Each of us has a cross. (I’m not referring to those that are worn as jewelry or on our clothing or bodies; I’m referring to the challenges and hardships that we each face in our lives.)
The cross comes in various sizes and weights. Sometimes our cross may be heavy, while other times it may be light. Our cross may remain with us for our entire lives or only for a specific period of time. Some of us may even have multiple crosses to bear, which seems to be more common than we may realize.
For Christians, the cross is the key to our faith: Jesus conquered death on the cross and rose to new life. I’ve heard it said that there can be no resurrection without the cross.
Christians are called to embrace and even venerate the cross. We see the most vivid image of this on Good Friday when Christians venerate the cross by kissing, holding and/or touching it in a loving way. What once was an instrument for punishment and death is now a symbol for redemption and hope.
This all sounds nice in theory, but do we actually put this into practice in our lives? Do we embrace our own crosses? Do we carry our cross with patience and courage, believing that we will persevere and share in the glory of Christ?
I think that our greatest challenge as Christians, and particularly those of us who are Catholic Christians, is to practice what we believe, to allow our faith to become real.
It’s one thing to talk about our beliefs in a spiritual or theological way; it’s an entirely different experience when we try to live our faith each day and allow it to become the force that drives our every thought, word and action.
God chose to come to His people and share in our humanity (every aspect of humanity, not only the enjoyable parts). Jesus chose to experience everything that we experience including suffering! He chose to save us from sin and death by taking it all upon Himself.
Since He’s God — Creator of the universe, All-knowing and All-powerful — He could have saved us another way. Instead, He willingly accepted and embraced His cross for love of us.
So, aren’t we called to accept and embrace our cross for love of Him?
I recently decided to reflect on ‘The Way of the Cross.’ The Fifth Station, when Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross, is one that I contemplate often. Each of the Gospel accounts of this particular scene are short. Luke’s account gives me the clearest visual:
“As they [the Roman soldiers] led him [Jesus] away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus” (23:26).
For some time, I’ve wondered about this station, specifically about the spiritual significance and how it’s meant to be applied to one’s life. I finally took time to meditate on this and asked God what He wanted to reveal to me…
The soldiers were worried that Jesus would not make it to Calvary. The severity of the torture they inflicted on Him would have killed any man before reaching the place of crucifixion, but Jesus was not a mere man — He is Divine.
Jesus could have carried the cross by Himself; He is the Son of God and can accomplish anything. However, He allowed Himself to receive the help of another person, in this case, Simon of Cyrene. He did not need Simon’s help; He chose to accept it.
Jesus did not put boundaries or restrictions in place to protect Himself or make His journey easier. In His unfathomable humility, Christ allowed a mere man to help carry the cross that He would use to redeem the world.
Since God Himself accepted help in carrying His cross, aren’t we called to do the same?
The obvious answer is “yes,” but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for each of us to accept and apply. This is a lesson that I’m currently learning in my own life (even as I write this).
Jesus is always present to help us carry our cross; He is always with us, though sometimes in mysterious and not so obvious ways. God often comes to us through other people — in our relationships and encounters with people we may not know.
In helping Jesus carry the cross, Simon had a personal encounter with Christ and experienced conversion. (Tradition says that Simon, his wife and his two sons Alexander and Rufus, who are mentioned in Scripture, became Christians a short time after Jesus’ death.)
Simon’s encounter with Jesus shows me that we must not be proud. We must humble ourselves like Christ and allow others to help us. By permitting others to witness our personal sufferings and walk with us, we create an opportunity for connection and spiritual growth to take place.
When we’re able to show compassion and empathy towards another person, our hearts become more like the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Some may think that by allowing others to witness our cross, we may be seen as “weak” or looked down upon; in my own experience, this hasn’t been the case.
It takes a certain strength and courage to humble oneself and accept help. It’s not an easy thing to do; however, it does more good for our souls and for those around us than we may realize.
The soldiers forced Simon to help; he may not have had a choice. We can choose to help, or not to help, another person. When we see someone suffering physically, emotionally, mentally, and/or spiritually, we must see Christ in that person and imagine it’s Him who’s suffering.
Sometimes we may want or feel called to help, but we may not know what to do! It’s important to remember that we are not expected to rely on our own strength. God gives us the grace we need in these situations.
Sometimes all a person needs is for someone to be present and listen to them. I often find myself in situations where a person just needs to share their story and isn’t necessarily looking for someone to remove their hardships or “fix” their problems.
Sometimes the best, and only, thing we can do for someone is to pray for them. (I mean really pray, not just say that we will.)
It can be a simple prayer such as a Hail Mary, one in our own words or lighting a candle in the church. It can also be a deeper form of prayer such as a Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy or a Novena.
When we pray, especially from the heart, it’s meaningful and powerful beyond our comprehension. God always hears us. He calls us to love and to lift each other up in prayer.
As we begin Holy Week on Sunday, let’s make a dedicated and valiant effort to carry our crosses and follow Jesus wherever He may lead.
Let’s firmly believe that with His help and the help of those around us, we will persevere and share in the glory of the resurrection — not only at Easter but when our life on earth is complete.
+ We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You
because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world +