Fifth Station: Simon helps Jesus carry his cross

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.  Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

I remember a man coming to me very early one morning.  He was looking for some food and possibly a few euro as he faced the day.  I asked where he’d stayed the night before and he told me, without any hesitation, that he had slept under a lorry that was parked for the night down the street.

Tonight, in many of our larger cities, people will wrap themselves in sleeping bags, boxes, rolled up papers, old blankets and anything they can find to help keep out the cold.  They’ll settle down for the night in the doorway of a shop, down a side street or under a bridge.  Wherever a spot is available that promises the possibility of a night’s sleep, it will be utilised.  This is an image, as my opening line of this paragraph suggests, linked with larger cities and a significant amount of homelessness.  My early morning encounter is not from such a setting.  It is rural.  It is happening all around us.  People are struggling.

I have an image at this station, not of the ones huddling down for the night, but of people gathering in twos, threes and more to make soup and sandwiches, to gather sleeping bags and warm clothes and to prepare for the nightly “soup run”.  I’ve never done this – never really even considered doing this – but very many do.  They know where to go.  They know what to say.  They do what needs doing.

There are many such groups but one is called the Simon Community.  I believe, though I may be wrong, that their name comes from this Station;  Simon helping Jesus to carry his cross.  The first Simon was an unwilling volunteer.  He was dragged from his vantage point on the side of the road and placed centre stage.  His reluctance didn’t hold him back though.  We can only begin to imagine the difference it made to Jesus when some of the weight was, quite literally, taken from his shoulder and shared.  Simon, on that day, made a huge contribution and I suspect that afterwards his reluctance would have given way to joy that he had been able to help a man, trapped in a place and time not of his own making.  I’d imagine he’d have been pleased to be able to say he had done something to help.

This station calls us to spare a thought for kindly people and to share their load in whatever way we can – maybe we could volunteer to travel with them sometime or  to offer a few euro from time to time.

Oh, that today we would listen to his voice, let us harden not our hearts.

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