Justice Way of the Cross Meditations at the 17th Street Market

The Stations, or “Way” of the Cross is an ancient liturgical way to reenact the Good Friday journey as a meditation of worship, an act of devotion to God. As we enter the collective memory to follow Jesus on his journey, we begin to understand that in Jesus’ sufferings we see our own journey mirrored in his.  Beyond mere dogma or sentimentalism, the Way of the Cross, wrestles with the commitment of one to another, the power of love, and the commitment of God to humanity. This journey finally reminds us of the darkness as a basis to celebrate the light.

 The 17th Street Market is one of America’s oldest public markets. Located on Richmond’s “main road” the market is at the crossroads between the river trades, the “Devil’s Half Acre” and the capitol. Our observance here acknowledges our location in history, and the new revival of the downtown community.


1. Jesus is condemned to death

Jesus is trapped by the same system that brings us the death penalty, the harshness of life in prison, political prisoners, torture, white collar crime, racial profiling, the criminalization of the poor, and all of the inequities of our world’s criminal justice systems.


2. Jesus is made to carry his cross

Jesus carries his burden as do all those who work the land, labor for low wages, struggle to find work, care for their children and family, worry over their debts, strive for their children, attend poor schools, are abused by their bosses, or in any way struggle to make it in this world.


3. Jesus falls the first time

The burden that crushes Jesus can be compared to the burdens of today—the burden of debt that crushes the poor economies of the world, the unequal distribution of resources which stifles development for many people and nations.


4. Jesus meets his mother

Jesus looks on his mother with love and sees all the pain and possibility of relationship, deep family love and fidelity, abuse and violence, mutual loving care, separation and divorce, loneliness and community.


5. Simon helps Jesus carry his cross

Jesus’ story becomes Simon’s story as well. Globalization can be both a burden and a relief, a freedom and a limit. Jesus and Simon are both victims and helpers. Good and evil play out as their lives are connected.


6. Jesus falls the second time

The burden that crushes Jesus is unfair, as are the economic and political inequalities of our day—wages, resources, schools, rights, power, savings, taxes. Our systems are often unfair.


7. Veronica wipes the faces of Jesus

This “small” act of charity is a most wonderful action of great compassion. It seems to be all that Veronica can do at the moment, yet the injustice remains. She cannot stop the suffering of Jesus. The compassion of Veronica calls out for social change, for an end to injustice, for a new way of living together.


8. Jesus comforts the women of Jerusalem

Women bear the burdens of the world in a special way. They disproportionately struggle under the injustices of our systems.

The experience of women throughout the ages calls us to end the injustices. It calls us to a new heaven and a new earth, to a new way of being sisters and brothers.


9. Jesus falls the third time

The burden that crushes Jesus is like the burden of materialism.

Every time the world worships things before people, power before justice, and consumption before the spirit, we lose what it means to be human and alive.


10. Jesus is stripped of his garments

This radical loss of everything continues to be felt in the lives of all the poor—those without enough food, clothing, shelter, education, respect, dignity, human rights, and community.


11. Jesus is nailed to the cross

Jesus is a person of active nonviolence, yet here he comes to know violence against his person—the same violence that is seen in our wars and preparation for war, in the violence on our streets and in our homes, in our weapons of mass destruction, in ethnic cleansing, in genocide, in all these countless examples of violence.


12. Jesus dies on the cross

Power and control are dominate values in our world, yet Jesus loses all of these things that the world considers important. But at the same time, in Jesus nailed to a cross, we see a person of great freedom and compassionate love and a special awesome power—the power of the suffering God crying out for justice.


13. Jesus is taken down from the cross

Jesus is radically stripped of everything. He is a human person whose rights and dignity have been taken away. In Jesus, we see all the women and men of our world who still seek their basic human rights—the right to food, water, clothing, shelter, education, political freedom, development, justice, etc.


14. Jesus is placed in the tomb

Jesus is carefully placed into the earth, an earth that is the divine creation, a planet that we so often abuse as we waste resources, as we seek profit before all else, as we consume  without awareness, and as we disrespect the awesome beauty  that is God’s gift.