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By Amanda Alexander

What can Good Friday teach us about who we are called to be as a Church? This Lent, I have been reflecting on the Stations of the Cross and what we can learn from them about being a Church that journeys together.

I found myself humbled as I reflected on those who walked beside Jesus as he made his way to the place of crucifixion. In the Stations of the Cross, we remember his blessed mother, Simon of Cyrene, St. Veronica and the women of Jerusalem. But I am certain there were others – those who were curious, those who were angry, those who just enjoyed seeing another person suffer. I’m also confident that some of those individuals were converted by the courage, love, patience and forgiveness they saw in Jesus.

In reflecting on this, I realize that, as a baptized member of Christ’s Church, I am called not just to walk with those who think like me, but also to walk alongside those whose motivations are different from mine, who are angry with the Church, and even with those who have rejected their faith. As a Church, we are called to walk alongside those who love Jesus and those who hate him and to hope that our love, the love of Christ, and the journey itself, made together, will change hearts.

In reflecting on the Stations of the Cross, I have also found myself liberated to participate in the life of the Church in the ways in which I am uniquely gifted to do so. As we celebrate the Stations of the Cross, we recall the actions of certain people who were present there. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his cross. Veronica wipes Jesus’ face. Later, Joseph of Arimathea takes Jesus’ body away to lay it in a tomb. How each of these individuals participates in the Way of the Cross is obvious because their actions are so public.

But there are others present who participate in profound ways, even though they do not have a public role to play. They practice a ministry of presence that is just as important to Jesus and us, even if it is not singled out for notice. I realize that some of us in the Church are called to public forms of ministry and service. Still, most of us are invited to participate in ways that attract less attention: our ministries play out in our families, our places of work and our communities. Let us not think less of what we have to offer simply because it doesn’t have an official ministerial title.

Finally, as I have reflected this Lent on the Stations of the Cross, I have begun to rethink what I understand by that too familiar phrase, “carry your cross.” We use this to describe some sort of burden or difficulty that we deal with as we go about our life. But in fact, the cross we carry is that of Jesus: it is his mission.

At the heart of the Stations of the Cross is Christ’s mission to bear witness to the love of God for the world, to bear witness to God’s desire that we should live not just as brothers and sisters of one another, but as children of God. The Incarnation, life, ministry, passion and death of Jesus is about showing us this and making this a real possibility both now and in the life to come.

As baptized members of Christ’s Church, we are called to bear witness to the love of God for the world and to God’s desire that we should live as children of God. We do this by doing what Jesus did. We can’t just tell people that God loves them. Like Jesus, we have to make the love of God real to another person by allowing them to experience it in us and in how we treat them.

We teach not just with words but with our actions. We are called to extend forgiveness; to work for the reconciliation of broken relationships; to offer second chances (and third chances, and fourth chances); to make sure that everybody is fed and clothed; to pray not just for others, but with them; to visit the sick and the lonely and invite them into relationship.

In doing these things, we will be sharing God’s message of love for the world. We will be evangelizing. We will be carrying on the mission of Jesus. We will be carrying his cross.

Amanda Alexander is currently the Director of the Department of Ministry Formation Institute for the Diocese and a parishioner of St. Adelaide in Highland. She has a Ph.D. in systematic theology and has taught at numerous Catholic universities.