Fifth Station

Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the cross

From the Gospel according to Luke (23:26)

As 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.

1992 073 006 V0001George Tooker (American, 1920–2011), Drawings for “The Stations of the Cross,” 1984, Pencil on tracing paper. Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame. Gift of the artist. 1992.073.006


Though he bore the cross involuntarily, Simon of Cyrene’s act of lightening Jesus’s burden serves as a model for allyship today. Even as Christ was physically relieved of the wooden cross, he continued to carry the weight of our sins on his shoulders with little recourse. Similarly, many of our brothers and sisters who live on society’s margins must carry the weight of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism, ageism, and various other forms of discrimination. The same intolerance and persecution that led to Christ’s death exists in new iterations today, but there is infinite hope that we can truly address and even eradicate this intolerance through our allyship. 

How do we do this? We must be fully available and willing to help bear one another’s crosses in times of hardship. In a global pandemic that requires self-isolation, we have to be patient and innovative in determining how bearing one another’s crosses will look: It might look like corresponding with elderly members of our communities; or ensuring that groceries are delivered to those whose experiences with food insecurity are heightened; or expressing our appreciation for local healthcare and essential retail providers through affirming words and prayer. Even more crucially, we must be prepared to extend this spirit of allyship beyond the pandemic. Inequality, while accentuated in times like these, is ever-existing, and there will always be a cross that we can help to bear. And while allyship often manifests as simple acts, it can lead to long-term healing and reconciliation, just as Christ’s death made way for a healed world. Whenever it becomes difficult to imagine bearing someone else’s cross as you struggle with your own life circumstances, find solace in the knowledge that our God is a God of unfathomable mercy and unending wisdom, and reflect deeply on the compassion and accompaniment you would desire if your own cross became too heavy. After the Second World War, Lutheran pastor and Holocaust survivor Martin Niemöller perfectly captured why allyship— humbly bearing the crosses of others—remains so important:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Just as Christ’s destiny was intertwined with ours in his death and Resurrection, your destiny is intertwined with mine. Recognizing and knowing intimately the suffering of others is the key to alleviating it. May we all be like Simon of Cyrene, understanding that it is our natural duty to stand behind one another in our pain and our triumphs, for the ultimate purpose of living the full and fruitful lives God has always intended for us.

– MacKenzie Isaac ’20

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