On Suffering: Lessons from Simon of Cyrene

  1. It Can Happen to Innocent People

Simon of Cyrene was unexpectedly forced to help Jesus carry the cross (Luke 23: 26). This shows us that suffering can seem to appear from nowhere and that it can afflict people who are apparently innocent bystanders (Luke 13: 1-5).  We learn that suffering, in many ways, is a mystery that can only be partially understood in this life. At the end of time, the meaning of all joys and suffering will be known to all at the general judgement.

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2. Jesus is Afflicted Before You

Jesus was already afflicted with the suffering of the cross before Simon was conscripted to carry it with him. Oftentimes, we see suffering as beginning from when it afflicted us. However, the evil that afflicted you has already afflicted God in the first place (Gen 3: 15) but God ultimately vanquishes evil with his death and resurrection.  

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3. Redemptive Suffering

Like Simon, if you cannot change a difficult situation using good means, actively accept it – with Christ. This way, you can be a witness for Christ. Simon of Cyrene’s sons – Alexander and Rufus – became Christians from their Dad’s chance encounter with the Cross.* You too can bring many people to God by suffering with Christ. Your witness of loving acceptance of the cross in service to God will convert many people around you. 

4. Jesus Becomes Our Simon of Cyrene

Jesus famously said we should yoke ourselves to him like those hardworking farm animals who work in pairs, easing the burden for one another (Mt 11: 28-30).  Christ is saying in other words, that when a cross is thrown on us, we should cling to him. Like Simon, he would be (willingly) conscripted to carry the cross with us and to make our burden lighter. 

5. Used for the Greater Good

God permits evil in many cases because there is greater good he wishes to draw from it. (We could think of a parent allowing a child to undergo surgery to prevent a worse situation). 

God could have intercepted his crucifixion or saved Simon from carrying the cross with him. However, he permitted the suffering he endured because of the good that he would ultimately draw from it: the salvation of the world. The evil of his suffering lasted for a relatively short time, whereas the good of the salvation he gained for us, is forever.

We can also see how Jesus permitted Simon’s conscription for many reasons including as an instrument of great learning for many of us across generations. The story of Simon’s acceptance of the cross has been told across millennia to-date, inspiring billions of people with great lessons on suffering.

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*They are mentioned in Scripture (Mark 15: 21) and in other parts of the new testament and traditions of the Church.

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