Jesus and Simon of Cyrene


 After a night of pain, of mockery and contempt, Jesus, broken by the terrible torment of the scourging, is led forth to be crucified. Then he released Barabbas to them; and Jesus, having had him scourged, he handed him over to them to be crucified,1 says the Gospel of St. Matthew soberly.

The people did not accept the exchange for Barabbas, of whom he was innocent, for one who was guilty of robbery and murder. Jesus is condemned to suffer a painful punishment and the death reserved for criminals. Before long, everyone sees that he is too weak to carry the cross to Calvary on his shoulders. One man, Simon of Cyrene, on his way home, is forced to carry it. Where are your disciples? Jesus had spoken to them about carrying the cross, and they had all affirmed with great assurance that they were willing to go with Him to death. Now He cannot even find one to help Him carry the cross to the place of execution. It must be done by a stranger, and forced by force. Around the Lord there are no friendly faces and no one wanted to commit himself. Even those who received benefits and healings now want to go unnoticed. What Isaiah prophesied many centuries before was fulfilled to the letter: I have trodden the winepress alone, and none of the people helped me..... I looked, and there was no one to help me; I marveled that there was no one to support me.

Simon took the end of the cross and carried it on his shoulders. The other, the heavier one, that of love not understood, that of the sins of every man, that Christ bore alone.

There is an exception to this helplessness in which the Lord finds himself, and which has been handed down to us by tradition: a woman - known by the name of Veronica - comes with a cloth to wipe the face of Jesus, and on the cloth was imprinted the face of the Lord. "The veil of Veronica is the symbol of the moving dialogue between Christ and the repairing soul. Veronica responded to the love of Christ with her reparation; an especially admirable reparation, because it was made by a weak woman who did not fear the wrath of Christ's enemies (...). Is the face of Jesus imprinted on my soul (...), as on Veronica's veil?"

The Lord continues on his way; some physical relief has come to him. But the road is tortuous and the ground uneven. His energies are more and more depleted; it is not strange that Jesus falls. Once, twice, three times. He falls and barely gets up. And a few meters later he falls again. When he gets up he tells us how much he loves us; when he falls he expresses the great need he feels for us to love him.

"It is not too late, nor is all lost.... Though it may seem so to you. Even if a thousand doom-mongering voices repeat it. Although you are besieged by mocking and incredulous looks.... You have come at a good time to carry the Cross: the Redemption is being made - now! - and Jesus needs many Cyrenians".