The following devotional was prepared by Catholic Relief Services and distributed as part of Operation Rice Bowl.  You can learn more about CRS’s vital ministry by visiting their website.

Opening prayer:

God, we come to walk in the path of your Son as He suffered and died for our salvation. As we walk with your Son, we walk with your people everywhere who suffer. Guide us as we struggle to understand how we have been saved by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Help us to see how our salvation is tied into the resurrection of the oppressed. We ask this through Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Jesus is Condemned to Death

* Leader: Jesus stood alone before Pilate. No one spoke in His defense, so He was condemned to death. Millions of children around the world often stand alone before a world of disease, a lack of education and poverty. They are condemned to death before the age of 5, or to a life of absolute poverty. Their own voices are not loud enough to speak in their own defense and their families often do not have the knowledge or ability to defend them.
* All: Lord, give us strength and courage to speak loudly in your name. Guide us as we seek to understand how you felt when you were abandoned by those who walked with you. Help us not to abandon our brothers and sisters with whom we walk our life’s journey. Be with us as we walk with all of your people.

Jesus Takes Up His Cross

* Leader: Jesus took up the cross, consciously. He knew the journey with the cross would be hard and would lead to His death, but He accepted it. Today, more than 35 million men, women and children have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. They know that the rest of their lives’ journeys will be hard for them and their families. Catholic Relief Services assists AIDS victims to live with the disease, rather than succumb to it. Over 25 million of those infected live in Sub-Saharan Africa, where they already struggle with poverty and lack access to life prolonging medicines.
* All: Lord, help us to take up whatever cross You give us. Give us strength and courage to learn about the suffering of your people around the world. Challenge us to seek out this information and to be uncomfortable with what we do find. Be with us as we struggle to understand this suffering and as we learn to share its realities with others. Be with us as we walk with all of your people.

Jesus Fails the First Time

* Leader: The cross which Jesus carried was heavy. He became weak and fell under its weight. No one helped Him raise the cross, though they saw Him fall. The people of southern Sudan have become weak from the heavy burden of war and ethnic strife for more than three generations. They now fall to illiteracy, with only 10% of men and 2% of women being able to read. They fall to diseases, such as polio and measles, which are easily prevented or cured in other countries. And they fall with the weight of living as refugees, as over one million people are displaced from their homes.
* All: Lord, it is difficult to understand the realities of war and conflict in countries far from our own. Strengthen us as we struggle to know the suffering of the people of southern Sudan. Give us the courage to work for peace in a place that seems a world away. Be with us as we walk with all of your people.

Jesus Meets His Mother

* Leader: Jesus was alone as He suffered with the cross, and then He saw a friendly face. He saw His mother, Mary, who was herself hurting as she saw her child struggle and did not know how she could help. Mothers in Haiti suffer as they see their children malnourished and do not understand or cannot help them to get better.
* All: Lord, we pray for all mothers around the world. May we be humbled by all of these women as we are by the strength of Mary. Be with us as we walk with all of your people.

Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus

* Leader: Jesus’ walk was becoming too hard to do on His own. Simon of Cyrene came from the crowd to walk with Jesus and to help Him. Catholic Relief Services and its partners walk with marginalized men and women around the world and offer help through programs in credit, health, agriculture and education.
* All: Lord, give us the strength to reach out to those in need. Help us to understand that we must walk with them to see how we can help with the burdens they carry. Be with us as we walk with all of your people.

Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

* Leader: A woman came from the crowd to help Jesus. Her name was Veronica and she wiped the sweat and blood off the face of Jesus. Veronica understood that she could help Jesus on His journey. In the Balkans, civil society has suffered because of years of war and ethnic conflict. With the help of Catholic Relief Services, parents are able to teach their children that hate is not the only answer to conflict. By improving education, parents are providing valuable assistance for their children’s journey.
* All: Lord, we each play a role in wiping the faces of our brothers and sisters. We pray in thanksgiving for the parents who are taking an active role in the lives of their children. Strengthen us to play an active role in our own communities. Be with us as we walk with all of your people.

Jesus Falls a Second Time

* Leader: The walk for Jesus was long. The cross became heavier with each step. Jesus fell a second time under this weight. Girls in India suffer when they cannot go to school, and are forced to work in the home or as bonded laborers. They fall a second time as adults when their lack of education makes it difficult to escape poverty.
* All: Lord, we cannot always know the full weight of the challenges faced by our brothers and sisters. Help us to understand the weight of these challenges carried by women and children around the world. Give us the courage to challenge the system which makes the “cross” of poverty heavier to bear for some of your people. Be with us as we walk with all of your people.

