A Vincentian View: The Company of Strangers

by | Mar 27, 2024 | Formation, Reflections | 1 comment

Some years ago, I read a piece that discussed how much the modern world depends upon the work of strangers for its survival and wellbeing.  Our food, our clothes, and so many of our resources are provided through the efforts and goodness of people that we never know.  As we reflect upon the Passion Narratives in these days, I am struck by the reality of how Jesus’ path to the cross involves him in the company of strangers.

On the way to crucifixion, neither Thomas nor Philip step into service to help Jesus carry his cross.  Simeon the Cyrene aids him to bear this weight.

They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon,
a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country . . .
to carry his cross. (Mk 15:12)

When Jesus is nailed to the cross, neither James nor John are found at his sides, but two criminals.  (Remember, James and John had desired to sit at the Lord’s right and left when he entered his glory—Mk 10:35-37!)

With [Jesus] they crucified two revolutionaries,
one on his right and one on his left. (Mk 15:27)

When he dies on the cross, Peter does not stand forth to proclaim his true identity but a Roman soldier.

When the centurion who stood facing [Jesus]
saw how he breathed his last he said,
“Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mk 15:39)

A lesson can emerge for us as we consider these dynamics—as we remember that those closest to the Lord on the way of the cross are strangers.  Yet, they have a place by him and support him in their own ways.

We know that Jesus did not become human simply to be among the poor, but to be the poor.  At the cross, he highlights the experience of the poor.  Then, strangers offer their lessons and encourage us in the service of our marginalized sisters and brothers, because we recognize Jesus among them. What do we learn:

  • Do we hear the summons to help carry the cross of those who are afflicted—some women and men do.
  • Are we willing to suffer with those who are treated unjustly—some others are.
  • Do we stand up for and acknowledge truth and virtue when we see it, even if no one else says a word—some people speak this message loudly and clearly.

During this Holy Week, our Vincentian hearts may be drawn to the lessons of the strangers who are close to Jesus in his suffering and death.  We can recognize the ways in which we, too, can draw near to the cross and to those who have need.  In doing so, we draw near to the Lord.

1 Comment

  1. Tom M

    Very fruitful lessons for our own way of the cross.


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