Jesus Assisted by Simon of Cyrene
Source: THE SCHOOL
OF JESUS CRUCIFIED, Fr. Ignatius of the Side of Jesus,
TAN BOOKS, with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1895
THE high priests, fearing lest Jesus should expire from fatigue and suffering in ascending the mountain, take the Cross from His shoulders, and force one Simon of Cyrene, who is by chance passing that way, to carry it for Him.
Our Redeemer might, by a miracle, infuse strength into His frame sufficient to enable Him to carry His welcome, long-desired Cross, even to the summit of Mount Calvary. He has already worked other miracles to support sinking nature, and to prevent Himself from expiring at the time of the scourging and during His agony and bloody sweat. He might add this one more to the number. But such is not His Will. It is His Will to have companions to bear the Cross with Him. It is His Will that others should feel the weight of His Cross, and this is why He sinks down and requires assistance, and not because He is weary of bearing His Cross, or that He finds its weight insupportable. His consent that another should relieve Him of His Cross arises from no desire of unburdening His sacred shoulders, but is a mystery intended to teach us that He is pleased to share His sufferings with all His elect. On the other hand, Jesus is, at the same time, ready to bear His Cross so long as to fall several times beneath its weight, and even finally to expire upon it. And with what degree of constancy do you bear your Cross. Do you persevere in virtue? Are you firm and constant in your resolution to follow Jesus Christ, and to suffer with Him and for Him?
Remember that whoever does not take up his Cross and follow Jesus, is not worthy of Him. Whoever has not partaken of His sufferings will not partake of His glory. Jesus desires to associate us with Himself in His eternal happiness, and for that reason it is His Will that we, in the person of Simon of Cyrene, should assist Him to carry His Cross. Therefore, if it is cruelty on the part of the Jews to relieve Jesus of His burden, only because they desire to see Him die the death of the Cross, on His part it is love for you, zeal for your salvation, and a burning desire to make you partake of those sufferings by which He is meriting eternal glory.
2. The happiness of the Cyrenian in being chosen to assist Jesus in bearing His Cross.
Among all the multitude of people following Jesus Christ to Mount Calvary, not one man offers to assist Him in bearing His Cross. All look upon it with horror as a public mark of infamy. Not one of the many disciples and friends of our blessed Redeemer will risk his reputation so far, or has courage sufficient to relieve our suffering Jesus of the heavy burden beneath which He is sinking. Oh, how many there are in the world who call themselves followers of Christ, but, the moment an opportunity offers of suffering anything for His sake, take to flight, make excuses, and declare themselves, by their actions, the enemies of the Cross of Christ! Are you one of these? Remember that to bear the Cross with Christ is not a counsel only, but an obligation for all who wish to save their souls. While the Jews are seeking for someone to carry the Cross of Jesus, they fall in with a stranger from the city of Cyrene, who is passing that way, and him they force to take up the Cross. Thus is this man singled out by Providence to be honored with bearing the Cross of Jesus. How fortunate is he in being able to relieve our dear Redeemer of His burden! What a happiness to have to ascend Mount Calvary in His company---to partake of His sufferings, His ignominy, and His fatigues! What an honor to bear this Cross, which has been already so tenderly embraced by Jesus, and sprinkled with His Divine Blood! My soul, if thou hadst been in the place of Simon of Cyrene, and hadst known who and what Jesus was, as thou knowest now, wouldst thou not most willingly have assisted Him to carry His Cross? Wouldst thou not have considered it a happiness to bear that heavy Cross upon thy own shoulders, to relieve the agonizing Son of God? Most certainly thou wouldst. Well, if thou bearest thy trials patiently, if thou dost struggle generously against thy temptations, thou wilt enjoy an honor similar to that of the Cyrenian. All our sufferings are portions of the Cross of Jesus. They have all in the first instance afflicted His blessed Soul and Body. He has experienced all the sufferings which you now endure. He has borne the sorrows which afflict you. You will diminish the burden laid on Jesus, you will relieve His sufferings, if you bear your Cross willingly and joyfully for love of Him. Promise our sweet Jesus that you will do so from this moment.
3. In what manner a Christian should bear the Cross.
The Gospel does not say that Simon of Cyrene refused to take up the Cross he was required to bear, or that he murmured or lamented over his fate. Behold the example which you should follow. The crosses of our own choice are good, but those sent us by Providence are better, from whatever source they may proceed. To accept them in silence, receive them without complaint, and bear them with patience, will render them meritorious, and make us true followers of Jesus Christ. Simon of Cyrene bears the Cross after Jesus, keeping Him always before his eyes.
Oh, how joyfully should we suffer did we always keep Jesus Crucified before our eyes! When we contemplate Our Saviour covered with blood and wounds, expiating our sins in His own Person, at the price of so much suffering, how willingly do we bear our cross, overcome our depraved appetites, resist our evil inclinations and avoid sin! Every Cross seems light, all sufferings easy, when we bear them in union with Jesus. Endeavor then always to remain united to Jesus in your sufferings.
Finally, Simon of Cyrene bears the Cross of Jesus to assist and relieve Him, and bears it even to the summit of Mount Calvary. How many persons bear the Cross, feel all its weight, and faint from fatigue, but derive no advantage from it to their souls, because it is not the Cross of Jesus that they are bearing. They suffer, but for the world; they suffer, but to content their own whims; they make the most painful sacrifices, but for anything rather than the love of Jesus. No merit will you ever have in your sufferings unless you suffer for the sake of Jesus. Neither will your sufferings ever be rewarded if you persevere not to the end in suffering for Jesus. You must follow Jesus even to the summit of Mount Calvary, that is to say, with fidelity even unto death.
The crosses imposed upon men by the world are not found heavy, because men love the world. Love Jesus Christ, and you will patiently bear the crosses He sends you. Everything that is painful to the flesh, disagreeable to the senses, or displeasing to self-love, is a Cross. Embrace all these little opportunities of suffering, and you will be bearing the Cross of Christ. Refuse not to relieve the poor and afflicted for the love of Jesus, and He will accept as given to Himself whatever consolation or assistance you charitably bestow upon your suffering neighbor.
ExampleBlessed Veronica Giuliani, who from her earliest childhood was most devout to the Passion of Jesus Christ, and who, when in her novitiate among the Capuchinesses, was filled with a very eager desire of suffering for His sake, was one day ordered by her mistress to carry water to the infirmary. Now there were two flights of very steep stairs to be ascended from the place where the water was drawn, to the infirmary, and the servant of God, whose fervor knew no bounds, carried up more than thirty pitchers full, so that her feet were dreadfully galled, from the number of times she had to ascend and descend the stairs, and she was completely exhausted and ready to faint. While she was in this state our Divine Redeemer appeared to her, bearing His Cross, and said, in touching accents, "Look at the Cross which I am bearing; observe how heavy it is." At this sight the soul of the blessed novice leaped for joy, so that she felt her strength restored, and her heart burning with eagerness to suffer yet more for the love of Jesus. Imagine that Jesus addresses the like words to you when oppressed with weariness, and you will experience their virtue.