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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, April 6, 2015
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with Juan L. Mercado
OPINIONS

The reluctant conscript

Juan L. Mercado

Like many of us, Simon of Cyrene “was merely at the wrong place at the wrong time” writes Oblate priest Fr. Ron Rolheiser.

"Yet, through earthly accidents , we are made responsible for what is heavenly.

Karl Rahner wrote those words to describe what happened to Saint Joseph when asked by an angel to be the husband to Mary. He was to support her in the birth and raising of Jesus: "Take the child to yourself."

‘Something of God was entrusted into Joseph's care. Not because he wanted it or planned it. He himself was (not) central to the event. He was asked to do something simply because of circumstance: he was engaged to someone inside a great drama. Moreover, what he was asked to do radically reshaped his life, in a way not according to his own choosing.”

That applied to the man conscripted to help Jesus carry his cross : Simon of Cyrene.

“The Passion accounts tell us that, when Jesus was too weak carry the cross, a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene was forced to help him carry it. All Scriptures say Simon was a "passer-by", a victim of circumstance. He was merely at the wrong place at the wrong time.

“Being conscripted to help carry the cross was also guilt by association with a condemned criminal. It's not like helping Tiger Woods carry his golf clubs.

“Yet, ironically, this would be the most significant thing he would do in his whole life. It earned him a place in history and folklore.

“Simon of Cyrene will forever be famous. Thousands of years from now his name will still be remembered - and for the right reason: he helped carry the cross of Jesus.

“There's a mystical image here, namely: the picture of a man or woman being victimized by circumstance so that he or she -- simply by being at a given place at a given time -- is conscripted to do a task that is unwanted, unplanned for, humbling. It will disrupt his or her own agenda and dreams. And yet this unwanted thing becomes, in the end, the most important thing he or she will ever do.

“How does that happen to you?

“The cross of Jesus appears in many forms. You are Simon helping Jesus carry the cross. “Whenever you are the one who forever finds herself caught up in duties, not of your own choosing, whenever you are the one whose plans can be sacrificed because everyone else's are deemed more important.

“Simon of Cyrene was not central to Jesus' passion and death. He stood at the edges of things when the drama accidentally enfolded him and forced him to play an un-glamorous, self-effacing, but needed, role. His own plans had to be sacrificed and his response was reluctance.

“Yet this conscripted, humble service gave him a place in history beyond the thousands and millions whose place in the drama of life was deemed important.

“There's a lesson here. ‘I used to get upset about all the interruptions to my work until one day I realized that the interruptions were my real work," Henri Nouwen wrote. They conscript us to our real work."*

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