Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week 2022.  Most of us have stood at this place many times before.  We know from memory the names of the people who played a part in the suffering and death of Jesus.  Through their association with that tragic event, some of them have become famous and some infamous.  But for a moment let us focus our attention on one of the lesser-known personalities of Holy Week.

                His name was Simon of Cyrene.  The only thing we know for sure about him is that he was the man whom the Roman soldiers conscripted to carry the cross of Jesus.  Simon did not volunteer for service; he was forced into it. 

                It was the law of the empire in those days that Roman soldiers could conscript the service of captive people.  Simon had no choice.  And we can safely assume that he bitterly resented it.

                But in your imagination, let a few months go by for Simon, and then let us take another look at Simon again.  St. Mark’s account of the crucifixion as found in hi gospel refers to him as “Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus.”  Apparently all three of those names were familiar to the new Christian community at the time.  And that strongly suggests that Simon and both of his sons had become Christians and therefore a part of that fellowship.

                Imagine how that must have changed Simon’s attitude about the day when he was forced to carry the cross of Jesus.  No longer was it a source of bitterness and resentment.  It must have been the proudest experience in his life.  He must have shared the story over and over again.  His heart was broken by the tragedy of the cross, but he was proud to be the man who helped to lift a little of the burden that Jesus had to carry.

                How strange it is that a humiliating burden could be transformed into a badge of honor.  But Simon is not the only person in history who has known this experience.  It happened to many others, and I hope it will happen to you.

                In this world there are two kinds of living.  One kind places the burden of the cross on the shoulders of Jesus.  The other kind gets underneath that same burden and helps Jesus to carry it.  We have all played our part in that first kind.  This we know full well.  We have been small-minded; we have been selfish; we have been dishonest and disloyal; we have been cowardly.  These are the same sins that sent Jesus to Calvary with a heavy cross on His back.  And our sins helped to put it there.

                But we can still have a part in the other kind of living if we so choose.  Like Simon of Cyrene, we can help Jesus to carry His cross today.  And how can we do that?  The answer is simple – by living the way Jesus lived.  In the face of hatred, we can practice love.  In the presence of despair, we can practice hope.  In the hour of fear, we can practice faith.

                So therefore, we can say, that there are only two kinds of living – one builds a heavy cross and puts it once again on the back of Jesus; the other helps Him to carry it.  We cannot be neutral in this matter.  Each of us is living one way or the other right at this moment. 

                Now, the question is: will you pick up Jesus’ cross and help Him carry it today by the conduct of your life?  The answer is up to you.  So what will you do?