"As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they pressed into service to carry his cross." (Mt: 27: 32)
The cross is the source of life and blessings, hidden under pain and suffering. However, we will only experience the life that the cross and resurrection promises us if we are willing to not only pick up our own crosses, but also help others carry theirs. St. Paul instructs the Galatians to "bear one another's burdens" ( Gal 6:2) In spite of these words, we may find ourselves, like Simon, reluctant partners in the bearing of someone else's cross. Willingly entering into the pain of another person, whether that pain is physical, spiritual or emotional, is never easy. It is far "safer" to stand aside, like the crowds surrounding Jesus, and watch from a distance. Helping to carry another's cross requires strength, perseverance, patience and love. It requires the openness to experience pain ourselves, in solidarity with that person.
Perhaps we identify with Simon this Holy Week - finding ourselves sharing the cross with someone else. We may be embarrassed at our own reluctance to help and wondering what difference our assistance is really making. The scriptures do not tell us how Simon's help impacted Jesus. Likewise, we may never know the extent to which our help blesses another person. What we are assured of is the promise made by the Lord himself that "whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me." (Mt 25:40)
Why am I being asked to help you carry your cross? I don't want to be near you. I am afraid to step into your pain. What will happen to me if I do? Yet, I am drawn to your side. I am moved by your silent suffering. Struggling alongside you under the weight of the cross, this encounter with you is changing me. Help me, Jesus, to willingly and compassionately help others carry their crosses. Purify me of my reluctance to experience the pain of another's cross and give me the grace to be changed by sharing in the suffering of another.
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