THIRD STATION OF THE CROSS: JESUS FALLS THE FIRST TIME
Whenever a penitent in the confessional tells me a particularly gruelling litany of sins or is weighed down with guilt I usually begin my response with "Welcome to the human race". We are all in the same boat, we have all fallen short of the glory of God. Christ falls three times on this journey to Calvary and death. He does not fall into sin but he falls because there is a limit even to what His perfect human body can endure. He has been beaten, tortured and abused. He has endured unjust imprisonment, an illegal trial and condemnation. They who ought to have welcomed Him and worshipped Him have rejected Him and chosen another. Christ stumbles under the weight of such appalling suffering and He falls. Yet there is more to this. He wishes to console us. Christ falls too so that we do not despair in the midst of our trials but He gets back up so that we do not stay down. That's the difference between sinners and saints, the saints get back up after they fall.
Of course we do not get back up by our own power but by His grace and our grace-empowered will. We have to choose to keep on going. We have to choose not to despair in the face of our own limitedness and failure. We should not expect that the cross is easy to bear. Others may or may not want us to change, to be converted. Even when they do they may want us to change according to their standards. True conversion is according to the standards of God. It is the will of the Father that we must seek and do. We may be buffeted and abused by friend and foe, our efforts judged harshly, opposed, or impeded. We may find our path blocked and redirected with those we had thought on our side letting us down and turning away from us at the very time we feel most in need of support. We may come to believe we are on our own. Christ has already walked this path and the saints have followed Him. It is He who carries us and it is He who picks us up. We are never alone. We are always in His arms.