After Christ was condemned in an unfair trial, but before he was led away to be crucified, the soldiers spat on him, beat him, and crowned him with thorns. He was forced to carry his own cross to Calvary, struggling beneath its weight. Few showed compassion as his body, bruised from sweating blood, unrecognizable from the scourging, his wounds exacerbated from the stripping of garments and tormented from further abuse, made its way through the city. But there were those, small in number, who actively responded in gratitude and solidarity.
Veronica stepped forward from the crowd and wiped the Lord’s face. Mary, his mother, broke through the chaos to meet Jesus in his pain. Simon of Cyrene, though prompted by the guards, was gifted participation in the carrying of his cross, and John was the only apostle to accompany Jesus to the end. We desire to be like these: souls more focused on Christ than their own comforts or reputations. Upon reaching the summit of Calvary, Jesus was once again heckled and insulted as Roman soldiers crucified him. Mary and John stood steadfast at his feet, entrusted to each other as mother and son, and from the cross, Jesus said,“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” May these words penetrate deep into our hearts. At a time when blame could be justly laid, Christ claimed mercy for us: sinners who so often turn against the salvation which he freely offers. He acknowledges our lack of understanding, the war within ourselves to always choose the good, and yet gave his life for us just the same. Another statement was directed to a repentant thief, crucified alongside him. To this thief Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Let this statement be a hope that resonates within us, a hope we share relentlessly with others.
Jesus, I ask for the grace to be like Veronica; fearlessly stepping forward to comfort my Savior. I ask for the strength of your mother, who remained always near, though suffering much herself. I ask for the simplicity of Simon, who was granted a particular share in your sacrifice. And I ask for the steady resolve of John, to be with you to the last. I ask for all of these dispositions in my relationship with you, but also in my relationships with others. Thank you for always calling mankind to yourself, in your compassion and justice. You see both our struggle and our potential. Help me to see others in this way, and grant me an eagerness to forgive. Your love tore the veil between Heaven and Earth, and in your death you give us life. I stand firm in your promise of paradise. Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.