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Giving, accepting help is part of the journey

He begin Holy Week with such thought-provoking and inspiring themes in the word of God on Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion. They speak of very tragic and violent events. Yet they also convey a spirit of self-giving love and hope. There’s plenty of concepts and images that can move our spiritual reflection.

But for some reason, I find myself drawn to a single verse in the Gospel: "As they were going out (to crucify Jesus), they met a Cyrenian named Simon; this man they pressed into service to carry his cross."

Simon was a "passer-by," a victim of circumstance. It was not something for which he had planned or volunteered. He was merely at the wrong place at the wrong time. He probably interpreted what happened to him as humbling and shameful: Who wants to be associated with a condemned criminal?

Yet ironically, this would be the most significant thing he would do in his whole life and for which he, Simon of Cyrene, will forever be famous: He helped Jesus carry his cross.

And Jesus relied on the help of this stranger to complete his mission. The hard, painful work of salvation is a work in which God chooses to depend on human beings.

Think of it. God, full of power, glory and majesty, chooses to need us. Jesus’ willingness to accept Simon’s help and Simon’s willingness to give it, even though reluctant, join together to teach us a lesson: that we also need help in our lives to live the Gospel. And God "needs" us, too, for proclaiming the Good News of his saving love.

Throughout this wonderful week of grace we will celebrate the incredible mystery of God’s love for us. How can we enter into the mystery of Christ this year?

Perhaps it may involve accepting those moments of opportunity for patient love that are inconvenient, unwanted and unplanned, as did Simon of Cyrene.

And it may also invite us to set aside our pride and self-sufficiency and seek the help of Christ and others as we struggle with our own crosses and burdens.

 

Father Dennis Hanneman is a retired priest of the archdiocese living in Omaha. Contact him at dlhanneman@archomaha.org.

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