Thursday, 24 March 2011

Libyan enlisted to aid the advance of Christianity!

I mean, of course, St Simon of Cyrene (Cyrene then a town in today's Libya). I have always been fascinated by this shadowy character, an unwilling participant in a brutal crucifixion - did he believe that he shared culpability by his actions I wonder?

I empathise with his reluctance; it must have been the last thing that he wanted, there he was just an innocent bystander standing on the sidelines of the world's greatest drama and suddenly some thuggish Roman soldiers grab hold of his arm saying "'ere you, take a grip on this 'ere cross" or words to that effect. How often have I felt like that, having a desire for quiet anonymity and suddenly some priest whispers in your ear "Do you know how to serve Mass?" or, worse still, "Would you stay behind after Mass and help  fill a few thousand envelopes?"

Of course, those roles are nothing like being asked to assist at a crucifixion where you might well end up being an object of hatred of all parties concerned.
And the request meant that poor unsuspecting Simon would have blood on his hands, literally. He would have to take up a very considerable burden in carrying that cross as Our Lord, by then, must have been as weak as a kitten from the scourging, beatings and subsequent loss of blood.
He was not a Jew, or so it is believed, he wanted no part of some religious political spat between the High Priests and the Romans and, for all we know, he may have been on his way to clinch an all important business deal that would set him up for life or, maybe, a nice lunch with some old buddies.

If there was a vacancy for a patron saint of fall guys, St Simon would be just the ticket and that's one of the reasons that I like him so much, that and the fact that he really represents us all. How often have we been reluctant to get involved in our faith, to stand up in that group of friends in the pub on Friday night and state that abortion is wrong, to ask someone not to blaspheme by using the name of Christ as an expletive, to write to one's Bishop concerning some liturgical abuse? I can fully understand St Simon, I have been there and will be there again no doubt.

But something happened to him once he had taken a hold of the cross and relieved the suffering Christ just a little. The spark of faith took, ignited and grew with God's grace so that, in time, Simon changed from being an unwilling helper to an enthusiatic follower.
There he was, minding his own business and, all of a
sudden he was making a commitment!

The lessons in this scene from the Passion of Christ are many and to me the most important one is enshrined within the deed of 'taking up the cross'. For Simon it proved to be a blessing and so it is for us all. When we suffer a bereavement, get made redundant or when the consultant tells us that we have cancer it is a cross that we unwillingly shoulder but shoulder it we do and we receive God's blessing as a result.
If there is any sense to be made of the disaster in the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami or the New Zealand earthquake it is in the cross that those souls have unwillingly (like St Simon) shouldered (to help reduce the suffering of Christ?). It is suffering that is redemptive, the shedding of blood that opens up the road to salvation.
We are all innocent bystanders who, inexplicably, receive God's love for us in the form of a cross. If we can carry it, it will set us free. We can all be Simon of Cyrenes.
The time we should worry is when we do not have a cross to bear. Pity the lottery winner, the healthy athlete, the banker, the person who is so successful in all that they touch and do. They just do not know what they are missing.


The Cyrenean helps Jesus to carry His cross

V. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee.

R. Because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

Here, Simon of Cyrene on his arrival from his day's work was made to carry the cross after Jesus.
Jesus all bruised and disfigured, still lives on amongst us under the form of suffering humanity.
Let us then be charitably disposed, after the example of the Cyrenean, and help Jesus to carry His cross by relieving the poor, visiting the sick and consoling the afflicted.
"As long as you did this to My least brethren you did it for Me"

Let us be kind and helpful to all in trouble, sympathetic and indulgent. It is our bounden duty to hold out the right hand of fellowship to all in temptation:

                       "Considering thyself lest thou also be tempted"


  1. I never really grasped the relevance of what Simon of Cyrene did, in carrying Our saviour's Cross, nor why he was so resistant. Thank you for explaining this and the analogy with accepting our own crosses. Very informative! Best of all, I understood it. You should be a teacher.

  2. I never thought of Simon of Cyrene in quite such detail, but all you say makes a lot of sense. I think I've just found another Saint to pray to.