SIXTH STATIONJesus and Simon of CyreneFrom the Gospel according to LukeAs they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus (23:26).From the Gospel according to MatthewThen the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? When was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? When was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” (25:37-39).MEDITATIONJesus stumbles along the way, his back crushed beneath the weight of the cross. Yet he must not stop but keep going, for Golgotha, the sinister “Place of the Skull” outside the walls of the city, is the destination of the band of soldiers who urge him on.A strong-armed man passes by at that moment. He appears to have nothing to do with what is happening. He is returning home, completely unaware of the events surrounding the rabbi Jesus, when the guards force him to carry the cross.What could he have known about that convict driven by the guards to his execution? What could he have known about the one whose appearance was “so marred, beyond human semblance”, like the suffering servant of Isaiah?We are told nothing of his surprise, and perhaps his initial refusal, or of the pity that he felt. The Gospel simply mentions his name: Simon of Cyrene. Yet the Gospel has kept alive the name of this Libyan and his simple gesture of help, to teach us that, in easing the pain of someone condemned to death, Simon eased the pain of Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus, who crossed Simon’s path in the form of a slave, for our sake, for his sake, for the salvation of the world. Without his even knowing it.PRAYERLord our God, you have revealed to us that in each of the poor, the naked, the imprisoned, the thirsty, it is you who stand before us, it is you whom we welcome, visit, clothe and give to drink. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Mt 35-36). The mystery of your encounter with our humanity! No one is excluded from this encounter, if he or she chooses to show compassion.We present to you, as a holy offering, all those acts of kindness, of acceptance, of commitment, that are carried out daily in this world. Deign to acknowledge them as the truth of our humanity, which speaks louder than all acts of rejection and hatred. Deign to bless the men and woman of compassion who give you glory, even if they do not yet know your name.Pater noster Christ, put to death for our sins, Christ, risen for our life, We beg you, have mercy on us.