Every Easter, confusion comes with the reminders.
The “Stations of the Cross,” a 14-step devotion, usually takes place weekly during lent, commemorating Jesus Christ’s last day on earth as a human.
The tradition involves standing in front of each of the 14 depictions of the sufferings of Jesus during His “Agony and Passion.” Usually this takes place at church, but with the COVID, the process is shared online or in print.
The group, usually led by a priest or deacon, moves around the room reciting the name of the horrible, historical event. For example the first station, “Jesus is condemned to death,” is followed by a meditation, such as, “Jesus, You stand all alone before Pilate. Nobody speaks up for You, nobody helps defend You. You devoted Your entire life to helping others, listening to the smallest ones, caring for those who were ignored by others. They don’t seem to remember as they prepare to put You to death.”
And the meditation, “Help me be grateful for what You did for me. Help me to accept criticism and unfairness as You did, and not complain. Help me pray for those who have hurt me.”
Following, the group recites prayers and may sing a hymn, continuing around the room with the second station, “Jesus carries His cross,” and so on tracing all of the history until “Jesus is laid in the tomb,” culminating into a mournful silence.
When faced with the memory, my confusion grows of the events after and before the crucifixion. It also comes with the overhearing of someone’s wish after losing a loved one — the deceased is in heaven now, with their parents, siblings, spouses, children and animals — running around without pain in everlasting love.
Without ever having gone, this is faith — a strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual understanding beyond intellect, rather than proof.
According to the Bible, the gift of eternal life comes to those who believe in Jesus Christ, who is the Resurrection and the life. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And while hanging on the cross, Luke shares in his Gospel, “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Alternatively, scripture reads, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
This is the puzzle — do folks go to heaven at the second of death, or do they remain dead until “the last day?”
With the promised eternal life comes the mystery of the mechanics, it seems.
And to add to the bewilderment, if death means meeting our maker, why the apprehension?
In Catholic tradition, the Agony in the Garden is the first Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary and the First Station of the Scriptural Way of the Cross, showing even Jesus was afraid.
Those believing in the scriptures of the Bible know of Jesus’ requests praying three times: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as You, not I, would have it;” “If this cup cannot pass by, but I must drink it, Your will be done!;” and “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
And an angel came and comforted Him. How horrifying it must have been knowing the painful near future and the pain coming to his mother, Mary — the great sacrifice before the reward.
Apparently, I am not alone with my questions, as even the Apostle, Thomas, refused to believe that the resurrected Jesus had appeared to the 10 other apostles, until he could see and feel the wounds received by Jesus on the cross.
But unlike Thomas, I will likely wait until my end to discover the answers. For now, the focus of eternal life is not on the future, but on our current standing in Christ, I have read. What good am I doing?
If Jesus died for me, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”
Still a sinner; and that is all.
News Editor Carolyn Harmon can be reached at email@example.com or 252-410-7058.