Play this music before you start in preparation for your prayer.
Hold your heart and the whole world in your hands.
He was just a bystander,
one of many in that crowd
watching the spectacle of criminals
being led to their execution.
We know that he wasn’t a local:
Cyrene is located in modern-day Libya.
So he was virtually a tourist–
though more likely, a Jewish pilgrim
who had gone to Jerusalem for the Passover.
Before he knew it, he found himself
carrying a convicted man’s cross.
We’re not sure how he got picked by the Roman soldiers.
One interpretation says that Simon was chosen
because he had shown some sympathy for Jesus.
But most seem to think that he was simply picked randomly,
was given no choice,
and could not, out of fear of the Romans, protest.
In short, the man who gets to help Jesus bear his cross
was probably dragged into it.
Imagine the resentment that he might have felt:
Wasn’t he just going about his own private life?
Remember, to him at this point,
Jesus wasn’t just a stranger,
but a convicted criminal at that!
We can almost visualize him
recoiling from the bloodied man
staggering beside him,
this criminal whose cross he ended up carrying against his will.
Don’t we, in some way,
feel like Simon of Cyrene these days?
We were all just quietly and busily going about
our private lives–
and then we got dragged into this!
Like any passerby,
the last thing we wanted was to get involved–in this!
We enjoy being voyeurs,
but we want to be able to walk away.
We prefer to remain a spectator and not get involved.
Out of curiosity, we would google a crime or a catastrophe–
like that outbreak in Wuhan–
but we also want to be able to surf elsewhere
and watch something else
when we’re done, and return to our routines–
business as usual.
The last thing we want
is to have our lives disrupted.
But here we all are, aren’t we?
Our lives have been disrupted,
and chances are, when this is all over,
we won’t simply be able to go back to “business as usual.”
We could stay in denial or simmer in resentment–
OR we could choose to do what Simon of Cyrene must have done.
To be honest, we really don’t know for sure what he did:
All the Gospels that mention Simon by name are silent
about what happened to him when they got to Golgotha:
Did he stay to watch the crucifixion?
Or did he scamper away the first chance he got
to return to his private life–business as usual?
What we do know is that his two sons are mentioned
by name in Mark’s account.
It’s unlikely that the early Christian Church would know
the names of the sons of a foreigner–
unless Simon, for some reason, decided to stay behind
and to become one of the early Christians.
In short, maybe something did happen
to that reluctant bystander on the way to Calvary
as he carried Jesus’ cross.
At a certain point, Simon of Cyrene must have accepted his fate,
and as a result, was able to freely make some important choices.
Sometimes God pulls us out of our comfort zone–
at times without asking us!–
and before we know it, life as we know it is different.
When God allows these unwelcome disturbances to go our way,
we need to pray for the graces of acceptance and freedom.
If we make the right choices,
these disturbances can offer us the rare opportunity
to encounter the Lord up close–
our initial reluctance notwithstanding–
and nothing can be more life-changing.
Ask yourself today:
How are you feeling about the unexpected turn-of-events
in your life and in our world?
Still in denial? Resentful? Anxious? All of the above?
We’re sure to feel differently (and more strongly!)
if we have been personally affected by the coronavirus–
either ourselves or someone we love,
or even just someone we know.
But in whatever situation we may find ourselves,
what choices can we make today
to improve our acceptance of the situation
and freedom to respond to it?
Can we at least pray for these two graces?
Here are some very powerful–and relevant–words
from the first verses of Coldplay’s song “Everyday Life”
What in the world are we going to do?
Look at what everybody’s going through
What kind of world do you want it to be?
Am I the future or the history?
‘Cause everyone hurts
Everyone tells each other all kinds of lies
Everybody dreams and doubts
Got to keep dancing when the lights go out.
Let’s make the choice to keep dancing
even in this time of the Pandemic.
“Behold the Wood” from St. Louis Jesuits. Image for Station from Fratel Venzo. “Everyday Life” from Coldplay
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