On Good Friday, we remember how much Jesus suffered in order for us to have life. We are also reminded that we are called to take up our own crosses out of love for God and for one another. As Jesus carries his cross, it’s difficult to comprehend the depth of his loneliness, as his friends and disciples left him and he was surrounded by a crowd of people relishing in his pain. Even in the midst of such intense suffering, however, there are glimpses of hope.
One such glimpse comes when St. Veronica wipes Jesus’ face. It seems like a small act, but it took immense bravery. As the crowd looked on, Veronica pushes through all of the people and shows her support for one who has been labeled an enemy by compassionately wiping his face of the blood and sweat that poured down his face. I can’t imagine that wiping Jesus’ face took away the weight of the cross or lessened the pain of the thorns pressing into his head, but this little act of kindness must have done something to heal the ache of loneliness at a time when all of Jesus’ friends had abandoned him, and he became a true outcast. While the pain of the cross bearing down on his shoulders and the thorns piercing his head must have been intense, the knowledge that his friends had fled and he was surrounded by people who were celebrating his suffering must have been even more unbearable.
The pain of loneliness cuts deeper than any physical pain can. When Veronica wipes Jesus’ face, while it probably did little to alleviate the physical pain, her courage must have offered hope that Jesus was not entirely alone. I think that Veronica serves as a beautiful model for how we are called to serve one another. When we witness intense suffering, sometimes it’s hard to know how to respond. We feel powerless to solve enormous problems such as poverty, hunger, homelessness, human trafficking, and other huge injustices that occur in our world. When we feel so helpless, it’s tempting to simply blend in with the crowd, thinking that there’s no way we can do anything to cure such immense suffering anyway. But Veronica calls us to step out from the crowd and stand alongside those who suffer, showing them that they are not alone.
Veronica could not carry Jesus’ cross for him, but she did the one small thing that was within her power to heal Jesus’ pain. When we witness injustice, we may not be able to solve the problem on our own, but we can do whatever small actions we can to heal the suffering and loneliness of the people who are oppressed and outcast by society. This will require us to step out of our comfort zone and embrace the people that others have rejected. Veronica must have experienced some kind of retribution after she helped the one who everyone else regarded as an enemy. But she stepped away from the crowd anyway, and went right up to the man who had been turned into an outcast. This could not have been a comfortable thing to do, but Veronica’s love for Jesus was stronger than her fear of being rejected by the crowd.
We must allow our love for one another to overpower our love of being comfortable, and we must step out and stand beside the people who are rejected and alone, and wipe their faces. We may not be able to remove their suffering completely, but we can offer them hope by showing them that we are willing to risk our own comfort and reputation to be with them in their pain. This is something that we can do every day, with every person that we encounter, because everyone has some pain and loneliness within them. When we perform small acts of compassion, we are showing them that they are not alone, and that they are loved. I believe that God resides in all of us. This means that when we follow Veronica’s example and wipe the faces of the suffering, we are wiping the face of Jesus.