This morning during my daily walk I was meditating on the Sorrowful mysteries, one that struck
particularly powerfully this morning was the Carrying of the Cross. I began to visualize as I walked and my mind was drawn to one scene in particular, that of Veronica and her veil. Now not everyone knows the story of Veronica, but here is the legend:
The story of Veronica is not told in the gospels, but in early apocryphal writings. An early 2nd century version of The Acts of Pilate reports that a woman named Veronica (Bernice, in the Greek version) was the same woman Jesus cured of a blood disorder (Matthew 9,20-22), and that she came to his trial before Pilate to claim his innocence.
Later versions of the story from the 4th or 5th century say that Veronica possessed a cloth imprinted with the face of Jesus. Western pilgrims returning to Europe passed her story on. As the Stations of the Cross developed in late medieval times, Veronica was remembered at the 6th Station: she wipes the face of Jesus on his way to Calvary and he leaves an image of his face on her veil. A healing relic, impressed with the image of Jesus' face, which came to be known as "Veronica's Veil," was honored in St. Peter's Church in Rome as early as the 8th century. - Stations of the Cross
As I went through the day I kept being reminded of this early morning meditation of mine, and wondering how it all tied together. Then as I began to read and meditate on a chapter of "My Other Self" it all begin to fall into place. So let me guide you through the thoughts I've been having today.
Veronica approached the Lord as he walked silently on the path to Calvary. Simon the Cyrenien was carrying his cross and our Lord was the point where mortal flesh was ready to give way, and death seemed a welcome sight. His body ripped and torn, beaten and bruised. Spit from those who teased him ran down his face and his beard was hanging in tattered strips where they had plucked and berated him. The thorns had worked their way deeper into his flesh, and by carrying the cross the agony of the flayed skin on his back had him wracked him pain beyond all measure. She walked up gently, bravely. She reached out to him with a beautiful cloth and began to lovingly cleans his face.
Oh the gesture of love from this woman to her Savior, as she cleansed away the blood, sweat and tears. As she removed the dirt and grim from his face from where he had fallen into the street. She carefully wiped so as not to cause more pain, wincing herself as she crossed the wounds to his cheeks and forehead. Tears filled her eyes as she saw how much he suffered for her. The guards began to beat Jesus and she backed away with tears in her eyes, her breath catching. She clutched this veil to her chest and fell to her knees flooded with grief and agony to see the King of the Universe, brought to such a pitiable state.
What does this tell us about our lives? How do we apply this revelation to our walk with Christ? Jesus told us "Whatever you do for the least of these you do for me." If we look at this as a spiritual truth, and we look at the cross to Calvary in the light of the Sin which Jesus bore for us, it begins to show us a tender reality of how we are to deal with sin in our community, and how far we've fallen from that ideal.
If we truly are to be to that person as if they were Christ, it's our job to gently and lovingly caress their face with a cloth of cleansing. How gently and lovingly would you touch the face of Jesus if he were before you in such a state? Would you push into his wounds gratingly, demeaning him even further? Or would you look on with understanding, with sorrow, with your breath catching and your eyes full of tears? Would you fall to your knees in grief and agony and cry with them, as others in the community help them pick up their cross and continue on their walk towards God's will? Would you watch as they journey on clutching the cloth of the experience of having known them to your chest as a treasured possession?
Ah how short we fall. Not only do we often not want to carry the cross of someone else, we don't even want to see them in a pitiable state. We treat them as some outsider, the other, THEM. We ostracize them and verbally berate them. We talk about them behind their backs and instead of cleansing their face with a refreshing touch of love, we throw more dirt in their eyes and make them stumble away under their cross to try to get away from your glare. We close our doors and hearts, barricading ourselves away, afraid we might get a bit of their stain on ourselves.
Brothers and sisters, this is not how it should be. Today, and the rest of our lives, let us try to see Jesus in every person we meet.. and if we must address their sins (and sometimes it's absolutely necessary), let us do it as gently as we would wipe the face of Christ, let us lovingly remove the dirt, blood, sweat and tears from their eyes so that they can see clearly the path before them.. and let us cherish every moment of those encounters, as we help carry the cross of someone who has fallen.