The face of Jesus, which had been mystically transfigured for us on the mountaintop, is now disfigured by us as he approaches his crucifixion.
If the legend of Veronica soothing Jesus' beaten and bleeding face hadn't survived exclusion from the Scriptural canon, we would have had to invent it. She stands in line with Simon from Cyrene, who helped carry Jesus' cross, and Joseph of Arimathia, who offered his tomb to hold his master's corpse. And we stand in line with all of them.
Veronica's tending to Jesus captures our reaction, millennia later, to the history of Christ's passion. She stood on the sidelines, helplessly watching her teacher face his death. We stand across the miles of history, knowing the outcome. Christ's passion has never been a mere piece of history, and it evokes our passion, as well. Our thoughts, words and deeds have the power today to cry out “Crucify!” or “Release him!” -- to soothe the brow of Christ and his fellow sufferers today with a cool cloth or to offer him (and them) sour wine with a ten-foot pole or pierce his side with a spear.
Veronica tends not to the cross or tomb, the necessary implements of the story, but to Christ's face – to his very humanity. She reflects Christ's transfigured radiance onto Jesus' battered face. The torch has been passed. Jesus has given his all; his death as certain as his resurrection. It's up to Veronica – and Simon and Joseph, Mary and the beloved disciple, Peter and Andrew and Paul, and you and me – to bear his transfigured face into the world he loves.