This Cross is Heavy, but…

The Gospels tell us about the many people who met Jesus.  Among them was Simon of Cyrene, who just happened to meet Jesus.  “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” (Matthew 16:24) Simon of Cyrene carried this cross on his back and became the first person to obey Jesus.  But it was not the case where he himself took the initiative in doing so. 

To Simon, Jesus had nothing to do with him, and in common with other people, Simon had just come to see Jesus the prisoner.  Jesus just happened to stumble and fall in front of Simon.  The angry voice of the Roman soldier was directed toward Simon, “Hey you, carry this cross on your back.” “What an unlucky man I am. Of all things, I have to carry the cross of a man who is going to be executed.” (Just imagining)

The other day, the third “state of emergency” was issued in Aichi Prefecture.  In our daily lives, there may be times when things go smooth and accordingly, but the global spread of COVID-19 and the more contagious mutant strains which cause severity, have brought to us an unprecedented situation that had never been imagined.  There are some cities and even people who have had to endure the extension of the declaration since the beginning of the year.  It is a painful, frustrating everyday life that we must endure.  Those who are experiencing anxiety and fear, leaving no room to even think about what is so painful; those receiving medical treatment, and those who cannot receive medical treatment; those who have passed away; family members and friends who are mourning and regretting; those working hard in treatment and nursing; those who have been exposed to discrimination and prejudice; I pray that the situation come to an end as soon as possible, and may we find hope and joy in overcoming it.

Legend has it that Simon was later counted as one of Jesus’ seventy disciples, and it was of his own free will to be martyred for Jesus.  He was forced to carry the cross, and for that reason, he mentioned the scene of Jesus’ death on the hill of Golgotha, and was led to encounter with the resurrected Jesus.  Upon his own initiative he carried the cross this time, and overcoming hardships, he was able to walk the road to glory. 

During Paul’s evangelism, there was a series of unfavorable situations such as persecution and imprisonment.  However, every time he encountered situations which he did not hope for or were the exact opposite of what he had wanted, the gratitude and praise to God empowered him. 

We were not only the successors to this faith that Paul had passed on, but also tellers and witnesses.  Paul’s conviction is also our conviction.  In this difficult time, let us unite our thoughts, strengths, and prayers with all people throughout the world, regardless of nationality or faith, in order to overcome and put an end to this. May each of us be made to live within the grace of God and be strengthened as those who live within this grace.

Revd Eliezer Shiro Nakao
Ichinomiya Holy Light Church

“Lord, where are you going?”

I cannot forget this one particular intense scene from “Quo Vadis,” a famous novel written by the Polish novelist, Henryk Sienkiewicz, where Apostle Peter and a boy rush south on Appian Way before dawn to flee from persecution by Nero and are arrested by the authorities.

A mysterious sphere of light approached from the morning mist, and there appeared a figure.  It was unmistakably Jesus Christ.  The aged Peter kneeled, reached out, and asked while crying.  “Quo Vadis, Domine?” (“Lord, where are you going?”)  Then a sad but with a clear voice said to Peter, “If you are going to abandon my people, I am going to Rome to be crucified once again.”  The boy walking along with Peter did not see anything nor hear anything.  Peter, having fallen as if he were unconscious, got himself up, raised his shaking hand holding a cane, and headed back to the city that he had just escaped from.  Looking at this, the boy asks Peter, “Quo Vadis, Domine?”  Peter answers in a small voice, “To Rome.”  After returning to Rome, Peter is martyred just like Paul.  He was crucified upside down at his own request.  (This story is said to have been written based on the legend created around the end of the 2nd Century.)

  Every time I recall this scene, I feel my heart pounding and tremoring, but after I become calm, I feel as if I am being scolded, but on the other hand also encouraged. 

“What is truth?”

We are about to welcome Holy Week.  This is the last question asked by the Roman governor Pilate at the palace after summoning Jesus.  However, it seems that Pilate questioned and spoke on the spur of the moment and was not serious.  Rather, truth cannot be so simple.  That is how I imagine he would have felt.  Until he had reached his current position, or even more after being in his current position, he may have been living in a world where sharp trickeries flew around, and falsehood and fraud were the very common knowledge.  Afterwards, Pilate obviously loses his interest to this question. 

“I am the way and the truth and the life.”  (John 14:6)

Meeting Jesus is an experience in life where one’s way of life and values are inspired, but on the contrary, it is also a dangerous experience where the various things which one has made as its own are destroyed.  However, isn’t there a bit of a surprising feeling as if a possibility for something new is given or might be born?  These thoughts and wishes well up as if one could somehow be of help and do something for Jesus. 

Even if my encounter with Jesus be a bitter experience, I think it is an encounter where hope and possibility are given to lead a life as a new human being.

“What is truth?”

We know.

“Who is truth?”

Revd Eliezer Shiro Nakao
Ichinomiya Holy Light Church