Which character on the Via Dolorosa are you?
Simon of Cyrene was forced to meet Jesus by having to help him carry the Cross. He thought it was the worst thing that had ever happened to him: his once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Jerusalem was ruined; he was now ritually unclean and could not enter the Temple. But years later (or maybe only days) he realized that this encounter was the event that transformed his life and gave him peace, life and salvation. We too can take a disaster or a heavy burden and follow Simon into the gloriously free life of Christ.
Veronica stepped forward from the crowd in pity and wiped the sweating brow of Jesus. She was rewarded with his face imprinted in sweat and blood on her cloth. Moved by simple compassion, she found that her reward was the constant presence of her Lord in his Icon. When we too minister to the sick and suffering, we hear again the words of Jesus: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of these the least of my brethren, ye have done it unto me”. And then the blissful words that follow: “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord”.
The Women of Jerusalem were weeping for Jesus. They must have known and loved him, and were probably therefore the women who had gone around with him and “ministered unto him”. What a privilege to be allowed to care for the Son of God! And now they thought it had all ended in disaster. But Jesus turns to them and tells them not to weep for him: he knows what he is doing and has perfect trust in his Father. Rather, they should turn their pity and compassion to their own children who, if they were true disciples of the Christ, would have to suffer much. They were thus given a deepened vocation of loving, nurturing care for the Body of Christ.
Mary the Mother of Jesus suffered with her Son as she saw him toiling under his Cross, and then she stood in agony of spirit as he was crucified. But she never flinched from her faithful presence beside him. And her unique reward was to be the joy of seeing her Son resurrected from the dead, ascended into heaven, and present for ever in the gift of the Holy Spirit. She would dearly have loved to walk away from Calvary with Jesus, but he told her to go with John. and eventually she came to the realization that in John she had Jesus too, because he (and Peter and Paul and Polycarp and Ignatius and all the other disciples) were now his mystical Body on earth, and she had become the Mother of them all, Mother of the Church.
And finally the Penitent Thief, in a mixture of love, doubt and confusion, came to see that Jesus was what he had said he was, the King of Israel, and so he begged to be forgiven his sins and admitted into his Kingdom. He may have expected a grudging answer, but instead was rewarded with instant mercy and instant love: “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise”. The thief knew nothing of the Incarnation or the Trinity or any of the truths of the Faith, but he had come to see something beautiful and trustworthy in Jesus, and that was enough. Death-bed conversions still occur, thank God.
We can all identify with one or more of these saints who witnessed the Crucifixion. Or we can see bits of all of them in ourselves. And we can call on them to pray for us in our own situations – then stand back and prepare for a miracle: our Cross will become our Resurrection.