Called to carry the cross – a Good Friday reflection

March 25, 2024

A reflection from Ashleigh Donnelly, Community Outreach Manager, CatholicCare

2000 years ago, there lived a man called Simon who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Feast. Simon was from a coastal city called Cyrene in North Africa, in a country that is now known as Libya. When he woke up that Friday morning, ‘carrying the cross of Jesus’ was probably not on his to-do list. In an effort to hurry Jesus along to the site of His execution, the Roman soldiers seized Simon and forced him to carry Jesus’ cross for a mile.

Since that day, billions of humans have lived and died, but legacy of Simon lives on. Interestingly, Simon is named, which is not so common in the New Testament. Any time that someone is named and given a short genealogy in the Bible, we should reflect on what message God is sending us.

What can we learn from Simon’s act of kindness? How can we follow in the footsteps of Jesus and alleviate the suffering of those around us?

I am intrigued by the fact that Simon didn’t use words. His actions are what define him. I am also intrigued by the apparent spontaneity of this event, and how we don’t always choose the moment that God calls us to serve others in a profound way.

A few years ago, when I worked in CatholicCare’s foster care program, the mother of a young girl tragically passed away after a long battle with alcohol addiction. Despite the demise of her mother over a period of time, her death was sudden and unexpected. In the weeks after her mother’s passing, everyone and everything around this young girl stopped. People came from everywhere to offer support. Words meant very little to this grieving young girl – it was the presence of her community that got her through those darkest days.

The legacy of Simon reminds us that serving others is much less complicated than we expect. We can muse over the right words to say or whether someone else would be a better fit to provide the support.

Over the years I have heard stories of people who have had been actively avoided after the passing of a loved one, probably because the acquaintance who noticed them at the supermarket or the schoolyard didn’t know what to say. We can forget that it is as straightforward as saying how sorry we are, then simply being present before the grieving person. We simply need to let the person who is suffering lead the way, just like Simon took Jesus’ lead and carried His cross.

The legacy of Simon reminds us that we don’t always choose the moment of our cross bearing. We can fool ourselves into elevating the importance of our back-to-back meetings and commitments that fill our days, but when tragedy strikes, dropping everything to be with the person who is suffering is the greatest thing we can do. Giving someone our uninterrupted time and presence affirms to them that they are more important than the ‘stuff’ that fills our days… especially when it means altering our plans and experiencing some slight inconvenience. Like Simon, we should be ready to be called into the service of Jesus, often in an inconvenient and challenging way. We just don’t know when.

The resurrection of Jesus at Easter is a reminder that new life rises from the ashes of death. Following Jesus means carrying the crosses of those who are suffering, but it also means recognising and celebrating glimmers of hope on the darkest days.

May God bless you and your families this Easter.

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