When they led Him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, coming in from the country, and placed on him the cross to carry behind Jesus. – Luke 23:26
Many Catholics have a devotion to a saint or a particular prayer. Over the past ten years or so, I have developed a devotion to the 5th Station of the Cross. In fact, I refuse to have a “bad day.” Rather, I chose to call those times “Fifth Station Moments.”
Simon the Cyrene is pressed into service
The Fifth Station recalls the moment Simon the Cyrenian is pressed into service to carry the Cross of Christ. Simon was a bystander who probably had no interest in helping. In fact, he probably thought of Jesus as a common criminal and was angry when the Roman soldiers forced him to carry the Cross.
At times, we are all pressed into service
I have a special devotion to this station because in my life there are many times I feel like Simon. In others words, there are times when I feel like a relatively innocent man who has unwillingly and unfairly had a Cross thrust upon his shoulders. Sometimes it is the Cross of one of my students, fellow parishioners or teachers. Other times it is the Cross of another member of my family. I have even had a Cross of two that was purposefully thrust upon me by the calculated and sinful actions of another Christian. Finally, I must admit that very often, it may a Cross of my own making that I am forced to carry.
When this happens, I try hard not to lament my circumstances, though I often do exactly that! Rather, through prayer, I try to turn to the Fifth Station and the example of Simon. Simon is mentioned only briefly in Holy Scripture but he is mentioned by name in the three synoptic Gospels. Therefore, his example is worthy of some contemplation.
Simon was clearly a reluctant participant during this pivotal moment in salvation history. If this were not true, he would not had been “pressed” into service. Nonetheless, it is easy to imagine that Simon eventually realized that he had been given a privilege to carry the Cross of Christ. Furthermore, in carrying the Cross he did not walk away or go ahead. He was still following Christ. And, more profoundly, maybe only after Simon recognized Jesus as the Redeemer, Jesus eventually took the Cross back and proceeded up Calvary on his own.
Bad day? No, just a “Fifth Station Moment”
When I am having a “Fifth Station Moment” it helps me to remember that in the end, the Cross is always taken away from me, by God himself no less! I have to bear it for a while but it is Christ alone who died for my sins. He still has the hardest part of the deal. The Fifth Station also helps me to recognize the redemptive power of suffering. Christ said, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” – Luke 14:27.
Let us remember that all of our burdens can and will be carried by Jesus, but only as we too recognize Him as our Savior.
I hope you have a good day today. But, if not, I pray you have a “Fifth Station Moment” instead.