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Simple Acts of Compassion

The sixth station of the cross tells of a woman named Veronica from Jerusalem who is so moved with sympathy upon seeing Jesus on route to his crucifixion that she offers Jesus her veil to wipe his face. His face caked with blood, sweat, and dirt, Jesus uses the veil to wipe his weary face, then hands it back to Veronica with his image imprinted upon the piece of cloth. While there is no explicit reference to Veronica in the Gospels, her gracious act on the Via Dolorosa has lived on in legend for centuries.

My immediate thought of a reflection for this station would be one on the image of God. After all, the miraculous image of Jesus imprinted on Veronica’s veil is pretty much the central point of this tale. This reflection could be on how God appears to us in a myriad of ways – what would we see if we wiped Jesus’ face with our own cloth?

Another way to reflect on this station, though, is to contemplate the “true image” of God. Veronica is, in fact, a blend of the Latin word for “truth” and the Greek word for “image.” If Veronica means “true image,” is it not possible that in this tale, Veronica herself exemplifies the “true image” of God? The true image of who God is has a lot less to do with physical appearance than to do with the actions we take for one another.

Jesus states this directly in the Gospel of Matthew, where he pronounces that our Final Judgment will be based on whether we saw the hungry, the thirsty, the imprisoned, and the naked and acted with compassion. It is this compassion that Veronica is compelled by when she moves to wipe Jesus’ face. 

Veronica was not just compassionate, though. She was attentively compassionate. It did not take theatrics or heroics for Veronica to receive Jesus’ miracle – only the awareness of the need for compassion and the compassionate action itself.

In our own lives, we are often caught up in the big picture, the overwhelming issues that hurt our local, national, and human communities. While we do have an obligation to work for justice, we mustn’t forget the simple moments where compassion is needed.

Reflection Questions:

  • -Where have I received a moment of compassion from someone in this community? At work?
  • -What was a moment that I acted with compassion for someone else in this community? What was an opportunity to act with compassion that I may have missed?
  • -What is one act of compassion that I can commit to doing regularly beyond this season of Lent and beyond this year of service?

Closing Prayer:

O My Jesus, Saint Veronica served You on the way to Calvary by wiping Your beloved face with a towel on which Your sacred image then appeared. She protected this treasure, and whenever people touched it, they were miraculously healed. I ask her to pray for the growth of my ability to see Your sacred image in others, to recognize their hurts, to stop and join them on their difficult journeys, and to feel the same compassion for them as she did for You. Show me how to wipe their faces, serve their needs, and heal their wounds, reminding me that as I do this for them, I also do this for You. Saint Veronica, pray for me. Amen.