Simon's prayer

         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 with Jesus.

                           —Luke 23.26


Jesus, I am not a brave disciple.
I was merely going my way, and was here compelled.
Oh, the horror—to be humiliated with a criminal,
to be led to a death not far from my own!
The shame—to know I aided in laying this death upon you.
The fear I felt to seize such suffering in my own hands,
to bear the pain of one who bore our whole entire wound!
I shrank. I wanted to cease to be. But then I was compelled—
but not by the centurion:
it was your eyes.
Wounded and bloodied as they were, they beckoned me.
They spoke of grace even there, hope even then.
Burdened so, they moved with gratitude
that I would share the journey with you. With humble love
they invited me even through pain and suffering toward life
I could not imagine before I shared your sorrow.
Your splinters pierced me,
a wreath of thorns around my own heart.
The life they sought to wrest from you, you gave so freely.
For a moment I glimpsed what it might be
to bear the pain of the world
and not despair,
but love,
born of a life that swamps all death.
In that awful brotherhood step by step my burden lightened
until it was pure gift. How could there be joy in such anguish?
It was truly you alone, Beloved, who carried all the weight.

Now in all my troubles I feel your cross upon my back,
your arm around my shoulder, your breath on my neck,
your mournful, hopeful eyes, still gentle, holding me.
I am glad to be here. You speak to me:

           “Come to me, all you that are weary
           and are carrying heavy burdens,
           and I will give you rest..
           Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me;
           for I am gentle and humble in heart,
           and you will find rest for your souls.
           For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

                          [—Mt. 11.28-30]

   —April 18, 2019