Sunday, April 3, 2016


Since Palm Sunday I've been thinking of Simon of Cyrene. There's a New Testament fellow with whom I can identify.

Simon appears in the Gospels of Luke, Matthew, and Mark, but he's not a major player (all quotes KJV):
And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross. (Matthew 27:32)
 And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus. (Luke 23:26)
 And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross. (Mark 15:21)
And that's all. For that he is a rare non-integral figure mentioned in three Gospels and the star of the Fifth Station of the Cross.

For a learned and brief essay on Simon, I'd recommend this one; for a dopey and briefer one, my comments below!

A few things that stand out to me:

Roman efficiency -- "We're not going to stand like stooges all day waiting for this guy to drag his cross around. You! Get over here and grab this thing!"

Roman undeniability -- You didn't say to the Romans, "Well, gosh, I'd love to help, but I got a thing, so peace out, bro."

There was no clear benefit to Simon to get dragged into this. He got no per diem for the job. There he was, some guy from out of town, just passing by (not even said to be a spectator like the others), and the Romans grab him. Now he has to appear with this condemned criminal in public (like they're besties!) while the latter goes to a humiliating death, and Simon looks like he's a co-conspirator or something. Whatever impelled him to travel all the way to Jerusalem from Cyrene, it wasn't this.

And it was a schlep to Jerusalem from Cyrene (now in Libya); it's about 1,130 miles by the land route, farther than New York to Des Moines. I guess he would probably have gone by the Mediterranean Sea, but even that was no Carnival cruise in those days.

I can totally identify with that. A long, maybe miserable trip to a town known for all kinds of trouble, and the next thing you know you're getting mixed up with criminals and oppressors and doing bloody manual labor for no pay. Boy, am I going to hammer Jerusalem on Yelp!

A Swiss actor named Jarreth Merz played Simon in The Passion of the Christ, and he did an excellent job, showing shock, dismay, horror, pity, and ultimately confusion, a man overtaken by events who senses that there is far more going on than he can know. Pretty much sums up my journey through life. (I might have tried to lie to the Romans, saying my lumbago was acting up, but the film didn't include that kind of embellishment.)

Simon, although sometimes known as the Cross Bearer, is not considered a saint, but tradition tells us that his children mentioned in Mark, Alexander and Rufus, became Christian missionaries and probably saints. Gets pretty confusing, actually, but the standing of Alexander and Rufus in the early Christian community would explain why they get a mention in Mark.

Anyway, Simon doesn't have a feast day or a patronage, but I feel for him. If there were to be a saint for those who get dragged into trouble, or people whose journeys take a bad turn, or people being randomly bullied by authority, or people who want to help but aren't keen on getting mixed up in distasteful things, Simon would fill the bill.

Best to you, Simon, and your sons, and may we all become more willing to help carry the crosses of the innocent who suffer.

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