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Stations of the Cross

March 5, 2009

station5Every Friday in Lent we move round  the fourteen stations of the Cross in St Clement’s, pausing at each to ponder (and wonder at) the strength of Jesus as he faced Crucifixion. He gave strength and new life to those he met, to his Mother, to Veronica, to the women of Jerusalem, to Simon of Cyrene.

Simon is the best example of how a seeming tragedy was turned into a triumph. He had come from his home in North Africa to visit the Temple of Jerusalem at Passover, maybe for the only time in his life, maybe after putting money by for this for years. And then, his world crashes around him: the Romans make him help Jesus carry the Cross; as a Jew he has defiled himself by handling an instrument of execution, and no unclean person is allowed into the Temple. His pilgrimage is in vain.

But years later, Simon saw that this ghastly moment was the turning point of his life. This was the day he met Jesus, the true Temple of God, and began his Christian life. How do we know? Well, St Mark calls Simon “the father of Alexander and Rufus” whom we know from St Paul to have been leaders of the little church in Rome, and he does it quite casually, as though every one of his readers would know Simon of Cyrene.

Maybe we should rethink what we took as a tragedy in our past life; maybe it is the vital moment when we first came to our senses and met the God who loves us, even to the extent of dying for us. 

I never make the Stations of the Cross without emphasizing that three of these precious moments are identical: “Jesus falls” for the first, the second and the third time. Surely whoever put the devotion together could have had a bit more imagination! But no – We need the emphasis on the weakness of Jesus to drive home his message that real strength, the kind he passed on to Simon and all the others he met, is “made perfect in weakness”. That’s us!

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