Continued exposition on the ‘Stations of the Cross’ devotion and the Passion of Christ from the  Catholic Navarre Bible Commentary

Christian devotion also includes in the Way of the Cross a pious tradition that a woman, called Veronica (Berenice), approached Jesus and wiped his face with a linen cloth — a brave action on her part, in view of the hostility of the crowd (sixth station). And another station, the fourth, venerates Jesus’ meeting with his blessed Mother on the way to Calvary, a sorrowful meeting which fulfils Simeon’s prophecy to the Blessed Virgin (Lk 2:35).

On the way to Calvary the only people who give Jesus consolation are women — evidencing their bravery and religious sensitivity during this painful time in Jesus’ life; whereas only one man — John — is to be seen.

In spite of his awful suffering, Jesus is mindful of the terrible times which are approaching. His words in response to the women’s lament are a prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem, which will come about within a few years.

The “green wood” refers to the just and innocent; the “dry wood”, to the sinner, the guilty one. Jesus, the Son of God, is the only truly just and innocent man.

We adore Thee O Christ and we bless Thee for by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.


The crucifixion is contemplated in the eleventh station of the Way of the Cross. The soldiers nail Jesus’ hands and feet to the beams. The purpose of this punishment is to bring on a slow death, involving maximum suffering: “Now they are crucifying our Lord, and with him two thieves, one on his right and one on his left. Meanwhile, Jesus says:

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Lk 23:34).

“It is Love that has brought Jesus to Calvary. And once on the Cross, all his gestures and all his words are of love, a love both calm and strong.

“With a gesture befitting an Eternal Priest, without father or mother, without lineage (cf. Heb 7:3), he opens his arms to the whole human race.

“With the hammerblows with which Jesus is being nailed, there resound the prophetic words of Holy Scripture: ‘They have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones, and they stare and gloat over me’ (Ps 21:17-18).

“My people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me!’ (Mic 6:3).

“And we, our soul rent with sorrow, say to Jesus in all sincerity: I am yours and I give my whole self to you; gladly do I nail myself to the Cross, ready to be in the crossroads of this world a soul dedicated to you, to your glory, to the work of Redemption, the co-redemption of the whole human race” (J. Escrivá, The Way of the Cross, XI).

Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord my strength and my redeemer



“It is good for us to try to understand better the meaning of Christ’s death. We must get beyond external appearances and clichés…  Let us, above all, come close to Jesus in his death and to his Cross which stands out in silhouette above the summit of Golgotha. But we must approach him sincerely and with the interior recollection that is a sign of Christian maturity. The divine and human events of the Passion will then pierce our soul as words spoken to us by God to uncover the secrets of our heart and show us what he expects of our lives” (J. Escrivá, Christ is passing by, 101).

Jesus’ terrible suffering on the Cross clearly shows the gravity of the sins of men, of my sin. This gravity is measured by the infinite greatness and honour of God, the offended one. God, who is infinitely merciful and at the same time infinitely just, exercised both these attributes: his infinite justice required an infinite reparation, of which mere man was incapable; his infinite mercy found the solution: the Second Person of the Trinity, taking on human nature, becoming a real man while not ceasing to be true God, suffered the punishment which was man’s due. In this way, by being represented in Jesus’ sacred humanity, men would be able to make sufficient atonement to God’s justice. No words can express God’s love for us as manifested on the Cross. A living faith in the mystery of our Redemption will lead us to respond with gratitude and love: “We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ redeemed us by the sacrifice on the Cross from original sin and from all those personal sins to which we confess, so that the truth of the Apostle’s words is vindicated that where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Paul VI, Creed of the People of God, 17).

O Lord come to my assistance, O Lord make haste to help me.



Jesus addresses the Father in a tone of supplication (cf. Heb 5:7). We can distinguish two parts in his prayer — his simple request: “Father, forgive them”, and the excuse he offers, “for they know not what they do”: we can see him as one who practises what he preaches (cf. Acts 1:1) and as a model whom we should imitate. He had taught us that we have a duty to forgive offences (cf. Mt 6:12-15; 18:21-35), and even to love our enemies (cf. Mt 5:44-45; Rom 12:14, 20), because he had come into the world to offer himself as a victim “for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28; cf. Eph 1:7; Col 1:4) and to enable us to obtain pardon.

The excuse which Jesus offers may at first take us by surprise: “for they know not what they do.” His love, his perfect mercy and justice make maximum allowance for factors rendering our sins less heinous. It is quite clear that the people directly responsible were perfectly aware that they were condemning an innocent person to death, that they were guilty of homicide; but they did not realize, in these moments of passion, that they were also committing deicide. This is what St Peter means when he tells the Jews, encouraging them to repent, that they acted “in ignorance” (Acts 3:17), and St Paul adds that if they had understood the hidden wisdom of God “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor 2:8). Jesus in his mercy excuses them on the grounds of ignorance.

