In the Third, Seventh, and Ninth Stations of the Cross, we remember that Our Blessed Lord fell more than once while carrying His Cross, as He made His way to Golgotha.
“In Adam’s Fall, We sinned all.” So recited colonists’ children who learned to read from the New England Primer.
Starting with “the Fall,” which refers to the original sin of Adam, other expressions we hear today that include the word “fall,” connoting “sin,” include “to fall,” “to fall into sin,” and “to fall out of grace.”
When Jesus carried His Cross, His falling was because of sinful humanity’s sins—not His. He was totally innocent; “…it was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured” (Isaiah 53:4).
Because the Third, Seventh, and Ninth Stations of the Cross commemorate three of Jesus’ painful falls, we have three focused opportunities to apologize for our sinfulness and to thank the Lord for being Our Merciful Savior.
Sometimes when I “make” the Stations of the Cross, walking from station to station inside a church (or outside a church), I divide my life’s sinfulness into three stages (childhood/adolescent; early adulthood; later adulthood), matching each stage with one of the three Stations (Third, Seventh, and Ninth), calling to mind the Lord’s Mercy for sins Sacramentally forgiven.
Other times, I divide my life’s sinfulness into the groups (my italics) that we name at Mass when we pray the “Confiteor”: “in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do.” At each one of the three Stations, I offer my repentance to the Lord, as well as my thanksgiving for His Mercy, for a different one of those groups of sins.
In relating the Third, Seventh, and Ninth Stations to our own salvation history, we might, instead, wish to think of sins past, present, and future, entrusting confessed and forgiven sins to the Mercy of God, asking for His Merciful help in fighting against present faults and sinful inclinations, and recommiting ourselves to avoiding future sins, entrusting our future life of Grace to the Lord’s Merciful Heart.
Likewise, in keeping with the Lord’s command to love, the three Stations can be matched with repentance and thanksgiving for God’s Mercy regarding sins against love of God, love of neighbor, and love of self.
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. …You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22: 37; 39)
In this regard, when considering our obligations to loving our neighbors, in this Mercy Jubilee we can meditate on how we have fallen short in our responsibilities to perform spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In particular, we can consider how well we have lived up to our responsibilities to forgive our neighbors as we have been forgiven by Our Merciful Redeemer.
As I walk the Stations, reflecting on Stations 3, 7, and 9 in the context of all Fourteen Stations, I am struck by the reminder that we need to keep getting up, as Jesus did. I’m struck, too, that we will get help to carry our cross, as Jesus did, which will be the subject of subsequent reflections.
Of greatest comfort to me, as I think about my continuing fallings, is knowing that Jesus walks with me, helping me rise again with the help of His Grace, and forgiving my sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
This Mercy Jubilee reminds me of God’s Infinite Mercy in relation to my falls; as the Holy Father said in his Jubilee "Bull of Indiction": Misericordiae Vultus (Face of Mercy): “Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive.”
“The Lord’s acts of mercy are not exhausted, his compassion is not spent. They are renewed each morning—great is your faithfulness!” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
How do the Third, Seventh, and Ninth Stations witness God’s Merciful Goodness to you? Please share your experiences and insights in the “Comment” section or in an article of your own. May God bless you.