Good Friday Reflection
As we join Jesus on His final journey to Calvary, each of us will identify with different characters. Perhaps Mary, the sorrowful Mother, or John, the beloved disciple, or even Dismas, the Good Thief. Speaking personally, I always feel drawn towards Simon of Cyrene. We know very little about him, but he seems to have been a Greek-speaking Jew from Cyrene, in North Africa, who had travelled to Jerusalem for the Passover. It is not known whether he was chosen randomly or because he had shown sympathy with Jesus, but one tradition suggests he was much annoyed at being asked to carry the cross of a criminal in so deplorable a condition of dirt and misery.
St John Paul II wrote that Simon of Cyrene, ‘while carrying the Cross, came to believe in Christ. From being forced, he freely accepted, as though deeply touched by the words: “Whoever does not carry his cross with me is not worthy of me.” By his carrying of the Cross, Simon was brought to the knowledge of the gospel of the Cross’.
We too are asked to carry the cross. We don’t have to go very far to find it: grudges against others, disappointment, loneliness, some great personal wound from the past. And there are crosses aplenty at the moment - the cross of isolation, of limits to our freedom, of staying at home. Perhaps we have had to bear the heavy cross of sickness or bereavement. Then, going beyond ourselves, we feel concern for the world around us. We often hear our society referred to as being a broken one. We have fears for our future and that of our children. We watch the economic situation with anxiety. We worry about poverty and hunger in so many parts of the world, about the effects of climate change and peace among the nations.
Like Simon of Cyrene, we carry the cross. But today we remember that we carry it with Jesus. We never carry it alone. And, despite the pain and despair that we so often feel, we look towards the promise of resurrection that lies behind each and every cross. As my New Testament Greek teacher used say in seminary: ‘no pain, no gain, no cross, no crown’. It was the blood and pain of the cross that brought us redemption and eternal life.
Lord, you opened the eyes and heart of Simon of Cyrene, and you gave him, by his share in your Cross, the grace of faith. Help us to aid our neighbours in need, even when this interferes with our own plans and desires. Help us to realize that it is a grace to be able to share the cross of others and, in this way, know that we are walking with you along the way. Help us to appreciate with joy that, when we share in your suffering and the sufferings of this world, we become servants of salvation and are able to help build up your Body, the Church.