Do you wonder whether Jesus loves you? Think you don't deserve this love? If you want these doubts dispelled, pray the Stations of the Cross.
Based on scriptural accounts from the time when Jesus was condemned, leading to His death and when He was laid in the tomb, these 14 stations remind us of His sacrificial love.
Back in college, the Way of the Cross (another name for the stations) helped me meditate on Jesus' passion and resurrection at a time when my Lenten journey kept hitting a wall. I kept thinking I needed to earn salvation through my own efforts instead of realizing that it was a gift.
Praying the Way of the Cross with Scripture, meditations and songs put things back into perspective. By reflecting on these stations, Jesus' sacrifice acquires new meaning.
Think of Jesus carrying His heavy cross, Jesus falling while people surrounded Him, how He saw His mother, how He comforted those who were sad for Him, how He was nailed to the wood, His death on the cross before being laid in the tomb.
This act of love wasn't easy.
We know that Jesus' crucifixion wasn't the end of the story. Thinking of the cross is a way to acknowledge the means of our salvation.
Training our will to do God's will and to glorify Him is difficult, but it doesn't compare to the gift we received on the cross. Praying, fasting, almsgiving — as well as the sacrament of confession and getting rid of sinful habits — strengthen us, help us grow in virtue and draw us closer to God during Lent amid our own crosses.
Jesus told St. Faustina Kowalska, the 20th-century Polish nun who received the message of divine mercy, that God's love and mercy are for everyone: "I have opened my heart as a living fountain of mercy. ... On the cross, the fountain of my mercy was opened wide by the lance for all souls — no one have I excluded!"
We know what the cross represents, but, sometimes, we see it so often that we forget its meaning or what it calls us to do.
Before praying the 14 Stations of the Cross last summer, English-speaking pilgrims in Poland at World Youth Day heard from Sister Gaudia, a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. She told the young people that every time she thought of God's mercy, an image of the cross appeared in her head.
"Love, the cross and mercy are about one thing: giving life for others," she said.
The sister then asked the youth to hold their crucifixes or rosary beads and to think the words "for me" when looking at the cross. "(Jesus) became human for me, He left His wisdom, His teaching in the Bible, for me. He performed many miracles then and now for me. He gave His life for me," she said. "He could not have done anything more than that, to give His life for us."
It's easy to feel loved after that.
We show we're convinced of this love through our actions, and by giving life to our neighbors. As we approach Easter, let's work on the ways we encounter the love and mercy that Christ has already given to us.
Negro Chin is bilingual associate editor at Maryknoll Magazine.