Reflections on the Stations of the Cross
Veronica Wipes The Face of Jesus
One thing about growing up on a farm with three siblings is this: there’s always some sort of vehicle available, but that doesn’t mean it’s in great shape. Cars get really beat up and gunked up when they spend that much time on gravel, and we changed our own oil (why yes, I do know how to change oil…though I haven’t done it in so long I’m not sure I could find all the right outlets at this point), so they never got looked over by mechanics until something actually went wrong.
And then sometimes the warning signs were there, but I was too inexperienced to know how serious it was, and my parents were too overwhelmed by minor things like, I don’t know, harvest, to be able to take time to test drive it.
Thus it was that at 6:40 on a Saturday morning, when I was supposed to be at school checking in for a band trip, my car instead was wheezing, smoking and eventually coming to a sorry stop at the edge of a completely deserted two-lane highway, three miles from home and a mile and a half from school. I was frantic. Being a classic Hermione Granger, I’m still not sure if I was more panicky because I was stranded or because I was going to miss the band trip, which was part of my grade.
In any case, I took a deep breath and took a logical first step. I needed to get the car off the side of the highway. I put it in neutral and started pushing it with one hand on the steering wheel and the other on the open car door.
And then, salvation came in the form of some random nice stranger who did not attempt to molest or kidnap me, but helped me push the car around the corner onto the first turnoff, and drove me to school just as the bus doors were closing.
As the bus pulled out, I made a vow: I will never, ever drive by somebody on the side of the highway who needs help, ever again.
Naturally, that vow has been broken a fair few times. But even so, it was a formative experience for me. I never forgot what it felt like to be helpless and terrified and alone, and have someone show kindness. When I chose a Confirmation name later that year, I chose Veronica, because Veronica had wiped the face of Jesus. She had served Christ in need. That was what I wanted my Christian life to look like.
It still is. So this stop along the Via Dolorosa is more meaningful to me than most. The thing I find most profound is that even though Veronica did what she did out of the goodness of her heart—out of love, without thinking about reward—she came away with something truly priceless: a physical reminder of Christ. Yet another reminder that doing things that are uncomfortable and difficult do, in the end, bring us joy.