Stumbling toward the cross – Station 8

Station 8 – Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem

As Jesus is nearing the top of the hill where he will meet death, Luke records the following scene:

A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children.”

Jesus endures his own suffering while directing our attention toward the suffering all around us, encouraging us toward empathy and intervention; to step into the messes of life and bring healing. Reflections on this passage in the 21st century require more of us. What is required of us is seeing that these messes go beyond humanity and extend to all of creation. Jesus’ words take on greater meaning when we reflect on the reality that environmental degradation disproportionally affects women in the two-thirds world. 

A few weeks ago I wrote about the blind man in Mark 8 who, partially able to see, says that he sees people but “they look like trees walking.” We often find ourselves with the same cloudy vision, unable (and perhaps unwilling) to see the reality of hurt and brokenness around us. We need a second healing or conversion experience in which our vision becomes clear and we start to see the injustices of inequality, exclusion, racism and patriarchy. We can and should indeed weep because it is such lament that motivates us toward healing the brokenness of ourselves, the earth and all the relationships in between.

Norm Habel writes:

Do you want to see Christ suffering? . . .First look at the cross. Then look at hundreds of stations of the cross scattered around the earth. At every station God suffers. To name just a few: Maralinga in Australia, Ok Tedi in Papua New Guinea, the Amazon Rain Forest, the saline farmlands of Western Australia, the Gulag of Siberia, or the lost soil from the Darling Downs. God ensoiled in this desecrated earth suffers.[1]

Language about God suffering is often avoided in many Christian circles. We prefer instead to preserve God as omnipotent and impervious to emotion and pain. This can no longer be the way that we relate to God, as one outside of human experience. The incarnation, and Jesus’ grinding stagger toward the cross tell us that God does not only suffer, but suffers alongside creation. In Jesus, God breathes and bleeds in divine vulnerability, risking the finitude and mortality of humanity for the sake of making divine love visible and tangible.

God inhabits carbon, permeating and pulsing through all life. Recognizing this is part of a second conversion that we must make in following Jesus. Sallie McFague uses the beautiful and striking metaphor of “the world as God’s Body.” The earth, creation, is not simply a backdrop for human history, or an instrument for human use, consumption or exploitation, but part of God’s self-revelation. We say along with Elizabeth Barrett Browning,

Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God: but only he who sees takes off his shoes – the rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

It is when we see the presence of God unfolding in the emergence of life that we are able to see Christ suffering and enduring pain in depleted aquifers, fracked landscapes, toxic rivers, strip-mined mountains, and plains now victims of desertification.

Prayer: God, help me to see you embedded and en-soiled within creation. May I treat the earth and its inhabitants with love because you are present in them.

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1. Norman C. Habel,  “The Third Mission of the Church” in Trinity Occasional Papers (Brisbane: Trinity Theological College, 1998)XVII, I, pages 31-43.

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