We began Holy Week on Palm Sunday reading the Passion according to St. Mark. We hear the story again this time from St. John’s perspective. There are similarities between the two stories. They both include Peter denying Jesus three times. They both include the trial of Jesus before Pilate and the crowds choosing Barabbas over Jesus to be spared. They both describe the suffering Jesus endured as he carried the cross. They both end with Jesus dying on the cross.
Yet, there are differences. Like, in Mark’s story, a bystander named Simon from Cyrene watches with the crowd Jesus, beaten and bloody, carrying the cross to Calvary.
What was going on his mind as he watched Jesus? Was his heart moved with pity? Did he feel helpless because he did not know how to help this man? Did he not know how to stop this injustice? Was he scared to get involved?
Yet, the soldiers chose him from the crowd and forced him to help Jesus carry the cross.
John, on the other hand, did not include Simon in this account. However, even though he is not mentioned in the story we heard today I would like to focus on Simon briefly today, Good Friday, because I think he is like us in a many ways.
There are times when we are called upon to help others who are suffering as they carry their crosses. Often, like Simon, we are unwilling. Like, Simon, we may be unwilling because we don’t know what to do. We may not know what to say. We may be afraid. We may not even want to get involved.
Yet, with hearts moved with pity and with LOVE, we are forced to come to the aid of the sick, the suffering, the dying. We are compelled to help carry their crosses and help lighten the load of their journeys.
We are forced to suffer with those who are suffering…which is what the word COMPASSION literally means.
Good Friday has many lessons for us.
A lesson of Good Friday is that the Son of God suffered. He suffered because he loves us. He suffered alone, left carrying the cross alone until someone was urged to help him. It may have been forced upon him at first but we have to believe that Simon was also moved out of pity and love for our Lord.
A lesson of Good Friday is that we all suffer. As sons and daughters of God we suffer because of physical or mental illness, we suffer from poverty, we suffer from addiction, we suffer from thirst, we suffer from hunger, we suffer from selfishness, we suffer from sinfulness. Sometimes, we know what it’s like to suffer alone.
A lesson of Good Friday is that we have a choice. We can either stand with the rest of the crowds and do nothing, or, like Simon, we can be moved out of pity and love to help carry another’s cross, ease their burden.
The Procession of the Cross is the center Good Friday Service. It’s a very moving humbling and moving ritual. I will be carry the cross up the aisle, stopping three times to reveal a one part of the cross. After revealing one part of the cross I will chant “Behold the wood of the cross, on which hung the savior of the world.”
You will respond, “Come let us adore.” Then we will all kiss the cross.
As you watch the procession and respond with COME LET US ADORE pay attention to what is going on in your heart.
Are you watching as a spectator like the crowds who were just as content to watch the suffering Jesus walk by them and do nothing.
Or will you watch and be moved with compassion and want to step out of the crowds like Simon to help our Lord carry his cross.
Those are the important questions this Holy Day gives to all of us not just today…but everyday!
Behold the wood of the cross on which hung the salvation of the world!
Come let us adore!