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The Role of Simon the Cyrenian, In Undertaking Sufferings
By Fr. Thomas Daniel

(This is the summary of the devotional address delivered by Fr. Thomas Daniel at St. George Orthodox Church Abu Dhabi, on 15th April 2003. He is the vicar of St. George Orthodox Church, Dwaraka, New Delhi. Submitted By Jose Kurian Puliyeril)

During the Passion Week, we meditate on the mental and physical tortures, passions and agonies suffered by our Lord Jesus Christ as an attempt to save the mankind and to free us from the bondage of sins, and satanic powers. We know our Lord had suffered numerous humiliations in addition to the sufferings and tortures. Our Lord was accused of so many charges, which he had never dreamed. Hence Pilate sentenced our Lord to death on the cross, as insisted and compelled by the Jews, even though he had a soft corner towards our Lord. So we find a procession aiming mount Calvary in the outskirts of the city. We could see our Lord as well as two thieves carrying the heavy wooden crosses on their shoulders. According to the Mosaic Law, all sacrifices are to be carried out away from the city limits. (Please see Leviticus 16:21)

If we will watch the face of our Lord and of the thieves, we could find a lot of differences. The face of our Lord is calm, cool and full of grace and peace; where as the faces of the two thieves are full of tensions and worries. An understanding of this must have prompted the soldiers to look for someone to carry the cross. According to the Roman rule, all orders of the soldiers were to be carried out without fail on the spot. Simon the Cyrenian was rushing to the spot to see what is going on there. He was compelled by the soldiers to carry the cross of our Lord. Now we could see him walking with our Lord, carrying our Lordís cross. He is making use of the opportunity to have a close watch on the calm, peaceful, glorious and blessed face of our Lord. He is learning a lot for the divine face from where originates the real peace and love. During the Passover season, many Jews from around the world used to visit Jerusalem. The current yearís pilgrims are also following the procession to watch the happenings.

Let us think why the soldiers selected Simon. For our human argument we could say that he was strong enough to carry the cross. But we must realize that he had accepted it as a privilege. He must have heard our Lordís teaching to go two miles, if one has compelled to go one mile with him. (Refer St Matthew 5: 41). Simon or others had never expected such a situation. Still he accepted it as a challenge.

When we could live for our Lord, there might arise some or other problems on the way. In our eyes the incident was not an expected one, but it was the will of God Almighty. In our personal lives when we would come across sufferings or problems, we have to recognize the will of God behind each incident. The will of God will not be visible to our naked eyes. It would be either concealed or hidden. We find Joseph in the Old Testament who became the minister of Egypt. When his own brothers threw him to the deep pit, he or his brothers had a feeling or hope that he would be a source of rescue for them and to a large number of people. This makes clear that there is Godís will behind each and every suffering, which we might come across in our daily lives. We must believe that there would be a day of joy, peace and happiness, if would accept all sorts of sufferings happily. So let us be willing to accept any sorts of crosses or sufferings in our day to day lives.

Selfish desires and thoughts often govern us. We are in the habit of longing for selfish gains. In our personal lives, we will have to bear so many kinds of crosses of different weights. A father of a normal family will have to bear a lot in the everyday running of the family affairs, especially when the children are small and the needs of the family are unlimited. When the children would grow up, they will be compelled to take care of the aged parents and they will have to suffer a lot. We must accept the crosses and sufferings with patience, love and humbleness. While we would bear the crosses and sufferings, let us try to reduce the weight levied on others.

When Simon was asked to carry the cross of our Lord, he did not raise any sort of objection or counter arguments. This makes clear that he had a perfect vision of life as advised by St. Paul, all along his epistles. If we donít keep such a vision in our lives, we will not succeed in our lives and we will reach into utter failure.

We read in Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

In the personal life of St. Paul, he is seemed as enjoying all sorts of sufferings; St. Paulís life itself is a testimony for the ones who would like to learn how sufferings are to be faced.

Now may I quote a conventional example? Two of the faithful had the Holy confession from the same Priest. The confession father asked them to carry two wooden crosses at the main entrance of the Church and to go around the boundary walls of the compound, which was very large in size. When these two covered the areas of two sides, they felt heaviness for the crosses they carried. After a small discussion, they finalized to reduce the size of their crosses. The first one reduced the length of the long piece of the cross and the second one reduced the width of the long piece of the cross. They continued their mission and came near a deep pit full of drainage water. They tried to make use of their crosses as temporary bridges to cross the pit. When the first man tried to make use of the cross he found that his cross was not long enough to reach the other end. When the second man tried, he found that the long bar of the cross was so thin to bear the weight. This story teaches that we should not try to reduce the weight or size or volume of the crosses that we have to carry in our every day lives.

Simon reached Mount Calvary. He remained close to our Lord. The prayer of our Lord for the enemies must have made radical and dramatic changes in his personal thinking and life. He believed in Lord Jesus and confessed the faith in his mind. He returned to home in the great thrill and enthusiasm of being with our Lord and doing the will of God. He must have explained the happenings, what he has witnessed to his wife and children. A sort of transformation must have filled their hearts. Simon's deal is the real gospelization and real witnessing. Let us think why there are no transformations in our lives. It is simply because of our unwillingness to carry the crosses.

We could see sons getting glorified because of their fatherís glory. That is what has happened in the lives of Alexander and Rufus, sons of Simon. They are glorified. (See St. Mark 15:22) Simonís wife also got glorified and it is only because of Simonís goodness. (Please see Romans 16:13)

Let us think how we would connect or personal lives to the sufferings. Simon could reach the line of salvation. Why donít we also try to be truthful to our call so that we could also inherit the salvation? May God bless us all.

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