Good Friday – Tucson – 2020
“Carry our cross with Simon of Cyrene and St. Dismas”
“And as they led [Jesus] away, they laid hold of one Simon of Cyrene, coming from the country; and they laid the cross on him to carry after Jesus.”
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Why was a stranger chosen to carry the cross behind Christ? Why not St. John, who was the only Apostle still present at the foot of the cross? Why a bystander?
My Dear Faithful, in the past month, we all have had a strange cross placed in our hands. Since March 17th, you’ve been living a perpetual Holy Saturday, without access to the Mass. There’s a strange virus pandemic with a strange shelter-in-place protocol. You weren’t guilty for the origin of the virus, you didn’t cover up its origins with propaganda and silencing the whistleblowers, and maybe this current shelter-in-place order for all people isn’t the safest and most prudent protocol in the long run. But here you are suffering the consequences of someone’s crime, someone’s mismanagement, and someone’s command. You’ve been forced to carry a heavy cross, but a cross in which Our Lord carries it before you, and He carries the heavier part. There’s no denying the suffering, there’s no denying the frustration, there’s no denying the evil consequences to this situation. In a way, you’re a bystander.
So was, Simon the Cyrenian. He came from Cyrene, in the north of Africa, present-day Libya. The Roman soldiers saw that Our Lord appeared to need help carrying His cross. And Simon the Cyrenian was there. Surely, Simon wanted to blend in – just like Simon Peter wanted to blend in last night. “Simon” means obedient. And he accepted and obeyed the command, maybe reluctantly, but he carried the cross. [pause] Last night, Our Lord gave Simon Peter a look once the cock crowed, a look that immediately caused Simon Peter to weep bitterly for denying Our Lord and realizing the truth of His Prophecy that he would deny Him three times. Now, it is a look of Our Lord that also converted Simon the Cyrenian. He saw the silent innocence of Our Lord and His gentle willingness to suffer, that moved his heart to see that only a God-Man could be filled with so much love for others. He saw the willingness of Christ to carry the cross and the love with which He embraced it and carried it. Thus Simon the Cyrenian was moved by divine love. Maybe Simon even saw that Jesus’ cross was more his own than Our Lord’s, because Simon was a sinner and needed to make atonement, whereas Jesus was innocent.
Willingness to accept the cross & obedience to the command to carry his cross was witnessed by another soul converted by Our Lord’s look: the good thief. Among being a terrible thief, St. Gregory the Great said Dismas murdered his own brother. In the beginning of their march towards Golgotha, the gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark make it clear in the plural, that Jesus was mocked by both the thieves. Yet, Dismas was converted by the look of Our Lord. It was by Divine Providence, that his execution would bring him into contact with Our Lord and his conversion. He saw Jesus praying for and pardoning his executioners and was thus moved to conversion and faith in Christ. It was his faith in Christ and acceptance of his cross that made him exclaim: “And we indeed [suffer] justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done no evil. And he said to Jesus: Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom.” And Our Lord canonized him of his living.
Nothing is by chance: God’s Divine Providence placed Simon the Cyrenian there at that exact moment as Jesus was carrying His cross. His Providence placed Dismas’ execution exactly on Good Friday so that he would meet Jesus. Divine Providence has placed us here on earth in 2020, in this current worldwide pandemic and you’ve been asked to carry a cross.
Yet, whether we’re innocent or guilty of the cross that we have to carry / Jesus, Simon and Dismas, teach us that the cross evangelizes, the cross redeems, the cross lifts us to God. In the Mass of the Presanctified Liturgy today: the celebrant signs three times : Ecce lignum crucis pependit salus mundi: venite adoremus – Behold the wood of the cross on which hung the Savior of the world – come let us adore! Today we adore the wood of the cross because this was the instrument of our salvation. Last Sunday, we saw that the palms of a tree represent immortality and divinity of Christ. Today it’s the wood that redeems humanity and divinizes him with grace. But the cross isn’t just something we celebrate once a year…. Jesus said: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” God’s Providence sees to it that we each have our crosses of salvation to carry every day. Do not be a bystander searching to blend in so that you’re not called upon to carry the cross. Accept it, obey it, love it, because this is the path of Eternal Life. It was from the fruit of a tree that humanity fell in the Garden of Eden. But it was on a tree that humanity was lifted up in redemption. The cross is the Christian trophy of our victory! Celebrate it! Carry it! Love it! And through the cross you’ll be lifted with Christ on the day of your resurrection.
This coronavirus pandemic isn’t outside God Providence. We don’t know what is still exactly in store for the future. But our hope isn’t in human creativity or human resourcefulness: it’s in God. Just as the sun was eclipsed on Good Friday by the darkness of the Evil One, casting doubt on faith in God; so the devil is trying to cast doubt on our confidence in God’s Good and Divine Providence. Just as the Apostles deserted Our Lord leaving the Early Church in shambles; so many also feel that they have been deserted leaving much moral and doctrinal confusion in the Church. As the Apostles abandoned Our Lord on Good Friday; so it seems we’ve been left abandoned by removal or a hindering of our reception of the Sacraments. As Our Lord was betrayed by the human reasoning of Judas, so our Church seems to be infiltrated with a naturalistic and unsupernatural faith with worldly ideologies. It seems as if the present Church is mystically plunged in the mystery of Good Friday – in which following Satan’s attack, humanly speaking, it’s hard to see God’s presence and as the Apostles have been scattered.
Yet, it was in His death, that the Church was born. It was in His death; that Mary became the Mother of the Church through the birth pains that she offered to God the Father in bringing us forth from her prayers. It was at the foot of the Cross that Mary accepted us as her children.
If our faith in God’s Divine Providence is weak, pray to Mary for she never doubted. If we are currently failing to see God’s presence as we are mystically plunged in Good Friday, turn to your Mother, she will give you hope. If our faith in the divinity of the Church is wavering, pray to Our Lady, Mother of the Church. Pray and make sacrifices for our Church! And finally, if we’re having trouble carrying our cross, let us follow Simon the Cyrenian, and let us pray to St. Dismas.
My Dear Faithful, on the way to Calvary, Our Lord stops and looks you with His eyes filled with tears, He looks at you just as He did to St. Peter, to Simon the Cyrenian, and to St. Dismas and He says: “Will you too leave Me?”, “Will you carry your cross and follow Me?”
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.