We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You. Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.
During one Palm Sunday in college, I was one of the Lectors at Mass. Since there are multiple parts, we had two lectors and the priest. One enthusiastic college student offered to do the narration – the longer part.
We realized he was relatively new to this liturgical ministry when, during the passage describing the Carrying of the Cross, he said, “And a certain Simon (pronounced like lemon) of Korea” It took all the energy I had not to burst out laughing. I wanted to be serious, but for the rest of the Gospel, I was biting my lip trying to fight the temptation to smile and laugh.
In all seriousness, however, we learn from this passage that Simon probably didn’t know a thing about Jesus. He was from Cyrene, a region in Africa. I learned in my research of this character, that he was probably there for the Jewish feast of Passover. Because he just happened to be passing by, he probably thought Jesus deserved this sort of treatment. He must have thought, “What sort of criminal is this man?”
I imagine, though, that after being “pressed” into service by the Romans he must have caught the gaze of Jesus at some point or felt the innocence of His Presence. He may have recalled the words of Isaiah, regarding the Suffering Servant, who is lead “like a lamb to the slaughter.” Did he recognize just who this Man was?
More importantly, do we recognize Jesus in the face of those we encounter, those we are called to serve in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy? In prayer, do we contemplate the suffering face of Christ and resolve to love and serve Him in whatever way he desires…even if it brings embarrassment like it did Simon?
Do we recognizing Him suffering within our own souls? We can dismiss our emotions and see them as weakness, but do we stop and remember that the same feelings of abandonment, loneliness, and humiliation were felt by Our Lord? Do we embrace them as opportunities to grow in union with the Lord? Or do we isolate ourselves out of fear or distract ourselves to ignore the pain that will eventually creep up again?
This lesson is extremely difficult, to give into the truth that we are weak and can’t do it alone. But with this acceptance comes the Presence of God who wishes to bear all things with us, just as Jesus – God made Flesh – allowed Simon to help Him. If a simple man was allowed to help God, we realize that we are called to do the same. But first, if God could be helped by man, how much more can God help man?
This Lent, may you all have the grace to recognize the outstretched hand of the Lord, as well as those who need yours.