comfort them, even
as you were consoled by the presence of Mary and the other women beneath your
Jesus is taken down from the cross
Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies,
it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24)
In this era of news flashes, who remembers those twenty-six young Nigerian women
who drowned and whose funerals were held in Salerno? Their Calvary was lengthy
and difficult. First the crossing of the Sahara desert, crammed in ramshackle buses.
Then their forced stay in frightful detention centres in Libya. Finally the leap into the
sea, where they met death at the gates of the “promised land”. Two of them were
bearing in their womb the gift of a new life, children who would never see the light
of day. Yet their death, like that of Jesus taken down from the Cross, was not in vain.
We entrust all these lives to the mercy of God our Father and the Father of all,
especially the poor, the desperate and the abased.
Lord, at this hour, we hear once more the cry of Pope Francis at Lampedusa, the site
of his first apostolic journey: “Has anyone wept?” And now after countless
shipwrecks, we continue to cry out: “Has anyone wept?” Has anyone wept, we
wonder, before those twenty-six coffins lined up and covered with white roses? Only
five of those women have been identified. Nameless or not, all of them are our
daughters and sisters. All deserve respect and remembrance. They appeal to us –
our institutions, our authorities and each of us – to accept responsibility for our
silence and indifference.
Jesus is laid in the tomb
“It is finished” (Jn 19:30)
The desert and the seas have become the new cemeteries of our world. These deaths
leave us speechless. Yet responsibility has to be taken. People let their brothers and
sisters die: men, women, children that we could not, or would not, save. While
governments, closed off in their palaces of power, debate, the Sahara is filled with
the bones of men and women who could not survive exhaustion, hunger and thirst.
How much pain is involved in these new exoduses! How much cruelty is inflicted on
those fleeing their homelands: in their desperate journeys, in the extortion and
tortures they endure, in the sea that becomes a watery grave.
Lord, make us realize that we are all children of one Father. May the death of your
Son Jesus grant to the leaders of nations and lawmakers consciousness of the role
they must play in the defence of every person created in your image and likeness.
We would like to recount the story of Favour, a nine-month old baby, who left Nigeria
together with her young parents who sought a better future in Europe. During the
long and dangerous journey in the Mediterranean, her father and mother died along
with hundreds of other people who had relied on unscrupulous traffickers to come to
the promised land. Only Favour survived; like Moses, she was saved from the waters.
May her life become a light of hope on the path towards a more fraternal humanity.
At the conclusion of your way of the cross, we ask you, Lord, to teach us to keep
watch, together with your Mother and the women who stood by you on Calvary, in
expectation of your resurrection. May it be a beacon of hope, joy, new life, fraternity,
acceptance and communion among peoples, religions and systems of law. So that all
the sons and daughters of man will be truly recognized in their dignity as sons and
daughters of God, and never again treated as slaves.