Each year as I enter into the events of Holy Week, a different aspect of our Lord's Passion and death seem to be more relevant to me than in years past. After watching Gibson's Passion of the Christ with the family last weekend, the scenes of Jesus and Simon the Cyrenian really spoke to me deeply. Simon is portrayed as the reluctant helper. When ordered to help Jesus with His cross Simon declares his own innocence to the crowd. He has done nothing to deserve this punishment. Yet, he reluctantly accepts the cross and begins his own journey with Christ.
I know when I am handed my crosses in life, I am also inclined to whine a bit. It is human nature for us to question and try to avoid suffering. Why me? What did I do to deserve this pain; this poverty; this unemployment; this sickness; this loss; this sadness? It's not fair. Like Simon, after some initial whining and protesting, hopefully, we do our best to carry that burden. We realize that there are some situations life hands us that we cannot escape. We cannot skirt around them , but must go through them and come out the other side. These are the times I try and remember the lesson Simon learned from Jesus:
Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30
Our burdens become bearable when we do as Simon did and take on the yoke of Christ. Mel Gibson did an excellent job of filming the scenes of Simon and Jesus from the perspective of two men yoked together and helping each other bear the burden. Yes, even in His hour of greatest need, Christ is sharing the pain with Simon. Simon eventually comes to accept that cross because he sees Jesus will not abandon him to it alone. I wonder, in my own life, why I don't always remember to yoke myself to Jesus. Instinctively, I want to carry my cross alone. It can be heavy. It can seem nearly impossible. I want to give up. But Jesus tells us His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He wants us to yoke ourselves to Him in our distress. As a matter of fact, He wants us to remain yoked to Him in the best of times, too! That is a very easy thing to forget. When times are good... when we have a job; our health; our family; food; friends; happiness: do we share those joys with Jesus? Somehow, I think if I did more of that, when the crosses come.. and they will... staying yoked to Him would be the easy and natural thing to do.
This Good Friday, if you are carrying a particular cross remember to yoke your suffering to our Lord's suffering. He wants to lighten your burden. He told us so. If you feel at this point in time, you are carrying no particular cross, praise God! Share your joys and thanksgiving with Him. Maybe you know someone who carries a heavy cross. Be Simon to that person! Even if, like Simon in the movie, you are reluctant to because you know being Simon is not an easy role to play, do it anyway. You may suffer as well doing it, but you too will be brought closer to Christ through it.