Stations of the Cross 06 with Joan Chittister, OSB


Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

The sixth station of the cross calls us to realize that compassion is the counterpart of justice. To fail to practice mercy in the presence of injustice is to neglect half the face of God. It is not enough to harbor a sense of righteous anger when the poor are oppressed. It is necessary to reach down and lift them from the pit of their despair. It’s a false zeal that focuses on the addiction but ignores the addict, that calls others to family values but gives no child beyond our own a helping hand, that deplores discrimination but avoids homosexuals. Justice punishes criminals, yes, but mercy refuses to ignore their needs. Justice seeks the vision but mercy makes it real. Justice follows the ideal but mercy recognizes the weakness in ourselves and so holds the weaknesses of others in a tender hand. Veronica walked out of the crowd of curious onlookers and horrified spectators and bloodthirsty zealots and performed a work of mercy, no questions asked, no judgments rendered.

The question with which the sixth station confronts us is, Who is there—whose life you deplore—that you have reached out to help? Mercy reminds us that only God is God. Our place is not to usurp the power of God to forgive but to sustain the person in the long wait for conversion.


Jesus, give me the love it takes

to befriend those whom I deplore.

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