You aren’t meant to Suffer alone

RubensSimonCyreneCarriesCross

Rubens – Simon of Cyrene

As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. Luke 23:26

By: Ashley Blackburn

In reflecting on The Way of the Cross, it is the Fifth Station where Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross. There are many different insights that we can glean from this Station, but there is one in particular that I want to reflect upon deeper as it has to do with redemptive suffering and the Body of Christ.

When Simon is seized from the crowd and made to help carry Jesus’ cross, we have to think this was a very unexpected circumstance.  Simon was coming in from the country, probably coming back from a day’s work. He must have been of very strong stature as he was chosen from the crowd to help with this very physical task. He was unsuspecting and un-involved in the previous events that had taken place with Jesus, including Jesus’ arrest and condemnation, the scourging, the mocking and humiliation, the crowning with thorns, and the brutal moment that they placed the cross on Jesus’ bloodied back.  Simon likely didn’t know who Jesus was, what he had done and what he had preached during his life. From Simon’s point of view, he would have thought Jesus a common criminal who was justly sentenced to death.

Simon’s day was suddenly interrupted and he was thrown into the Passion of Christ without his even consenting. His life was put on hold. Whatever plans he had for the rest of his day were thwarted.

He was forced into physical suffering, as well as humiliation seeing that he was helping a seeming criminal.  This suffering that Simon was to endure was not something he knew was coming, it was not something he prepared for, and it was not something he was justified in having been given to him.

This is exactly how suffering comes to each one of us.  We are often times seized and thrown into it. It is typically unexpected and it interrupts our daily lives.  All too often we think of suffering as a punishment, that it comes to us due to our sin. But the lives of the saints, those who lived very holy lives, lived lives filled with suffering.  These saints were able to, much like St. Paul, rejoice in their suffering for they knew that in their weakness they were made strong through Christ who strengthens them. By keeping their eyes on Christ and awaiting the hope of his saving grace, these ordinary men and women were lifted up to be honored as faithful servants of the Lord.  The lives of the saints show us that there must be something more to suffering than what we are able to see on the surface.

Jesus’ Passion was not endured alone.  None of us, not even Jesus, are meant to carry our burdens alone.  Along The Way of the Cross, Jesus had Simon to help him carry the cross, but there were also other people who were there to help him carry his burden.  His Mother Mary was there and her simple glance gave Jesus courage. Veronica, who forced her way through the crowds and past the guards in order to wipe the face of Jesus, showed Jesus tremendous compassion by wiping away the ugliness of his suffering and demonstrating his dignity in this simple act.  Jesus could have stopped his Passion at any point, but he didn’t, he fully accepted the Father’s Will. The people we meet along The Way of the Cross show us that our own burdens, when fully accepted, can be lightened through the compassion, love, support, and physical help of our neighbor.

Simon’s acceptance of the cross, even though it was unwarranted and unexpected, demonstrates to us how we are to accept our own participation in the Body of Christ through Redemptive Suffering.  Much like Simon experienced, in our suffering Jesus is there with us. We are not in it alone. Simon could have missed the opportunity to share in his own redemption by rejecting the cross. He may not have been able to get himself out of the situation, as the Roman soldiers would have probably killed him, but he could have carried the cross in anger, bitterness and resentment.  We can glean that Simon didn’t do this because he is not spoken of again after this point. He quietly accepts the suffering and endures it in union with Jesus; thus fulfilling the mission and purpose he was given. What could have destroyed Simon’s spirit, was actually the very thing that brought about his redemption. No one is able to escape suffering, but through it we are offered the opportunity to help Jesus carry the cross. Our suffering will no doubt interrupt our lives, change our plans, and throw a wrench in the trajectory of our lives, but it will also lead to our redemption.

God, who is outside of time, is able to see the whole picture, not only of our individual lives, but of all of creation.  As the Body of Christ, we all are suffering in our own unique ways, some in big ways and others in smaller ways. But together we make up the perfect sacrifice of Christ, which is done once and for all for the redemption of the world.  This is how we, as Saint Paul says, “fill up in {our} flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” -Col 1:24  This means what I am going through today is united with Christ’s Passion, which happened on earth over 2000 years ago. All of our suffering is a participation in this one act, through our union with the Body of Christ, which is outside of time.  What peace and hope we can gain from this truth. No matter what suffering may come our way, it can be offered in union with Christ’s Passion. Through our acceptance of it, just like Simon accepted the carrying of the cross, we are led with Jesus along The Way of the Cross, the way that leads to our redemption. When we choose to reject our suffering, we are in essence choosing to reject our redemption.  Jesus was not meant to carry the burden alone and when we unite our sufferings in union with his, we are in essence helping Jesus carry the burden of the cross just like Simon of Cyrene.

So why did the saints rejoice in their suffering?  Suffering is not something good or anything that is joyful to experience.  What could they be talking about then? The saints had a deep understanding of the union of Jesus and his Passion through their suffering.  They knew that their suffering united them with Jesus in a real way. They understood and fully believed that their suffering was their way of the cross that led to their redemption.  Now this is true faith. This is the faith that saves us.

 

About veilofveronica

I am a mother and wife as well as an RCIA and Adult Faith Formation catechist at a parish in the south. I have 3 children and a great husband.
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