Deacon Steve Haut
Two weeks ago, I was invited to speak at the weekly gathering of WINGS (Women in God’s Friendship) on the Lenten topic of the Journey to Calvary. I chose to introduce the topic with the story from the fifth station of the cross, the story of Simon of Cyrene.
Simon was possibly on a once in a lifetime Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem from his hometown in Libya. Most likely, he was also minding his own business making only passing notice of the sad procession of three criminals being led to the hill of Calvary to be crucified.
Suddenly, one of the soldiers grabbed him and forced him to carry the heavy cross for the most abused and feeble of the condemned. The political impact of this horrific execution would be lost if the criminal died before the terrible ordeal was accomplished. So, Simon, a passerby, is reluctantly impressed to get this man to the hilltop where he will die.
Now let’s jump ahead to Easter. In fact, let’s reflect on the afternoon reading of Easter Sunday, the famous afternoon encounter of Jesus with travelers, disciples, returning to Emmaus from Jerusalem. Emmaus was a small town probably located about six miles outside Jerusalem so it was a short two hour walk.
This was probably a group of disciples, disheartened and distressed. Only Cleopas is named but surely his wife (one of the women who remained at the cross was also there).
As they walked and tried to sort out the wrenching events of the past couple of days, they encountered another passerby on the road. He joined them and readily entered the conversation.
To their amazement, he explained why the Messiah had to endure this ordeal but they were restrained from actually recognizing this passerby as Jesus Himself. Jesus was invited to stay with them since it was evening. Later, as they sat at the dinner meal, Jesus broke bread and distributed it and as the Gospel says, “their eyes were opened,”
In our busy hustle bustle world where we often have our eyes fixed on an iPhone screen, we may not notice others as we pass by each other. Or we just prefer to watch, not participate. Both Simon and Cleopas’ group failed to recognize the significance of what was going on around them because they were simply passersby. We are not isolated individuals; we are social community-oriented creatures whose hearts burn for companionship, affirmation, and love. Jesus came to offer that.
Christians are not called to be passersby. This week, consider how we can break the habit of just being passersby.
(FYI: Simon of Cyrene is the patron Saint of Passersby)
Deacon Steve Haut