The 5th Station of the Cross means something very special to me, at the moment. As I’m recovering from a serious illness I’m still very weak and depend on the help of carers. This could be humiliating, when we all want to be able stand on our own feet; we wrongly think we are self-sufficient.
But then I gaze at the 5th Station of the Cross and see the Son of God crushed by the burden of the cross. He who had come to serve, not be served, needed the help of Simon of Cyrene, literally, to help Him back onto His feet. He needed Simon to help Him carry His cross -to complete the journey to Calvary and there save the world from the power of evil.
The Suffering Servant of the Lord was not too proud to accept the service of a stranger, forced to help Him in making His way to Calvary, where He would fulfil the mission given Him by His Heavenly Father. Jesus didn’t show resentment and insist that He could manage by Himself. He knew He needed Simon’s assistance.
In the 5th Station of the Cross there’s a meeting between Simon of Cyrene giving Jesus a helping hand and Jesus welcoming that support – a meeting between giving and receiving, serving and being served. In the picture, I’ve chosen there’s a meeting of eyes; Simon looks at Jesus with compassion, Jesus looks at Simon with gratitude.
That has made me realise that Jesus needed and welcomed help throughout His life -most obviously as a baby and child, but also as an adult. That's part of being human. Responding to each other's needs draws us together as families and communities. It's not a sign of weakness, but of collective strength. So, being as human as the rest of us, Jesus sought water from the Samaritan woman when He was tired and thirsty. His mission depended on a back-up supply chain of supporters. He welcomed and needed friends -Martha, Mary, Lazarus. In Gethsemane He wanted the moral support and prayers of Peter, James and John. As He died on the cross the support of His Mother, a few women and the Good Thief must have meant so much to Him.
Never did Jesus refuse the offer of help. He did not reject the enthusiastic expression of penitent love, expressed by the woman who washed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.
If Jesus has taught me that true greatness lies in lovingly, generously serving others, He’s also shown me, through the 5th Station of the Cross, that graciously accepting their care is not degrading. As we follow Jesus on the Way of the Cross we need Him, acting through people like Simon of Cyrene, to help us carry our heavy burdens.
I have found that if I’m treated with respect I don’t lose my dignity in being helped, even in my most basic needs. But when Jesus insisted on washing Peter’s feet He taught him and us two things. Firstly, we must humbly serve each other, and secondly, we must allow other people to serve us, without our losing our dignity. Before being ready to give, we need to feel what it’s like to be on the receiving end.
In this 5th Station Jesus and Simon of Cyrene have taught me, and I hope you, the dignity of giving and receiving, serving and being served -both with love and respect.