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