Wiping the Face of Jesus in our Midst
Recently, I had the opportunity to help a friend of mine who has been on a long journey. He had a painful blister on his foot and he was taking a rest. He was sitting alone on the side of the hill and I could see the pain in his face. I saw his suffering and wanted to do something to help, even just a little. I couldn’t take away the pain, but I knew there was something that I could do for him. My friend’s socks and shoes were off so I gently put his shoes and socks on his feet, because that’s what he needed in that moment. I can only hope that my kindness comforted him and restored hope in his heart.
As Jesus went through His passion, He suffered through physical pain that is so unimaginable:
“And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt before Him saying “Hail, king of the Jews!” they spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head.” (Matthew 27:29-30)
This physical suffering He went through was real. All the pain He felt was real. Often, we forget that the beatings and the blows happened to a real person that felt everything. It is hard to imagine and relate to the intense suffering that Jesus experienced during His passion. The pain that we experience day to day is nothing like THAT pain.
It’s the Simple Things
The moment of helping my friend brought me to the place where Veronica was during the Passion. On Jesus’ walk to Calvary, she pushed through the crowd to wipe his face. She offered a service that was seemingly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but it was all she could offer Him during His time of need. It didn’t fix the problem of soldiers beating Him down and it didn’t take away the weight of His cross. One might say that all she did is simply wipe His face that was dripping with sweat, blood and tears, but she offered much more than that.
Jesus didn’t just feel the physical pain, He felt every emotion that comes with being humiliated, lonely, scared, and despised. He probably felt so alone, everyone was against Him and then He looked up to see Veronica. She was moved by compassion to do her best to comfort Him in His affliction. She gave Him some physical relief, but more so she gave Him a soft place to rest. As she physically wiped the blood, sweat, and tears from his eyes she was a loving face in the crowd to turn to. I can’t imagine what it felt like to see just one person who was on your side. It’s like that one kid who helps you up when you get pushed down on the playground. They look at you, smile and say “It’s going to be okay.” That’s enough to keep going.
How did Veronica feel?
She put aside all of her pride, despite what others may have thought. While others were continuing to yell and spit on Jesus, she took a step of courage. I can imagine her fighting through the crowd to get to Him with such determination. Just as the image of Jesus was pressed onto the veil she offered Him, so too His face was pressed into her heart, forever. In giving of herself, she received so much.
This suffering Jesus experienced has been particularly heavy on my heart this Lenten season and I have been captivated by the image of Veronica wiping the face of Jesus. I’m seeing how I fail to comfort Jesus in His passion, even now. It’s a lot easier to pass up the physical suffering around us than face it head-on. We hear about suffering constantly, on the news, in popular music, and even see it on the sides of streets. Because suffering is so common, I have been desensitized to it. I don’t recognize those moments as being an opportunity to console.
Jesus’ wounds are present in those who are suffering now. We have the opportunity to be Veronica to our friends, family, and strangers. Like Veronica we can see when our friends are hurting and in pain. We can offer them comfort and solace with what we have. It can be listening to what they have to say, giving them advice, or sending a text to a friend before they take a big exam. It’s usually the simplest things that can console their hearts the best. Just as Veronica consoled Jesus’ heart we are called to also console the hearts of those suffering in our midst and be a place of rest for them.