The tradition that Jesus fell three times beneath the weight of the Cross evokes the fall of Adam, the state of fallen humanity and the mystery of Jesus’ own sharing in our fall. In his First Letter, St. John speaks of a threefold fall: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life. He thus interprets the fall of man and humanity against the backdrop of the vices of his own time, with all its excesses and perversions. Throughout history the fall of man constantly takes on new forms. However, there is something great for us to learn from the fall of Jesus. Each time he fell, he rose. Everyone standing is capable of falling and anyone who has fallen is capable of rising. Proverbs 24:16 says “The righteous falls seven times and rises again,…” Our righteousness comes from the ability for us to rise. To rise is to repent. Rising is the habit of saints. Never get tired of repentance; we are frail and so we may not become a star without a scar. Therefore, when you fall, rise. When you sit in darkness, seek for light.
This fall draws our mind to the teaching tradition of the Church on despair. CCC 2091says Despair is the belief that one’s evil is beyond forgiveness. Despair is the belief that I have fallen severally today therefore, I cannot go on. I cannot go to confession again and again for the same sin. I cannot avoid this sin and I cannot rise. In despair we think we are beyond repair. Beloved in Christ we are not and never say I can’t go on, for Jesus says to you trust me and carry on. He fell three times; but he did not give up. So don’t give up he has not given up on you. He fell in order to raise us up.
Again, in this fall, we learn not to trust in our own strength. Zeh. 4:6 says “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty”. To trust in our own strength is to presume. CCC 2092 sees Presumption as a sin against hope committed by someone who trusts in his own power to save himself; or who presumes on God’s forgiveness without any need for repentance and good works. Presumption is to glory without merit, is to hope on salvation without keeping the Commandments, or expectation of pardon for sin without repentance. This attitude offends against the dogma of the gratuitous character of grace and final salvation. Therefore, when we fall let us stretch out our hand for him to lift us up.
Finally, do not fall because you know you will rise and do not fall and begin to roll in the dust. The Church calls it ‘Obstinacy in sin’, that is, willful persisting in wickedness, and running on from sin to sin, after sufficient instructions and admonition. When we fall and inhabit that status we are obstinate. When we remain in the dust because of lust we are obstinate. Obstinacy in sin is a reflection of cosmetic repentance. Beloved in Christ we are called to authentic repentance. One that demands a turn-around and not a round-about. He wants us to rise; he wants us to repent and have a new life.
Lord Jesus Christ, our weight of sin has made you fall; but your strength weighs beyond the scale, give us that strength so that we may rise with you. Amen.