“To become more widely human…”
This is a line from a prayer by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. I was reminded of this prayer yesterday when I was putting together a short reflection on Simon of Cyrene for work.
Most are familiar with Simon. He was the man who was pushed into service to help Jesus carry the cross. Since he was given a name and even relatives in the synoptic Gospels, we assume he was a real person, probably known around town, and maybe was even familiar with Jesus.
I know over the years I’ve reflected on Simon many times as I journeyed through the stations during Lent. And each time something new strikes me.
In recent years, what has become most interesting to me about Simon’s call to service in this moment is that it was… complicated. As the wood of the cross came to rest on Simon’s shoulders, he was suddenly serving two purposes. He was helping the soldiers get Jesus to the hill alive so that He may be crucified, and he was taking some of the burden off of Jesus’ tired and aching shoulders.
It turns out that Simon’s service in this moment… was complicated. It was messy. It was imperfect. It was human.
In a way, Simon’s service in that moment mimics some of our own messy, human, and complicated calls to service today. How often do we want to know what we do to serve others is 100% correct before we do it? How often do we want to choose how and when we serve? How often do we want it to be black and white or easy?
But that’s often not life. That’s often not a life lived in service of others.
Instead, maybe we need to ask how we can be most human in each moment and how we can see and honor the humanity in others as well… even if it’s messy, even if we don’t know for sure.
“Oh God, I wish from now on
To be the first to become conscious
Of all that the world loves, pursues, and suffers;
I want to be the first to seek,
To sympathize, and to suffer;
The first to unfold and sacrifice myself,
To become more widely human
And more nobly of the earth
Than any of the world’s servants. “
-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