Compelled By Force, He Remains For Love

Compelled By Force, He Remains For Love

“And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. And they compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross…” (Mk 15; 20-21)

For who still has a vivid memory of the film “The Passion” of Mel Gibson, I think it shouldn’t be difficult to call to mind that man with a little girl in his arms that, at a certain point, appears in the middle of the crowd that is following Jesus on the way of the Cross. The soldiers that escort the condemned men stop close to him, while he seeks to protect his daughter from those horror scenes, covering her eyes. Jesus is exhausted; he continues to fall and seems not to be able to go on. The soldiers are afraid that he might not arrive to Golgotha and, taken by the fear of loosing the atrocious show of crucifixion, compel the “passer-by” to carry the Cross.

That passer-by’s name is Simon, like Peter and comes from Cyrene, a town of Africa. He is just passing by; perhaps he had never even heard of Jesus, he had never promised to give his life for him (cfr. Mk 22; 32), and he doesn’t have anything to do with what is happening. This is why, in front of the threats of the soldiers, he rebels, he seeks to get away, but in vain. Among other things he is a Jew and touching the cross, he would have become impure and would not have been able to celebrate the Passover. Many thoughts come into his head: “Why me? How long will I have to walk with this weight on my shoulders? And what will people think? It’s unfair; they will believe that I too am condemned!!!! Who is this Jesus? What do I have to do with this man? I don’t know him…”

IF YOU KNEW THE GIFT OF GOD AND WHO IT IS THAT ASKS YOU … YOU YOURSELF WOULD HAVE ASKED HIM … (cfr. Jn 4; 10)

Peter knew well who that Man was and yet just before, for fear, he had said to a servant that he did not know Him and he ran away. Simon too is afraid, he would like to run away, but he can’t, because he would risk something worse happening to him. What his is going through seems to be bad luck, a curse, an unforeseen misfortune. If he only knew!

He takes upon his shoulders that wood and walks beside Jesus, closer to him than his Mother and John could be. Simon would have looked him in the eyes, maybe at the beginning with contempt and anger. And to that look Jesus would have responded with comprehension, with gratitude … Simon at a certain point would have felt a little embarrassed…

From the mouth of that Man no complaint came forth, but why? Did he not also rebel in the face of all of these frustrations? Perhaps he didn’t have the strength…

No, there was something else that was different about that condemned man … but what?

“I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter…” (Jer. 11; 19)

The same pace, the same breath, arms extended to hold up those of the other…

That disfigured face, just a few minutes before so strange and suspect, slowly becomes familiar … those eyes circled by blows express mercy, recognition, those feet by now so tired seem to want to bring together all of their strength, to be able to run to Golgotha, those hands already so crushed seem to want to hold and grip evermore the wood of the Cross, as if it were a blessing…

It is here under the weight of the wood shared with Jesus that Simon experiences something new, something unheard of, something unexpected. He that was at first so reluctant, now starts to defend that Man, to see Him as a companion, as a friend. Jesus is covered in blood, he is exhausted, that beam becomes ever heavier, and he needs Simon. And it will be thanks to this that he will be able to arrive to Golgotha.

If you only knew the gift of God…

Simon is compelled to welcome the biggest gift that could be given to a man: to be the companion of Jesus in the decisive moment of salvation. (Silvano Fausti) We don’t know how much Simon would have understood that gift immediately. However the fact that all three of the evangelists remember his name and that of his sons, Alexander and Rufus, makes us think. If he would have known, maybe he wouldn’t have rebelled…

We know, and yet our weakness makes us rebel in front of the Cross…

And also in front of the Cyrenes that the Lord sends into our journey and of which, for pride or shame, we refuse our help. We forget that also Jesus made Himself needy, He that was God.

Lord, we ask you to still be your friends and companions in this journey, carrying like the Cyrene, the weight of those that, beside us, are carrying the Cross. Forgive us if at times we as well, like Simon, are reluctant, rebellious…Make it so that friendship with you may be the secret of our love and of our patience, knowing that anything that we do to our brothers, we do to you. (cfr. Mt. 25; 40).

March’s meditation is by Simona C.