A Lenten Reflection for Tuesday after Passion Sunday from Holy Cross Publications
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On the Fifth Station of the Cross.
Great indeed must have been the exhaustion, the deadly weariness our Lord suffered, since even the brutal executioners perceived that He had not the power to carry the cross any longer unaided. We are told that they stopped a man who happened to be passing by, Simon of Cyrene, and compelled him to help the tired Redeemer to carry the heavy burden. Picture to yourself what occurred on that occasion; without making the slightest attempt to conceal his anger and annoyance, Simon reluctantly lays hold on the cross, never suspecting it to be the instrument of his salvation that he is handling. Jesus looks at him so piteously, and thanks him so gratefully for his assistance, compulsory though it is, that the Cyrenean must have been the most hard-hearted of men had not the unwillingness he felt at first been at once overcome.
1st. Consider that it is under compulsion that Simon bears the cross. It was only by chance and against his will that he was seized by the soldiers; at the outset he carried the cross grudgingly, impatiently, but he submits to the part forced upon him, and before long, touched with compassion, he carries the cross willingly and even with a certain measure of joy. Here, my soul, you see represented the three different classes of persons who carry the cross. The first carry the cross of their own individual sufferings, the cross peculiar to their calling, the cross which obedience imposes on them, not merely as a compulsory task, but with impatient complainings, murmuring, and unseemly lamentations. The natural result is that their cross is of no more profit to them than that on which the impenitent thief expired was to him; nay more, it does but accentuate and enhance their guilt. The second class of persons do indeed carry the cross under coercion, but they are patient and do not murmur. They make a virtue of necessity. They would, it is true, prefer that the unwelcome burden should be removed, but since that cannot be, they resign themselves to bear it, they do not complain and thereby they gain a merit. Finally the third class of persons carry the cross laid upon them by God, or by man a cross consequently taken up not voluntarily but under compulsion out of compassion, that is out of love to the God who bore His cross for them; they embrace that cross with a certain delight; they regard it as a sweet yoke, and thus they are of all bearers of the cross the most happy, because they do not find it a grievance, but a source of merit. To which class do you belong, reader? Do you resemble Simon of Cyrene at the commencement or at the end of the way of the cross?
2d. Consider that Simon was a stranger, a traveller who happened to be on the way to Jerusalem when he was forced to carry the cross. This circumstance, that it was not one of the Jews, but a stranger who chanced to be passing at the time, and was privileged to help his God to carry the cross, is not without a deep signification. Learn from it, my soul, that those who would follow Christ crucified must be strangers and pilgrims on earth, that they must have nothing in common with the evil world, but rather be, like Simon, a traveller, journeying on the road to the heavenly Jerusalem towards which all their thoughts and aspirations should tend. Wherefore if hitherto you have not carried your cross in a right spirit, it is because instead of feeling yourself an alien here below, and yearning after your heavenly country, you have made yourself quite at home in this world, and you have clung with all your heart to its wealth and its pleasures. Handicapped in this way you have not any longer the power to carry our Lord’s cross. See then that this very day you make a change for the better.
3d. Consider that in carrying the cross Simon did not go unrewarded. His actual merit was but slight; at first he only helped to carry the cross because he was compelled, and only later on for a very short space did he carry it patiently and willingly. Yet see, for that short space of time his name and that of his sons Rufus and Alexander are immortalized in the Gospels and known throughout the length and breadth of Christendom. Tradition records that both he and his two sons were touched by divine grace and became disciples of Jesus Christ. See how rich is the recompense of those who bear the cross. The via dolorosa of our life on earth is short, but it may be the means of causing our names to be inscribed in the book of life. The suffering is short, the joys are eternal! Think of this, whenever the cross of your calling or of your particular suffering seems too hard to be borne, and while contemplating the reward the Cyrenean received, resolve that you will, in as far as you can, by word and in deed, act the part of Simon of Cyrene towards those of your fellow-men who groan beneath the weight of the cross.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.