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Simon and Joseph

by Fr. Robert J. Carr

You caught me!! Yes, in my haste to write my review of “The Passion” I mixed up Joseph of Arimathea and Simon the Cyrene. It was indeed, Simon who carried the Cross and Joseph who offered the tomb.

Strangely, one of my favorite Easter jokes involves Joseph just because he owned the tomb. You may have heard it.

The family of Joseph of Arimathea was extremely angry with him that he gave Jesus the tomb for his burial. They complained that tombs are expensive and now they had to buy another tomb. Joseph, however, comforted them. “Don’t worry.” He said. “He only needs it for the weekend!”

I think the incident also leads to a reflection on the difference between Simon and Joseph. When we think of Simon we think of the man who carried the cross. He is the man we can identify with at Lent. We seek Christ, we live Christ and we adore Christ. Lent is when we with Christ carry our crosses in service to him.

Joseph reminds us of where we are going. We are walking to a used but empty tomb. Joseph is the Easter vision of our ultimate focus of the joy beyond all joys, the truth beyond all truths in the kingdom beyond all kingdoms.

We can identify at times with one and at times with the other. However, we need to be careful not to identify with one without being mindful of the other.

Paul gives us a similar warning. We never talk about the cross without the resurrection. Equally we never talk about the resurrection without the cross.

Jesus died and rose. Socrates died, he has never risen. If we think of Jesus in terms of Simon without Joseph we think of a philosopher who had many wise sayings but who’s time has passed.

If we think of Jesus in terms of Joseph without Simon, we focus on an easily reached Heaven for which Earth is nothing more than the bus station.

It is when we see Jesus in terms of Simon and Joseph that we see the cross and the glory, the pilgrimage and the destination, the present striving for truth and the future joy of living in truth.

Simon and Joseph both had a part in Jesus death and resurrection. We cannot ignore them and we do not want to get them mixed up.

The parent for example can find the difficulties of raising a teenager overwhelming and not focus on the fruit of a grown adult with a loving family.

The policeman can find the difficulties of arresting a drug dealer painful enough that he does not see his work as the first step to a change of life in the grace of God’s discipline.

The courageous Catholics may find the difficulties of living the faith strong enough not to see those people who’s lives who have changed because of their strong example.

We are a resurrection people who believe in the cross. We are never one without the other.

Simon and Joseph both played a part in Jesus’ death and resurrection. I am happy to see how many know that Simon carried the cross and Joseph supplied the tomb. Thanks for the e-mails.


Catholicism Anew  MA, US
Fr. Robert J. Carr - parochial vicar, 617 542-5682



The Passion, Way of the Cross

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