The Women on the Way of the Cross: Veronica

Christ longs for our love in small things…no matter how small they are.
by Melicia Antonio | Source:
A priest I know saw an early edition of Mel Gibson’s the Passion of the Christ and was asked afterwards which part of the Way of the Cross he identified most with. Considering the heavy workload that this priest carries in his ministry, I guessed it would be Simon of Cyrene. His answer surprised me: Veronica, because of the way she did the smallest act of love with perfection.

It spoke volumes about what he perceived true love to be: a love that filters down to the smallest act of the day and turns the ordinary into the extraordinary. Veronica was not trying to be a hero that Friday. She was not in a social or physical position to do something “great” for Christ, to beat back his torturers, to silence the wagging tongues of the crowd, or to relieve him of the pain of the cross. As woman of her times she could not even testify on behalf of an innocent person.

Sometimes daily life feels the same way. We want to be heroes and swing out of the office window with a Spiderman suit on, or shock the world with an Academy Award- winning performance. The world is being won for Christ, and here we are in the kitchen scrubbing crusted cheese off the casserole dishes. Routine daily life attending to the minuscule and multitudinous needs of little children or grumpy customers is not glamorous.

The humble service of Veronica reminds us that it is Christ, not our greatness, which has saved the world. The smallest act of love united to his redemptive sacrifice makes for greatness. That Friday afternoon, Veronica beheld a condemned, rejected criminal being led to execution and did what she could, which was all the Lord was asking of her. In return for her kindness, he left his imprint on her veil. “In fact”, John Paul II wrote in 2003, “the Savior leaves his imprint on every single act of charity, as he did on Veronica's cloth.”

More often than not, it is the little acts of charity which make the biggest difference in people’s lives. Last week, a priest at the parish where I do volunteer work told me he used to guide pilgrimages to Rome. After one trip, he asked each pilgrim what they most remembered. Two persons bypassed praising the glorious basilicas, historic sites, and magnificent Masses and said, “That little priest we met in St. Peter’s Square.” A little, white-haired priest with a German accent who had stopped on his way to work to chat amiably with them and take photos. The pilgrims could not remember his name, but the parish priest could not forget it.

Some years later, shortly before his friend John Paul II passed away, that little priest wrote meditations for the Stations of the Cross held every Good Friday in the Coliseum, and spoke of Veronica’s genius in recognizing the Savior: “At first, Veronica saw only a buffeted and pain-filled face. Yet her act of love impressed the true image of Jesus on her heart: on his human face, bloodied and bruised, she saw the face of God and his goodness, which accompanies us even in our deepest sorrows. Only with the heart can we see Jesus. Only love purifies us and gives us the ability to see. Only love enables us to recognize the God who is love itself.”

As we contemplate Veronica’s station this week, let’s search our own hearts to see which of our works we consider most important, and if they are purifying us to see the face of Jesus in daily life. Without this purification and this appreciation for little acts of love, we just may miss meeting him in the square.

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