Fifth Station: Simon Helps Jesus Carry the Cross
+We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you,
Because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from the other, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:31-40
“They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.” Mark 15:21
The Scriptures say that Simon the Cyrenian was “pressed into service” to carry the cross for Jesus. Be that as it may, something must have moved the man. For, he didn’t simply carry the cross, let it go when Jesus reached Calvary, then go his way. He must have stayed to watch the crucifixion of this Man he didn’t know, guilty of who knows what crime. Something must have touched his heart, his soul, to know that something more was going on here than the execution of a common criminal, so common among the Romans. How do we know this? Because Mark takes this moment in his narrative to make the unusual and seemingly out of place observation that this Simon the Cyrenian was “the father of Alexander and Rufus.” Why point this out if Mark’s readers would have no idea who Alexander and Rufus were?
In point of fact, they must have known who Alexander and Rufus were. It’s likely, then, that Simon, their father, came to inquire about Jesus, perhaps of those few who wept at the foot of the cross. Perhaps he asked Who Jesus was, what was His crime? The sign says, “King of the Jews.” Is that true? Was Jesus trying to set Himself up as a king in competition with Caesar? No? A king, yes, but not an earthly king, not a king of this world, but a King Who came to save us from darkness, from our transgressions, to reconcile us with God.
Perhaps Simon had his sons, Alexander and Rufus, with him as he came in from the country. Perhaps they followed along as their father carried Jesus’ cross, looking at the bloodied and beaten Man with the curious crown of thorns on His head. What was the crown about, Father? Who is this Man, Father? Why is He being crucified? Why did they beat him so? Perhaps the curiosity of his boys sparked his own inquisitive nature, and Simon started asking questions. Asking questions, he received answers, and became one of the first to receive the Good News from the lips of Jesus’ followers, the first to be evangelized by the Church after the death of her Lord.
So, it seems that being in the wrong place at the wrong time was, for Simon and his sons, a life-changing event. The Romans saw that Jesus was weakening. They spied around for a strong looking man. They saw Simon. Maybe they didn’t see his sons with him. Maybe he was alone. They pressed him into service to carry the cross for Jesus. And, for Simon, nothing was ever the same again. That’s what Jesus does for us. He transforms our lives when we serve Him. Simon came in from the country with no idea how his life would be transformed. When he went home that night, perhaps with his sons at his side, perhaps with them eagerly awaiting his return and wondering why he was so late, he shared with them the story of the criminal weighed down by His cross, and what he had learned about the Man Who wore the crown of thorns, whose Mother wept at the foot of His cross, and Who forgave from the cross those who had nailed Him to it.
The story wouldn’t end there, of course. Beginning three days later, while still in the city, Simon would undoubtedly hear the murmurings of those who claimed that this common criminal Who had been crucified had now been raised from the tomb. And life, again, would be transformed for “the father of Alexander and Rufus.”
Father, there are times we feel “pressed into service” by those we would rather not have noticed us. Serving others can sometimes feel a burden, especially when there’s little gratitude coming our way from those we serve, or recognition from those around us. Give us the grace to serve with purity of heart, with no desire for gratitude or recognition, knowing that our treasures are stored in heaven. Empower us to transform our burdens into opportunities for grace by knowing we are serving Jesus Himself. Amen.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.