Saturday, April 7, 2007

Interactive Via Dolorosa

Here’s wishing you a passionate Holy Week.

The Internet has revolutionized ways for people to prayerfully contemplate the world. (Contemplation could be defined as taking a long, loving look at reality.) If one cannot be physically present in places where the Via Dolorosa is being played out daily in people’s lives, one can at least participate virtually through the web and then live out Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection in the context of one’s own life.

Visit the interactive Way of the Cross in the Internet of the Operation Rice Bowl (ORB) of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS). ORB’s 14 Stations of the Cross give the googler a virtual experience of a modern-day Via Dolorosa contextualized in ORB’s project sites in different parts of the world.

I can’t show you the images and maps but here are edited reflections on several Stations. You could also check them out in the Internet.

II. Jesus carries the cross: Unjust wages

After being condemned, Jesus begins his journey toward Golgotha, the place of the skull. Jesus now has to bear the heavy cross. Step by step, Jesus carries this instrument of death and shame. Very soon, the cross will bear him.

Much like Jesus under the weight of the cross, the workers in Mexico’s maquiladoras (factories that import duty-free materials for assembly) toil under a great weight. Their cross comes in the form of unjust wages and unfair labor practices.

III. Jesus falls the first time: Human trafficking

Jesus falls under the weight of the cross. He suffers pain and abandonment. Many have left him and he now walks alone. He is the joke of the people.

In our world today there are persons who are treated like mere objects, to be used and then abandoned. The victims of human trafficking suffer indignities in the hands of traffickers who make money out of their victims’ misery. Alone, with no one to trust, and far from home, the victims are later discarded, like objects that no longer serve their purpose.

IV. Jesus finds his mother: HIV/AIDS

Tired and beaten, Jesus finds his mother in the crowd. The son of God, walks towards our redemption while Mary sees how the life of her child becomes shorter and shorter with every step he takes.

Today, in South Africa, thousands of mothers experience the same passion that Mary went through. Because of HIV/AIDS, many lives come to a painful end every day. There is much sorrow among those who watch their loved ones die slowly and there is much uncertainty for those who are left behind.

VII. Jesus consoles the mothers of Jerusalem: Suffering in Darfur

As Jesus moves on, he finds himself in front of mothers who weep upon seeing his agony. In an act of love, Jesus lifts up his head and says to them, “Do not cry for me, cry for yourselves and your children.” (Luke 23:27-31)

Today, Christ asks us to recognize the suffering of the people of Darfur in Sudan. Armed conflict has driven hundreds of thousands of refugees to live in tent cities and suffer human rights abuses. Lack of medicine, food and basic necessities have resulted in the death of innocent victims of this conflict. Surely, Jesus would have offered words of consolation to these mothers. He now invites us to do something for their innocent children.

X. Jesus is stripped: Preventable disease

Upon arriving at his destination, Jesus is stripped of his clothes and is left naked. It is a great humiliation. The soldiers prepare him to receive his ultimate shame—crucifixion.

In Angola, thousands of children have been stripped of their access to the polio vaccine. As a result, only 57% of children under the age of 1 have received the vaccine. Polio outbreaks continue. CRS has been working to eliminate polio in Angola through immunization campaigns, and provide care to those already afflicted. We can do a lot by providing medicine against preventable diseases.

XI. Jesus is nailed to the cross: Terror in Iraq

Naked and abandoned, Jesus is now nailed to the cross. The pain is great and he shouts in agony. When the cross is raised, the pain intensifies.

In Iraq, many people have felt the desperation, agony and terror of constantly having to watch out for a possible violent attack. Today, Iraqis await the day when peace will return to their country. Right now, they remain in constant danger, nailed to the cross of daily terror and insecurity.

XII. Jesus dies on the cross: Destruction of God's creation

“Into your hands I commend my spirit…” After saying these words, Jesus dies for us. The Lamb of God, innocent and immaculate, breathes his last. Through his life, he showed us how to love; through his death, he showed us how to live.

On February 12, 2005 while en route to the village of Good Hope in Brazil, Sr. Dorothy Stang was murdered because she defended God’s creation. She denounced those that harmed the land and the farmers with whom she worked. We carry on Sr. Dorothy’s work of caring for God’s Creation when we prevent the destruction of our natural resources. We recognize that the destruction of the earth’s resources is the destruction of our future.

XIV. Jesus’ body is placed in a tomb: Forgotten in Zambia

Having been prepared for burial, Jesus’ body is placed in a simple tomb. His followers mourn his passing. Never again will they see the one whom they loved so dearly. Or so they think.

In a way, the town of Lukulu in the Western Province of Zambia in Africa has also been buried and forgotten. For more than 40 years, the people of Lukulu have had to live isolated lives. With only one road of about 190 kilometers, which takes eight hours to traverse, the people of Lukulu are like a body that has been long buried and forgotten.

Easter promises joy in the morning.