Scripture: Matthew 27:32-44
Key verse: (44) “The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.”
Reflection: This week the gospel readings from the daily lectionary take us through the crucifixion of Jesus. It’s a strange thing to read about Good Friday on the last day of July, but perhaps we should read the story of the Passion more often than just on Good Friday. It’s a painful story to read. Today’s reading focuses on the mocking Jesus endured. In Matthew’s gospel, everyone mocks Jesus; the soldiers, people passing by, the chief priests, the scribes, the elders, even the bandits who were crucified with him, all taunt him.
It made me wonder, where would I be in the crowds that day? Would I have joined in the taunting? Or would I have been with the other apostles, as far away from the brutality and the ugliness as I could get, trying to stay safe and out of the melee? Where does this scene unfold today? Where does the cross exist in our world? Where do the innocent suffer? Where are those the world sees as guilty suffering unimaginable pain while the world taunts them in their agony? I can’t help but think of the plight of refugees in our world today. It’s stunning to see the ways desperate people fleeing war or gang violence are turned into criminals, or worse, terrorists. Yet that is happening in many places in our world these days. While I abhor the demagoguery and xenophobia, I’m afraid too often I’m with the apostles running for cover, just trying to stay safe.
There is another possibility offered in today’s reading. We see it in Simon of Cyrene. He only gets one sentence. “As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross.” Cyrene was located in North Africa, in the eastern part of today’s Libya. He was likely an outsider in the world of Jerusalem. He is compelled to share Jesus’ burden. In 1963, this one verse inspired a man named Anton Wallich-Clifford, (I’m not aware of any family connection!) who was a Catholic probation officer in London, to start the Simon Community, a movement to come alongside people living in homelessness. They started small house communities of ten, including volunteers from the movement to live in Christian community with people who had formerly been homeless. What an inspiring response to this one verse of Scripture.
Where do we see the cross today? How do we respond? Are we with the crowds, joining the taunting? Are we with the Apostles, running for cover? Or are we with Simon of Cyrene, coming alongside those who are suffering to help them bear their cross? Wherever we find ourselves, we can be sure Christ is with all who find themselves on a cross this day.
Prayer: Grant me eyes to see you, O Lord, in those who are suffering today. Compel me to join Simon and help them bear their cross. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].