Being Simon of Cyrene
If you look at all the people at the scene of Jesus’ Crucifixion whom would you be? I think over the years that we reflect on whether or not we were like the apostles who ran, or like the women and the one apostle, John, who remained. How about one of the thieves: the good thief who went to Heaven that night or the bad thief who did not. There were also the Roman Soldiers whom Jesus forgave, for they were doing nothing more than carrying out orders. Of course, to be a conscientious objector in Rome would be completely unknown.
Finally, there are the high priests who were determined to see Jesus crucified and had become so hard-hearted they had became filled with evil and hate and so self-deceived that they thought they were doing the right thing.
But I want to reflect on one person today: Simon the Cyrene.
We know nothing about him except that he was put into service to do nothing more than help Jesus carry His Cross so that His mission could be fulfilled. But without Simon, Jesus may have never said: “It is finished.”
He is part of a long group of people who assisted the agent of God in getting the mission done: there was Aaron, Moses’ assistant who was called into service my God, there was Rahab who protected Joshua’s men from enemy soldiers, there was Elisha, who helped Elijah and inherited his power. The list goes on, many unnamed. Finally there is Simon the Cyrene.
Each played a powerful role in the history of the Jews and, therefore, the Christians.
This is an important message for you to fully understand because you are the laity and your role is to assist in the mission of the Church, the salvation of souls, like Simon unwittingly did.
The Church is not comprised of priests, religious, and then laity bringing up the rear. It is comprised of priests, religious and laity like a racing crew is comprised of the crew chief, racing specialists, the spotters, pit crew and finally the driver. Everything is focused on the driver crossing the finish line, but that win is actually the fruit of the actions of everyone on the crew. Watch a car race and see how many races are lost because someone on the pit crew made a minor mistake in his job or miscalculated when a pit stop would be required.
However, there are people who will say that the Church is like a bus where the priest and the religious are driving and the lay people are along for the ride.There is nothing in the Bible from the time of Abraham to the Book of Revelation nor in Church teaching that indicates that—nothing. If you transfer that concept to the car race you just created the most losingest team in all of racing
This is why the model of Simon of Cyrene is so important because he assists Jesus in carrying His cross.
The role of the laity is as important as that of the ordained and without the work of the laity the church’s mission will fail.
A lay Catholic commentator complained that bishops and priests do not preach enough on Catholic morality. He added, if they won’t we will. The problem is that statement teaches that the laity act if the priests and bishops do not. It is the role of the laity to be just as focused on the mission as the priests and bishops. If I was speaking to that commentator, I would say to him: “Where in Church teaching is that dichotomy set up that says that is the time for you act?” If fact, the role of the laity begins at baptism, not at anyone’s perceived lack of action. The rule includes personal discipline and public action.
Fr. Raneiro Cantalamessa who is the Papal preacher and has been been since the time of Pope John Paul II taught recently to all of us, laity and ordained:
It is an illusion to think that we can combine genuine service to brothers and sisters, which always calls for sacrifice, altruism, forgetting ourselves, and generosity, with a life that is personally disordered, all aimed at . . .satisfying one’s passions. It inevitably ends in using brothers and sisters, just as one uses one’s body. Those who cannot say “no” to themselves cannot say “yes” to brothers and sisters. Fr. Raneiro Cantalamessa
That is a lesson for all of us to live and to teach as Catholics.
But there is another side to this: If you do not understand your mission, someone else will teach it to you and do so to complete their mission not Christ’s. That is exactly the mistake Judas made.
This leads us back to Fr. Cantalamessa’s words.
There are political groups that disguise themselves as Catholics and try to teach Catholics to use their role for these groups’ political purposes. They are mostly rooted in political philosophies that are seeking to make you a puppet to their mission, by teaching people that being a Catholic means being a good person to others as defined by their political philosophy not by the words of Jesus. Their legacy goes back millennia, and includes the arrest of Jesus. For the record, there is no political party in this country that can say its platform is totally in line with Catholic teaching and vice versa.
But Fr. Cantalamessa teaches that being an agent of the Church means sacrifice, altruism, forgetting ourselves and generosity in service to Christ and humanity. This is what Jesus did for us. But, it also means patiently bearing with unchangeable difficulties in your life for the greater mission. As Simon the Cyrene did, not understanding the long term fruit of his actions.
Like Judas, if you do not understand your mission others will come and manipulate and use you to put forth their own political ideas and do it in a way that you think you are fulfilling your role as lay person, but in fact you are undermining it. You are like those in the crowd who are following the words of those calling for Christ’s crucifixion thinking you are doing the right thing. Many people who do not attend mass are ripe for the picking by these groups.
Tonight, before you go to bed, reflect on a few things: what if Simon of Cyrene was not there? What if Judas truly understood the mission of apostle?
What about you, why has God put you here?