“And [they] led Him away to crucify Him. Now as they went out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon; him they forced to take up His Cross.” (Mt. 27: 31-32)
In the beginning there was no one to help our Lord carry His cross. Weak from the loss of sleep and from the cruel scourging and the crowning with thorns, and still more from the insults of His enemies and the desertion of His friends, which caused Him untold anguish, yet He was forced to carry the heavy Cross. He did His very best until His nature gave way and thus He fell several times to the ground.
We must never lose sight of the fact that while our Lord had to carry the Cross unaided, in reality it was not for Himself that He bore it, but for you and me. He endured unbelievable pain and endured the shame and the insults, for all of us, that He might free us from the burden of the curse of sin.
When St. John the Baptist encountered Christ at the outset of His public life, he said to his followers: “Behold the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world.” (Jn. 1:29) We must say the same words as we contemplate Christ Carrying His cross, for that is exactly what He did. No, it was not only the wood of the Cross that was so burdensome, rather it was the mountain of our sins. It was the loathsome weight of sin that caused our Savior to falter and fall on the Way of the Cross.
Fearful that they would be deprived of the satisfaction of crucifying Him, the soldiers compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, to help our Lord. One can only imagine how much, at first, Simon must have resented this task, but picture Simon and Christ carrying the Cross together – Jesus in front carrying the heavier part and Simon coming behind with its lighter end is both sad and a consoling thought.
This is a true picture of every follower of Christ. We must all share the cross with Christ if we would reign with Him. Did our Lord not say; “He who does not take up his cross and follow Me, is not worthy of Me?” (Mt. 10:38)
There is great consolation in reversing the scene wherein Simon helps Jesus carry His Cross and contemplating it in a new light – that of Christ helping Simon carry the Cross. You see, once Simon was pressed into service by the soldiers, our Lord did not abandon him and leave him to struggle with the load alone. Indeed not. Christ, weak as He was, placed His bruised and torn shoulder under the heavier part.
Every cross we have to bear will find Christ’s shoulder beneath it, and, indeed, beneath the heavy end of it. There is no cross we are unable to bear with Jesus helping us. No load He shares will ever crush us, for we have His infallible word: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28)
Make acts of contrition for your sins that added to the weight of the Cross on the way to Calvary; thank Him for having taken away your sins; and thank Him for having always helped you carry your crosses thus far in life.
Christ refused that potion that His sufferings might not be lessened. But Christ gives us His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity as our food to strengthen us to bear our sufferings and to carry our crosses. In the Eucharist, the Stronger helps the weaker.