Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Man on the Road

So much in this life is thrust upon us suddenly.  We have no idea its coming, we are completely unprepared, and afterward we are never the same again.

We all know the feeling.  What seems like a normal day is suddenly changed into a day we will never forget.  A phone call comes that completely takes our breath away.  The doctor delivers news that we have been dreading to hear.  News arrives that a friend is in deep trouble, life threatening trouble.   An ordinary day becomes extraordinary.  Filled with shock, pain, confusion, wondering, and sometimes panic.

And then, when the day changes, we must face it.  We cannot flee.

For the past week or so during Lent, and coming now into Holy Week, I am struck by the moment in which Simon is abruptly thrust into the path of Jesus.  We know he was from Cyrene, which is now Libya.  But beyond that, and the names of his sons, the rest is mystery.  What was he doing in Jerusalem?  Why was he beside just this road, at just this time of day?  Was he there by accident, or did he plan to be there?  Did he hear the noise along the Via de la Rosa, and come running to see what was going on?

Here is an otherwise ordinary man, thrust into a day he will never forget.  Just like we have been at one point or another in our lives.  And, someday it will happen again, to us all.

We have no idea why Simon was there, or why he was compelled to carry the cross.  Luke's gospel emphasizes the coercion of Simon, citing that he was seized, the Cross of Christ laid upon him, and forced to carry it behind Jesus.  It’s unclear here even what the motivation of the Roman soldiers was.  They may have feared that Jesus, thoroughly beaten by the Romans, may not survive carrying the Cross long enough to be crucified.  Or maybe they caught something in the eyes of Simon that made them want to force him to become a participant in this cruel parade.  Was there something there in his eyes?  Fear, or shock, or horror?  Perhaps a fleeting glance of compassion?

Simon was caught up in a moment of cataclysmic significance.  He thought he was just standing beside the road.  But really, he was standing at a place where Heaven and Earth were colliding.  And after this day, nothing would ever be the same again.

We all face days, and moments that change us forever.  And most of the time, we do not enter these events as willing participants.  Neither did Simon.  But I wonder, and I am guessing that afterward, he was never the same again.
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