Most of us try to ignore the Crucifixion as much as possible. I get that, I do it too- when I see The Passion of the Christ, or any other dramatization of the Crucifixion, I have to turn away. It’s too real, too painful, too much. So I, like most of you, ignore it or downplay it, focusing instead on the Resurrection. The crucifixion has so many parts to it, as well, that can make it confusing. So many other people come in and out, besides Jesus, that a lot of times we feel make the story too convoluted. So let’s focus in on a few of these people, who were so important that they cameo in the most important hours of all history.
St. Veronica- The Defender:
St. Veronica was a pious woman who, while Jesus carried the cross to Golgatha, wiped his bloody face with her veil. The image of the face of Christ was miraculously imprinted on the veil. Why is she important? Veronica, like many saints you’ll read about in this post, is a stand-in for us. I’m pretty sure none of my readers stood on that road to Calvary that day, but those that did were there so that we would have a window into Good Friday. Veronica wipes the mud, filth, blood, and spittle from the face of God. We, as Christians, do the same every time we defend our faith. Every time we walk in marches for life, every time we correct others as to what we believe, every time we protest the culture of death and self-gratification, we wipe the mud from the face of Christ. (The Veil still exists, it’s at the Vatican now!)
Simon of Cyrene- The Helper:
“As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.” (Luke 23:26) So, here we have Jesus, exhausted, bloody, beaten and at the end of his endurance. The Romans see this, and pick, at random, a man from the crowd to help Jesus. Wait, wait, wait, you say. Doesn’t Jesus have to carry the cross in order for us to be saved? It’s Jesus’s job, He’s the only one who paid for our sins. What does Simon have to do with anything? Simon, once again, is standing for us, and is also proving an essential Catholic belief- that in offering up our own hardships and sufferings for the forgiveness of sins, we aid Jesus in carrying the cross. Simon shoulders the sins of the world, helping God (the main redeemer) carry them to the cross. Simon can’t finish the job, oh no, but he can make it easier.
St. Dismas (Dysmas)- The Thief:
The “Good Thief” of Luke 23:32-43 is one of the two criminals crucified with Jesus. When one of these criminals (sometimes called Gestas) ridicules Jesus, Dismas rebukes him, saying “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then Dismas asks for Jesus to remember him when Jesus goes into Heaven. Jesus answers him by telling hm they would be together in paradise. Ok, great, this is cool, you say. Jesus forgives this thief, they go to heaven, woop-de-doo. So? Let’s dissect this. Jesus is on the cross. He has been beaten all night, with no rest or respite. His flesh flayed by roman scourges. A crown of sharp thorns pressed into his head. Nails have been driven into the sensitive nerves of his wrists and ankles. The pain is beyond anything anyone could ever imagine, but the people he’s doing this for are ridiculing and insulting him. And then, this criminal, on another cross, has the nerve to ask him to remember him in heaven. And what does Jesus do? He tells him that they will be together in paradise. Because Jesus is even dying for the sins of Dismus. No matter what your sins have been, or where you’ve fallen, or what punishments you’ve received, Jesus forgives you. He invites you to come to paradise with Him.
St. Longinus- The Roman:
St. Longinus is the centurion in Mark 15:39, who declares upon seeing the earthquakes/wind/fire/people rising from the dead that occurs at the moment of Jesus’s death, declares “Surely, this man was the Son of God!” St. Longinus is a convert- he even helped to kill Jesus, to scourge and beat and crucify him! But he undergoes a radical conversion. Legend even says he helped to remove the body of Christ and then clean it for burial. He is important because he is another example that Jesus came for the Gentiles as well as the Jews, and Jewish law was not what saved mankind, but rather the blood of Christ. Again, it doesn’t matter where you are or what you’ve done- Christ will still forgive you and lead you into heaven.
St. Joseph of Arimathea- The Coward:
Joseph was a member of the Jewish council of the law. He was very rich and very well-connected. He was a disciple of Jesus, but he kept it quiet. He, erm, made sure sure to keep the separation of church and state. And what did that lead to? It lead to the death of Christ, because Joseph was silent at the mock-trial of Jesus. Joseph tried to make up for it by placing the body of Christ in his own tomb, which was very well-made and expensive. Joseph is a warning, first of all, to all politicians who put political correctness over Christian duty. But second, Joseph is yet ANOTHER image of the forgiven. Jesus still used him. Jesus still made him a saint. Joseph became an elder of the young Church. JESUS DIED FOR HIM.
So these people, seemingly random, weren’t actually random at all. Each of them witnessed the crucifixion for a reason. Each of them were forgiven. Each of them were loved. Each of them were chosen. And each of them can be seen as an example for us to aspire to (like all saints) and an image of the hope and forgiveness even in the brutal darkness of the Crucifixion of Christ. Never be afraid to look at the Crucifixion. All of that was done for you. Whether you’re a fearless Veronica or a cowardly Joseph, a remorseful Dismas or a Longinus who has beaten the body of Christ, you are precious and you have a purpose. Jesus died for you. And what must we do in return?
We must live for Him.
Love to all!