The Via Dolorosa is traditionally believed to be the path Jesus trod carrying his cross to the Crucifixion on Good Friday.
Recently during a Professional Development day I was leading the teachers in a prayer experience at the start of the day. Given that we are about to enter Holy Week I was using an old faithful activity. I gave each participant a paddle pop stick and a half paddle pop stick. On one side I invited the teachers to write down the names of the people in their lives who most love them – the people who hold them close to the heart – for ultimately the Cross is THE great symbol of love. On the other side I invited the teachers to reflect, “Where is Christ crucified in our world today?” and to write some responses on to the small space available. Once written on the teachers were to wrap the join in a small rubber band and place their cross on our sacred space.
Several teachers looked confused. One then asked, “What do you mean when you ask, ‘Where is Christ crucified in our world today?'”
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ as an historical event took place some 2,000 years ago in Palestine. But if our faith is to have any meaning and relevance in our world today we must daily fall in love with the Christ of our day, of our streets, of our living rooms and on our TV screens who is the Cosmic Christ for all. This same Christ in our brother and in our sister in the human family is to be honoured – cross shared and carried, loved and stood with and waited with in the darkness before hope and Easter dawn.
Christ is crucified in a Kremlin office when an unjust war is waged against innocent people. Christ is crucified when the elderly cannot escape continual artillery barrages in the Ukraine, when they shiver against the cold for lack of fuel / electricity and water is so scarce. Christ is crucified when politicians put profit and power before people. Christ is crucified when the outstretched arm of the homeless is ignored or the eyes of the passer by are full of judgement. Christ is crucified in the child soldier, the trafficked child or the sweat shop orphan deprived of play or a childhood. Christ is crucified in the elderly shut in whom no one visits and is only a number on some list somewhere. Christ is crucified in the family that lives from hand to mouth, from day to day and who live in fear of the knock on the door. Christ is crucified in the bullied and in the lonely anger of the perpetrator. Christ is crucified when freedom is oppressed, power reigns supreme and unchallenged and the voice of resistance is brutally squashed. Christ is crucified when the innate dignity of our brother or our sister is dishonoured by racism, sexism or fear. Christ is crucified in the youth who seek pleasure in love less sex, the bottle or the vape.
Christ is stripped of his garments when men abuse women leaving them shivering in fear. Christ is stripped of his garments when men are transfixed by the video screen full of images of porn. Christ is stripped of his garments when rainforests and eco-systems are pillaged and raped for board room profit. Christ is stripped of his garments every time the elderly are left is soiled beds, have their cries ignored or are left alone and lonely by the very people they have loved into life. Christ is stripped of his garments when the beggar clings to a brown paper bag in a throw away world of materialism and wealth. Christ is stripped of his garments when the men of religion cling to ritual and rite far removed from a carpenter and his cross. Christ is stripped of his garments in the frenzied energy of the stock exchange where traders make millions on the backs of injustice. Christ is stripped of his garments in the sweat shop workers denied toilet breaks or basic rights but staying for an unjust wage is better than none at all. Christ is stripped of his garments when the little ones are unseen and unheard. Christ is stripped of his garments when the last vestige of dignity is taken away in the name of profit or greed.
Christ is crowned with thorns when children are taken and abused for prostitution. Christ is crowned with thorns every time the children play in sewage and squalor in garbage dumps and slum streets. Christ is crowned with thorns when needles are put into arms to buy moments of peace and light peddled by greed driven drug dealers in luxury homes and lifestyles. Christ is crowned with thorns when the shanty town child reaches for petrol or paint to sniff and never knows the smell of the home cooked meal or the freshly laundered bed clothes. Christ is crowned with thorns when every person trapped in mental illness is shunned, rejected or ignored. Christ is crowned with thorns every time the perpetrator abuses physically or sexually the fragile, the powerless or the ignored. Christ is crowned with thorns as the child longs for attention from a parent consumed by stock market, mobile phone or track guide. Christ is crowned with thorns when land and birth rite are stolen in the name of progress. Christ is crowned with thorns when rulers wage war and the poor and powerless pay the price with life, with limb, with livelihood and land. Christ is crowned with thorns when the priesthood is about politics and power.
Christ walks the Via Dolorosa when refugees and asylum seekers tramp countless miles seeking safety and bare comfort for their crying children. Christ walks the Via Dolorosa when the homeless shuffle from bin to bin longing for lucky finds. Christ walks the Via Dolorosa when the hooker flags down cars filled with empty men with empty hearts and full wallets. Christ walks the Via Dolorosa when the onlookers to violence or injustice remain silent or turn their backs from love in the midst of blood, violence and fear. Christ walks the Via Dolorosa when the long lines for the holiday sales are not even conscious of the longer lines for the soup kitchen. Christ walks the Via Dolorosa in the pre-dawn silent lines of hungry workers who trod beside highways to work the farms of the rich and powerful for barely a living wage. Christ walks the Via Dolorosa in the daily fidelity of the parent and spouse knowing their partner is having an affair. Christ walks the Via Dolorosa as the addict leaves the gaming room walking home to an empty larder and the hungry child. Christ walks the Via Dolorosa in the long lines of expensive weaponry on victory day parades while the teachers go unpaid, the nurses work long shifts and the politicians line their pockets. Christ walks the Via Dolorosa in the ever increasing miles the women feebly walk in search for firewood and water.
This crucified Christ, in his brokenness and in his weakness is our companion to the ultimate freedom through love – as we too embrace our cross and walk our Via Dolorosa – in whatever streets it finds us in. When we embrace and fall in love with this Christ in our day to day we will truly grow to be the hands and feet, the eyes and ears and the heart of love this world so desperately needs.