You hear the phrase "carry your cross" or "we all have a cross to bear" but today, the Church celebrates the one human who can literally say he carried the Cross.
As Jesus was staggering under the load, shouldering his cross out of Jerusalem to the place of execution, there was a guy in the crowd coming in from a place called Cyrene. His name was Simon, a Jew from Cyrene, who was in Jerusalem for the Passover. The Roman soldiers picked him out of what was probably a large group of people watching the executions. Why? Was he taller? Did he catch the eye of the Centurion because he looked strong enough to carry the load with out further delay? We will never know. I chose this image to portray the strength of Simon and how he helped the traumatized Jesus. Click on the link to view the artist's website. We do know that the Romans had a legal right of a soldier to require a provincial to carry his gear one mile for him, and that is probably the law used in this case.
Simon was a bystander, yet he was chosen to act in a powerful drama that he could not know was occurring when he arrived in Jerusalem that day. He wasn't a follower of this Rabbi being executed, he did not know His family, friends or even His message. He was from Cyrene, some distance away in Africa. Plucked out of obscurity by "chance" Simon was compelled to take near center stage at the very Redemption of humanity.
But did Simon just go his on way unaffected? No. Somehow, Jesus in the short time He had with Simon touched him in some profound way that forever changed him. What questions did he ask? Perhaps "who are You" or "why are they doing this"? We know that the Gospeler Mark tells us that Simon was "the father of Alexander and Rufus" without further explanation, apparently taking it for granted that his readers would all know who Rufus and Alexander are. About a century later, the Christian writer Papias tells us that Mark originally wrote his Gospel for the Christian community in Rome. It appears that Alexander and Rufus were well known to, and probably part of, the Christian community in Rome. Also in the Acts of the Apostles, we hear that some "men of Cyrene" are preaching the Gospel in Antioch. Was Simon one of them? We don't know for certain, but it does seem that Simon was converted on that day, carrying the Cross of Christ, and his children followed the Lord after him.
The question is, how does carrying each other's burdens convert us? Do we accept help like Jesus did, or do we try to shoulder our burdens alone?
Heavenly Father, Whose most dear Son, as He walked the way of the Cross, accepted the service of Simon of Cyrene to carry His physical burden for Him: grant us each the grace gladly to bear one another's burdens, for the love of Him who said, "As you did it to the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me," Your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, Who now lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.