Station 6: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
At Station 6 we remember Veronica, the woman who courageously stepped out of the crowd and proceeds to wipe the face of Jesus and clean his wounds. She parallels Simon of Cyrene, but Veronica comes to Jesus’ side by her own will, moved by the inhumane drama unfolding before her. Perhaps she learned this form of nonviolent resistance from Jesus.
Jesus was considered a radical for many reasons, but one in particular is attributed to the ways in which Jesus breached the lines that divided what was clean and unclean. His community held quite traditional beliefs about people who were sick, disabled or diseased and intended to keep firm walls between those who were considered pure and those who were deemed impure. Jesus was not at all interested in these divisive delineations surrounding purity. He understood the healing power of community, intimacy and physical touch and defied norms and tradition by touching both men and women who were considered impure or sinners, thus making himself impure and sinful in the eyes of the religious elite. Richard Beck describes this sociological phenomenon as negativity dominance:
When a pollutant and a pure object come into contact the pollutant is “stronger” and ruins the pure object. The pure object doesn’t render the pollutant acceptable or palatable.
By extending his touch to those whom no one would touch, Jesus was situating himself in the category of untouchable, impure and sinful. Jesus gave up his purity and reputation in order to affirm the humanity and experience of others. Richard Beck goes on to comment on the idea of negativity dominance,
The [religious elites] never once consider the fact that the contact between Jesus and the sinners might have a purifying, redemptive, and cleansing effect upon the sinners. Why not? The logic of contamination simply doesn’t work that way. The logic of contamination has the power of the negative dominating over the positive. Jesus doesn’t purify the sinners. The sinners make Jesus unclean . . . What is striking about the gospel accounts is how Jesus reverses negativity dominance. Jesus is, to coin a term, positivity dominant. Contact with Jesus purifies.
Denying oneself and following Jesus means risking ourselves and the power we hold as we extend our hands to others in love and mercy, affirming their humanity and the reality of their experiences regardless of who may consider them unclean.
Prayer: Help me to resist seeing anyone as unclean and impure, and to see everyone as beautiful and equally deserving of love, respect, justice and human contact.
1. Richard Beck, Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011), page 28.
2. Ibid., 30.