January 22, 2021

Stations of the Cross: The Fifth Station

A Series for Holy Week.
Thanks to Jeff Dunn for leading us in these meditations.

Simon of Cyrene carries the cross.


When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus.

Luke 23: 26 NASB)

On his way to the hill of execution, Jesus experienced pain and suffering beyond the lot of mortals. One of his sufferings was the inability to carry his own cross. Helplessness is humiliating, perhaps more painful than physical suffering. Lying on the ground, blood flowing from where the whip ripped open his back, flowing from the thorns pressed into the skin of his forehead. His strength oozing out like his blood and sweat and, yes, tears. And now he cannot even carry the cross that will end his life. He has to rely on someone to carry it for him.

The woman lying in bed, in the last stages of a hopeless battle against the disease that will end her life, relying on others to bathe and feed her. To change her clothes and clean her bedpan. To hold a straw to her mouth so she can take small sips of some kind of watered-down juice. This woman, unable to do anything for herself. Jesus knows her pain, her humiliation.

The man dying of AIDS. His life ebbing away, he lies in loneliness brought about by fear. Fear on the part of those who could help, but are afraid they will “catch something.” So he is cared for by a stranger, one with rough hands and bad breath and little kindness. The man will die alone, helpless, hopeless. Jesus knows his pain, his shame.

Jesus experienced the shame of helplessness, the total dependence on another to do what he should have been doing. Jesus suffered in this way so that we do not have to suffer. He drank the cup of our shame, now we can feel free to let another carry our burden, carry our needs, carry us. When Simon of Cyrene steps forward—or is pushed forward by someone else—to carry our cross, we can gladly lay it on his shoulders. There is no longer any guilt or shame in allowing someone else to do for us what, perhaps, we should be doing ourselves. This, too, was dealt with by Jesus on his way to Golgotha.

The action for this Station is not what you might think. It is not for you to act as a Simon of Cyrene, looking for those you might be able to help. No, it is for you to just lie still and let a Simon come to you, take your burden, and carry it for you. It is for you to, in humility, let your burdens go and just lie there. This goes against our “if it is to be, it’s up to me” mindset. And that is a very good thing.

Oh Jesus, how hard it must have been for you to rely on another.  Our pride rears its ugliness when we even think we might have to rely on another. But you took this shame that brings about our pride to its end. You defeated shame, just as you defeated the other works of the enemy. Jesus, thank you for becoming helpless that in our helplessness we can know we are not alone. You have walked before us, and will guide us to you in our helplessness.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

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