SIMON OR VERONICA?

veronical wipes jesus 1

From Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ”

Every day people are carrying crosses up their own Via Dolorosa. They stumble, get back up, and fall again. And you are invited to give them comfort and aid. But are you helping or hurting?

Heavy lifting helps!
This Palm Sunday we’ll read again how Jesus, under the weight of his cross, came crashing down on the cobblestones and how the Roman soldiers ordered Simon of Cyrene to help with some heavy lifting.  Our Lord could simply not go one step farther.  Simon lifted the cross from Jesus’ wounded, bloody shoulder and freed him for a short part of the journey . . . but he did not relieve Jesus of his burden entirely.  As horrendous as it was, the cross was necessary for our salvation. When he had caught enough of his breath, or what little strength he had left, Jesus freely (and thankfully!) resumed his act of salvation.

This is a picture for us all when we are tempted to free someone we love from life’s suffering. Sometimes we need to step in and bring relief, but only as a temporary aid. It can be a life-long lesson to discern when heavy lifting helps or actually hurts—by keeping the person from the benefits of the struggle. Almost everyone understands picking your crying child up from the pavement and carrying the bike home for him. It’s that point where he just can’t do it again today but the relief is temporary. For his greater good you know he will have to get on that bike and maybe fall again. You would never deprive him of the “Easter Glory” of someday racing down the street hands free!

Tender touches heal.
Jesus also later received the softer, feminine consolation of Veronica wiping his bloody brow. No hefty helping, just the silent comfort of her sympathetic gaze and her gentle touch on his face. Sometimes, when we know we must carry on, that kind of sweet support is worth more than a hundred strong Simons.  Some women complain that when they are suffering—and they know they must carry their cross—their husbands eagerly offer Simon’s “heavy lifting” when they only want him to be Veronica and “just listen”.  Even when we don’t know what to say or do, we can receive another’s sorrow and simply sit with them in it.

We can all give both.
I recall decades ago when my sister’s husband and father of their four children walked out the front door and never returned.  It was a splintery, bloody cross that I knew she would have to carry, but not alone. At several points I was appropriately and necessarily Simon, packing up her kids and taking them home with me for the weekend so she could sleep, buying groceries and new beds when she had to move, and helping to train her in a new career. But most of the time I was Veronica, sitting quietly with her on her patio with her as we smoked our cigarettes and drank Diet RC Colas while the kids played Yahtzee.  (I told you this was decades ago!)  In those hours of prolonged suffering, just listening, receiving her tears, and affirming her goodness was exactly what my sister needed.

No matter our sex, some of us have temperaments where it is easier for us to be the problem-solving, fix-it-now, Simon or the quiet, hand-holding Veronica to those who need us. Both of these saints have been given to all of us as models of love in action. This Holy Week, bring Simon and Veronica into your meditations. Ask their intercession to show you when and how you can best help others who are carrying a cross: sometimes Simon, sometimes Veronica. And maybe both.

  • Our Lady of Good Counsel, pray for us.