Q. What happened to Simon of Cyrene after he assisted Jesus in the carrying of the cross?
A. After receiving a brutal scourging at the hands of the Romans, and having to wear a humiliating and painful crown of thorns, Jesus had to make a tortuous walk up Mt. Calvary.
Having suffered so much already, the Romans demanded that a bystander, Simon of Cyrene, was to help Jesus carry the cross to Calvary. The figure of Simon is probably best known by Christians in the fifth station in the devotion of the stations of the cross, where we meditate on Simon helping Jesus carry His cross.
St. Mark writes: “And [the Romans] compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross” (Mk 15:2). St. Luke describes Simon as coming into Jerusalem “from the country” (Lk 23:26). Cyrene was a Greek town in the province of Cyrenaica, which is in the eastern part of modern-day Libya, and approximately 900 miles from Jerusalem. It is likely that Simon was in Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover.
We don’t hear anything more about Simon of Cyrene in Sacred Scripture. Some scholars believe that his sons were mentioned by name because they were well known in the early Christian community in Rome, to whom St. Mark was writing.
While we know very little about Simon, there are many lessons to be gained from his experience. In the Gospels, Jesus calls all who want to be His disciples to take up their crosses and follow Him. And yet, we know how difficult it is to carry these crosses day after day.
Simon didn’t ask for this cross; we, too, don’t usually ask for the crosses we are given. Simon was carrying the cross of criminal condemned to death—albeit unjustly accused. He would have mostly likely been embarrassed by having to help Jesus. Sometimes our crosses are humiliating and frustrating, but we should never give up.
God chose to take on human flesh in order to redeem us. Jesus, the all-powerful God, made Himself powerless in His human nature by allowing the world to put Him to death. However, He also allowed, in His divine plan, to have this man, Simon of Cyrene, help Him in His time of need. Our Lord asks us, too, to assist Him as we help others carry their crosses.
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