LOCKDOWN LENT 3 STATION 6
"Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger, and make you welcome; naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and go to see you?" And the King will answer, ''In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this for one of the least of my sisters and brothers, you did it for me." (Matthew 25: 37-40)
REFLECTION IN THIS TIME OF PANDEMIC
What a moment of blessed relief!
In the heat, dust and pain of the journey to Calvary this is a brief instant of soothing tenderness.
Veronica comes from the crowd and wipes the face of Jesus; the image of his face remains on the cloth.
In COVID wards a nurse brings a sip of water to a patient with a dry throat;
another holds the hand of a dying woman, consoling her just by their presence.
A lonely isolated person receives a knock on the door from a considerate neighbour to check on their well-being.
Someone phones or writes to another
who is trapped at home, self-isolating for fear of the disease,
or self-isolating because it has been enforced upon them.
These are the Veronica moments;
moments of relief and kindness,
tenderness and concern.
And these moments make all the difference, allowing the fog of pain, loneliness and sorrow to lift, and offering hope that even in cruel circumstances, love is present.
From the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. 53:2-3 "He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by humanity - a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not."
Veronica - (Bernice, in the Greek Orthodox tradition) - embodies the universal yearning of the devout men and women of the Old Testament, to see the face of God.
On Jesus' Way of the Cross, though, she at first did nothing more than perform an act of kindness: she held out a facecloth to Jesus, undeterred by the brutality of the soldiers or the fear which gripped the disciples.
Veronica is the image of that good woman, who, amid turmoil and dismay, shows the courage born of goodness, unbewildered.
"Blessed are the pure in heart", the Lord said in his Sermon on the Mount,
"for they shall see God" (Mt 5:8).
At first, Veronica saw only a buffeted and pain-filled face. Yet her act of love impressed the true image of Jesus on her heart. In his human face, bloodied and bruised, she saw the face of God,
Emmanuel, God-with-us even in our deepest sorrows. Only with the heart can we see Jesus. Veronica's was an act of love, kindness and courage.
Acts of kindness such as Veronica's help us to see the true image of God when we serve the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the trapped and the captive.
In these we are brought face-to-face with our God who is love itself.
Veronica is every person who has ever been on the edge,
on the outside, made to feel ashamed –
these are the people who bear the image of Christ, who have received from Christ and carry his acceptance with them wherever they go.
Veronica demonstrates in a small but significant act of mercy what Christ came to do – the wiping away of sin and betrayal, the restoring and making whole of the broken, and how we each carry with us the true image of Christ.
May we be able to find the true image of Christ in the face of suffering,
in the faces of those around us,
in the faces of those from whom we would avert our gaze.
We stop on our journey to Golgotha to gaze at the face of Jesus.
PRAYER: Lord, grant us restless hearts, hearts which seek your face.
Keep us from the blindness of heart which sees only the surface of things.
As we encounter you along our way, may we display the image of your love
to our fellow travellers in the way we live.
We adore you O Christ, and we praise you,
because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.
VERONICA - MALCOLM GUITE
Bystanders and bypassers turn away
And wipe his image from their memory
She keeps her station.
She is here to stay
And stem the flow.
She is the reliquary
Of his last look on her.
The bloody sweat
And salt tears of his love
are soaking through
The folds of her devotion
and the wet folds of her handkerchief, like the dew of morning,
like a softening rain of grace.
Because she wiped the grime
from off his skin,
And glimpsed the godhead
in his human face
Whose hidden image we all bear within, Through all our veils and shrouds of daily pain The face of God is shining once again.
This painting is an abstract depiction of Veronica wiping the face of Jesus as He collapses to his knees. His face is positioned over her heart. As I reflected on this Station, I tried putting myself in the place of Veronica. What would it be like to witness such brutality to another human being, much less to the Son of God? Beaten beyond recognition. Covered in blood and sweat. Hardly able to walk. Just imagining this moment moves me to tears and so I used blue to show the tears she must have shed. I tried to imagine what Veronica felt at the very moment that she held and comforted Jesus Christ. Like all of us, Veronica probably had questions and doubts about Jesus. Why was God allowing this to happen?
As it is written, there was an impression of the face of Jesus that remained on her cloth. But what truly struck me was the impression that forever remained on her heart. I can only imagine the days that followed when Jesus rose from the dead and she knew beyond all doubt that she had held the Son of God in His moment of pain. She comforted her Saviour just before He gave His life for her and for all of humanity. This painting depicts the impression of His face over her heart, representing the permanent impression left on all of our hearts by Jesus Christ and His ultimate sacrifice for us. Gray Hardaway - Artist.