Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Sixth Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.

"He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by all, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom we hide (our) faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not."
         --Isaiah 53. 2-3

The Sixth station of the cross is the only stopping point not mentioned in Scripture. Veronica moved through the crowd and made her way to the staggering Jesus. As he bore the cross she reached out, took her veil in love or maybe just human kindness and wiped the spittle and blood from his face.

Legend had it that when she pulled the veil back from Jesus face the image of his face was embedded in the cloth. From the fourth century on the name Veronica emerges in one of the stations. The legend of the veil bearing Jesus image emerged later in the thirteen century. Some thought that this Veronica was the same woman whom Jesus healed of an issue of blood. The story went that she touched the hem of his garment and she was healed. Her name meant true or truthful.

What does this old story mean to us today? Whether the veil she touched Jesus’ face with bore an image or not is not the point. The truth here is simple. When we come close to Jesus—when we reach out in kindness to anybody anywhere—we ourselves will bear the mark of his love in our lives. This is an old miracle and one of the great wonders of the gospel. Like that long train of pilgrims through the years “inasmuch as we do unto the least of these...we do it unto him.”

I love that story that comes from Jim Wallis of Sojourners. He writes that twenty blocks from the White House is the Sojourners Neighborhood Center. Every Friday morning they open their doors and about 300 families come in seeking food. Just before the doors open the volunteers, mostly poor themselves join hands in prayer. One old African-American woman prayed one morning. “Thank you, Lord, for waking me up this morning. Thank you that the walls of my room were not the walls of my grave, and my bed was not my coolin’ board. Lord, we know that you’ll be coming through this line today, so help us to treat you well.” I wonder if her name just might have been Veronica.

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