Jesus Comforts the Women

* Leader: The women of Jerusalem cried for Jesus as He passed them on His painful journey. Jesus told them not to cry for Him, but for themselves and their children. Women and children in Jerusalem, West bank, and Gaza weep because of the violent conflicts occurring in the region today.
* All: Lord, help us to understand the root causes of conflict, and strengthen us to work towards peace and justice throughout the world. Be with us as we walk with all of your people.

Jesus Falls a Third Time

* Leader: Jesus could no longer hold the weight of the cross and fell a third time. The people of Cuba are not permitted to openly practice their faith. The government suppresses the messages they are able to receive. The people do not have access to simple medicines, like aspirin. The sanctions imposed by the United States hurt the poorest among the people of Cuba. But the people, like Jesus, struggle on.
* All: Lord, help us to understand how we may play a role in adding weight to the cross borne by our sisters and brothers around the world. Make us aware of how our decisions as one person or one country might make a difference. Give us wisdom to make decisions that make the cross lighter. Be with us as we walk with all of your people.

Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

* Leader: Jesus was stripped of His clothes and stood before the crowd wearing nothing. His accusers believed He would be humiliated and lose faith if He was without material goods. ‘When we picture the people of Africa, we often picture people who stand before us wearing very little and what they do wear, is tattered and torn. The faith, strength and hope of the people of Africa should not be judged by the material they wear, but by the communities they build, the hospitality they demonstrate and the culture they celebrate.
* All: Lord, strengthen us to reserve judgment based on appearance. Give us the courage to see the richness of all of your people. Help us to see that it is not only ours to give of material goods but also to receive of the spiritual enrichment that others provide. Be with us as we walk with all of your people.

Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

* Leader: Jesus’ suffering was seen by all as His hands and feet were nailed to the cross. The crowd could hear and see Jesus’ pain increase before them. The people of Colombia are also nailed to the cross, though it is often unseen. Almost two million people have been forced from their homes due to the ongoing violence and targeting of the civilian population by paramilitary, guerrilla groups and other armed actors.
* All: Lord, help us to walk in solidarity with the people of Colombia. Guide us to advocate for the protection of human rights, and the promotion of human dignity. Help us to support the search for a negotiated and lasting peace that addresses injustice and inequity so that families will not be separated from their homes because of violence. Be with us as we walk with all of your people.

Jesus Dies on the Cross

* Leader: Jesus died on the cross in a public display that denied Him His human dignity. Many people in our country die because of the death penalty each year. Though many states are calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, more action is needed on the part of faithful citizens to abolish this undignified way of dying.
* All: Lord, we pray for all people who are put to death by capital punishment. Inspire us to reach out to the accused and to their victims with prayer and action. Help us to create an environment of peace and to put an end to the death penalty. Be with us as we walk with all of your people.

Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross

* Leader: After watching Jesus suffer and die on the cross, He was taken from the cross with care and compassion. Many of the same who had watched Him die brought Him down from the cross. In the United States, we are in a unique position to assist others down from their crosses. Less than 1% of the annual budget of the United States is given to foreign aid. Because we are a nation rich in gifts, we should help those in the developing world, especially the most vulnerable, many of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa.
* All: Lord, guide the leaders of our country to fulfill our moral obligation to help those in need. Strengthen us so that we have the courage to spread the message of concern to the political leaders in our communities and our nation. Be with us as we walk with all of your people.

Jesus is Buried

* Leader: Jesus was buried in a tomb. A stone was rolled across its opening. Many people in the developing world are buried under the burden of debt. Millions do not have adequate access to healthcare, education, food or transportation infrastructure because of the amount of money their governments must spend on the repayment of debt. Forty-five of the world’s poorest countries, 30 of which are in Africa, are heavily in debt, owing $235 billion. Most of this debt is owed to other governments and to international lending institutions such as the World Bank. Paying these debts endangers the health and daily life of people living in these countries.
* All: Lord, build in us the fire to work to end the burden of debt for these developing countries. We will continue to pray for our brothers and sisters who suffer because of debt. Be with us as we walk with all of your people.

Jesus is Risen

* Leader: Jesus’ resurrection filled His apostles and followers with hope and joy. The contributions of prayer, fasting, learning and giving by millions of US Catholics through Operation Rice Bowl have filled thousands of people around the world with hope for a better future. As we celebrate the rising of our Lord after this painful journey, we must continue to reflect on His suffering and resurrection, and on the daily suffering of those we call neighbors.
* All: Be with us as we walk with all of your people.