There is a young woman in Jerusalem who makes her way through a bustling scene. A man in the middle of the street – beaten, bruised and bloodied – on his hands and knees. His cross lays beside him. He looks as if he has lost all strength. Between the soldiers who are fending off the frenzied crowd, she comes to the man with firm resolve. Who is this man? She knows. In her heart and mind, lifted by grace, she humbly kneels down and speaks, “Permit me, Lord?” as she offers to wipe his blood-stained face. With the slightest smile, he looks upon her as she raises the cloth to his face, the very cloth that will bear his face – the face of her savior. Continuing her loving care she offers some water to quench his parched thirst, but not before a soldier comes and chases her away.
We know this woman as Veronica from Catholic tradition – loving and compassionate Veronica. Few have had her experience: to touch the Lord, to touch his wounds, and to comfort him. Throughout the Gospels it has always been Jesus who has touched persons, either physically or spiritually by his power. But here, on this Friday, the Lord has permitted a young woman of Jerusalem to weep for him and come to his aid.
I can’t imagine that Veronica left the Lord’s company after such an experience. Perhaps, she followed Jesus as he continued through the streets of Jerusalem, tightly gripping her imaged cloth. As he made his way outside the city gates and began his ascent to Calvary, I can picture Veronica stopping at the gates and watching from a distance. Inscribed upon her heart and mind is the image of the face of her savior. In the distance her Lord is lifted up on Calvary, as she gazes intently upon the hill of salvation, venerating the true Cross. She looks upon the horror of the scene, but she does not dare to turn away.
So little is good on this day. We know how the story ends, but in the moments from the garden to the court, from the pillar to the hill, little but violence, mockery, and pain are found. Except there is Veronica. Good Veronica. A glimmer of good in the darkest of days. It is the draw of Christ, the grace of his zealous heart, that calls her to seek his face. Like the woman at the well from whom the Lord desires a drink (Jn 4), Veronica comes to offer the drink of true faith to her Lord – a faith she has shown him in the middle of the anger and hate of this day.
Today the world watches and looks upon the Cross. Some of us know its weight and the pierce of its nails. Some of us resent its presence or grapple with its difficulty. Some of us shudder in our hearts with fear at its immensity. Yet, there is a young woman in Jerusalem who works her way through the soldiers and the crowd, to come close to the face of her Lord. This is most remarkable, to seek his face precisely in his suffering and to see his gentle smile of love for her, somehow letting her know that he will make all things new. She waits and looks upon the hill of salvation with eyes of faith – faith in his goodness. She holds his face in the cloth of her hands. She holds his face in her heart. She does not dare to turn away.
Today we look upon the Cross, this Good Friday. We look with Veronica, the beholder of the true face. We look with her who was permitted to come so close. The Cross is fixed in our minds and hearts today, and Veronica helps us not dare to turn away.
Image: The Passion of the Christ