Thomas Merton once said, “Doing the Stations of the Cross was still more laborious than consoling, and required a sacrifice…Nevertheless the work of performing them ended in a profound and fortifying peace.”Our journey with the stations of the cross is not one without labor or sacrifice. To watch someone bear it, is terrible enough; to know our savior bore it for all, is even worse. It would be easy to avoid it, to look away, to forget…
But our news constantly tells us about people bearing crosses…
· Families who still don’t know what happened to their loved ones on MH370.
· Those hurt & killed in the Jersey Shore Hotel Fire – which housed people displaced by Superstorm Sandy.
· Adrianne Haslet-Davis, an accomplished dancer who was injured in Boston Marathon Bombings – lost her lower left leg. She began intense rehabilitation enduring intense pain, both physically and emotionally. With the help of a new prosthetic leg, she was determined to dance again, which she did this week…
This morning we continue our way of the cross, hoping to find that peace that Merton did
Simon of Cyrene picks up the cross for Jesus. Station 5. He finally has some help, even if it is for a moment. The weight is off and on another’s shoulders. Simon was compelled by the Romans to carry the cross, but his name would be passed on to countless generations as one who helped Jesus in his last moments, the father of Rufus and Alexander who tradition holds became missionaries. To this day, I still see Sidney Poitier bearing the cross (from The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)).
Station 5 is a symbol of the need for all of us to help each other bear our crosses, for there are moments that it is too hard to bear alone & we need each other’s help on our journeys
And so it is with Station 6. Tradition holds that Veronica wiped Jesus's face with her veil. There is no reference to the story of Veronica and her veil in the Gospels, but it is another gracious gift on his way to crucifixion. A moment of compassion. We should notice that Jesus is helped by a woman, in a way that society would not have permitted.
She offers her veil, which is meant to conceal! Consider the story from today’s Gospel.
Jesus is travelling through Samaritan territory, Samaritans and Jews of Jesus day looked at each other as an enemy of sorts, certainly they believed each other practiced their religion wrongly.
As Jesus sees a woman going to the well for water, he asks her for a drink. She is right to be astonished. What he is doing breaks all the boundaries, even taboos of the time. It’s just isn’t done this way!
And Jesus does all of this because his message is for everyone, Jew or Samaritan, he is not interested in our labels or our social limits. The Good News of the Kingdom of God was for the world. We see this as well when his disciples return and Jesus is speaking to her. They don’t seem shocked that he is talking with a Samaritan; they probably have seen him interact with so many different people, they almost expect it. Blind man, leper, stranger, they have seen it all, or so they thought.
But he is talking with a woman, alone at the well and they are astonished. They know all social conventions say he should not be doing this but they don’t ask why. But through this encounter, it changes her, she believes the words of Jesus that he has that living water. And she goes and tells others to come and see and they also come to believe. She in fact becomes a Samaritan evangelist and a disciple.
Like Veronica, the Samaritan woman at the well, who in her own act of discipleship gives to Jesus a moment of refreshment in the midst of his hard life. It would come from an unexpected place, and it would be remembered.
Those brief moments of comfort from Simon and Veronica are not enough, at station 7, Jesus falls a second time. The weight of what he has to bear is again too much, and onto his knees he falls. So we pause once again, to take in the scene, the power of love in the midst of such pain, those who helped on a dark journey.
A poem for our continued journey in the midst of pain and love by Elizabeth Jennings (Prayer for Holy Week)
Love me in my willingness to sufferMay we be Simon and Veronica in our world today, for all those struggling with their crosses…that Jesus may teach us how to love and how he died, and we will try to give life and joy so dead things start to live again. Amen.
Love me in the gifts I wish to offer
Teach me how you love and have to die
And I will try
Somehow to forget myself and give
Life and joy so dead things start to live.
Let me show now an untrammelled joy,
Gold without alloy.
You know I have no cross but want to learn,
How to change & to the poor world turn.
I can almost worship stars and moon
And the sun at noon
But when I'm low I only beg you to
Ask me anything, I'll try to do
What you need. I trust your energy.
Share it then with me.