Monday in the Thirty-Second Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 27:31-32; Mark 15:20-21; Luke 23:26

God Sometimes Honors Men in Mysterious Ways

We are now on our way to Golgotha, the hill on which our Lord was crucified.  We really don’t know how far the distance was from where Jesus began his trek to his final stop on that cursed hill, partly because we don’t know the exact way he was driven, partly because at some point in the journey, he was unable to continue.  The crossbeam the condemned carried weighed somewhere between thirty and forty pounds (ESV Study Bible, notes, 1886).  More significantly would be the weakening Jesus experienced from severe beatings beginning the night before, and, of course, the cruel scourging that took the flesh off a man’s back.  No doubt, he would have lost a lot of blood by the time he fell exhausted under the weight of the beam.

Enter Simon of Cyrene.  He is mentioned in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, seemingly in passing, but he is obviously an important figure.  Indeed, Mark must tell us that he is “the father of Alexander and Rufus,” the only reason for which had to be that the Christian community to which Mark was writing his Gospel (scholars think Rome in the mid 60s, see Romans 16:13) knew the two men, perhaps personally.  At any rate, here is this man “coming in from the country,” a Jew coming to Jerusalem to attend Passover.  He has the misfortune of running upon this mad scene in which a poor man is being led away to be crucified with throngs of people lining the way, some crying like the women Luke refers to, others cheering and jeering.  When Jesus falls under the load of his cross, the Roman soldiers, who have the legal right to compel whoever is standing by to help them with manual labor, force him to carry Jesus’ cross.  You can imagine the horror: “Whoa!  I’m just here for Passover!” followed by “Shut up and carry this cross if you know what’s good for you!”  Simon complies.  And in doing so, we are led to believe that both he and his sons were eventually saved.

And so here you are, carrying a cross for a condemned man, a cross that you will carry to the chosen destination, that you will then lay down so that this man, whom you do not know, may be stretched out upon it and fastened to it by nails.  In other words, you are forced to be an accessory to this man’s cruel death.  You see this blood-soaked man, the brutal soldiers, the screaming people.  I’m sure Simon would have rather run away.  But God has the most mysterious ways of working in our lives.  What happened to Simon on that day was no doubt traumatizing, but it was definitely not accidental.  Blessed art thou, Simon of Cyrene, for you have the eternal honor of being the man who carried the cross for the One who saved us all.

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