In any sinful action there are always areas of darkness, passion, blindness, which without taking away a person’s freedom and responsibility do enable him to carry out an evil action through being attracted by apparently good aspects which that action involves; and this does lessen the evil that we do.


Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.

Christ teaches us to forgive those who offend us and to look for excuses for them, thereby leaving open the door to the hope of their pardon and repentance; only God can be the ultimate judge of men. This heroic charity was practised by Christians from the very beginning. Thus, the first martyr, St Stephen, dies begging God to pardon his executioners (Acts 7:60). “Force yourself, if necessary, always to forgive those who offend you, from the very first moment. For the greatest injury or offence that you can suffer from them is as nothing compared with what’ God has pardoned you” (J. Escrivá, The Way, 452).

35-37 The Roman governor’s soldiers join the Jewish people and their leaders in mocking Jesus: thus, everyone — Jews and Gentiles — contributed to making Christ’s Passion even more bitter. But we should not forget that we too make a mockery of our Lord every time we fall into sin or fail to respond sufficiently to grace. This is why St Paul says that those who sin “crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt” (Heb 6:6).

39-43 The episode of the two thieves invites us to admire the designs of divine Providence, of grace and human freedom, Both thieves are in the same position — in the presence of the Eternal High Priest as he offers himself in sacrifice for them and for all mankind. One of them hardens his heart, despairs and blasphemes, while the other repents, prays with confidence to Christ and is promised immediate salvation. “The Lord,” St Ambrose comments, “always grants more than one asks: the thief only asked him to remember him, but the Lord says to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’ Life consists in dwelling with Jesus Christ, and where Jesus Christ is there is his Kingdom” (Expositio Evangelii sec. Lucam, in loc.). “It is one thing for man to judge someone he does not know; another, for God, who can see into a person’s conscience. Among men, confession is followed by punishment; whereas confession to God is followed by salvation” (St John Chrysostom, De Cruce et latrone).

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts, the whole earth is filled with Thy Glory.


While we make our way through life, we all sin, but we can all repent also. God is always waiting for us with his arms wide open, ready to forgive us. Therefore, no one should despair: everyone should try to have a strong hope in God’s mercy. But no one may presume that he will be saved, for none of us can be absolutely certain of our final perseverance (cf. Council of Trent, De justificatione, can. 16). This relative uncertainty is a spur God gives us to be ever vigilant; this vigilance in turn helps us progress in the work of our sanctification as Christians.42 “Many times have I repeated that verse of the eucharistic hymn: Peto quod petivit latro poenitens, and it always fills me with emotion: to ask like the penitent thief did!

“He recognized that he himself deserved that awful punishment. . . . And with a word he stole Christ’s heart and ‘opened up for himself’ the gates of heaven” (J. Escrivá, The Way of the Cross, XII, 4).43 In responding to the good thief, Jesus reveals that he is God, for he has power over man’s eternal destiny; and also he shows that he is infinitely merciful and does not reject the soul who sincerely repents. Similarly by these words Jesus reveals to us a basic truth of faith: “We believe in eternal life. We believe that the souls of all those who die in the grace of Christ — whether they must still make expiation in the fire of Purgatory, or whether from the moment they leave their bodies they are received by Jesus Christ into Paradise like the good thief — go to form that People of God which succeeds death, death which will be totally destroyed on the day of the Resurrection when these souls are reunited with their bodies” (Paul VI, Creed of the People of God, 28).


Christ is Risen – Indeed He is Risen

The darkening of the sun is a sign of the magnitude and gravity of the Lord’s Death (cf. note on Mk 15:33). The tearing of the curtain of the Temple shows the end of the Old Covenant and the beginning of the New Covenant, sealed in the blood of Christ (cf. note on Mk 15:38).

46 The Way of the Cross contemplates Jesus’ death as the twelfth station. Christ’s life is totally influenced by the fact that he is the only Son of the Father: “I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (Jn 16:28). All along, his only desire was to do the Will of him who sent him (cf. Jn 4:34), who, as Christ himself says, “. . . is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him” (Jn 8:29).

At this, the climax of his life on earth, when he is apparently left totally on his own, Jesus Christ makes an act of supreme confidence, throws himself into his Father’s arms, and freely gives up his life. Christ was not forced to die nor did he die against his will; he died because he wanted to die. “It was the peculiar privilege of Christ the Lord to have died when he himself decreed to die, and to have died not so much by external violence as by internal assent. Not only his death, but also its time and place, were ordained by him. For thus Isaiah wrote: ‘He was offered because it was his own will’ (Is 53:7). The Lord before his Passion, declared the same of himself, ‘I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again’ (Jn 10:170” (Catechism of the Council of Trent, I, 6, 7).


O Come let us worship and fall down before Christ, O Son of God, Who didst rise from the dead, save us who chant unto Thee, Alleluia.