About a year ago, I wrote a post on the cross. I decided to resurrect the post (with a few edits) since we’re in the season of Lent, journeying toward the cross with Christ.
If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning, you probably read it. However, you may not remember what you read a year ago — I sure don’t!
Even if you do remember, I recommend reading it again. The cross teaches us many lessons, and it’s essential that we continue to learn from it…
The Reality of the Cross
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 feels heavy, while other times it feels light.
A particular cross may remain with us for our entire lives or only for a period of time.
Some of us may even have multiple crosses to bear, which seems to be more common than one may realize.
For Christians, the cross is the key to our faith: Jesus conquered death on the cross and rose to new life.
There is no resurrection without the cross.
Embracing 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 practice it in our lives?
Do we embrace our own cross?
Do we carry our cross with patience and courage, believing that we will persevere and share in the glory of Christ?
I think our greatest challenge as Christians — and particularly those of us who are Catholic Christians — is to practice what we believe and 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 let it be the force that drives our every thought, word and action.
The Lord teaches us by His example. He doesn’t just tell us how to live — He shows us.
God chose to come to His people and share in our humanity. He chose to experience everything that we experience, including suffering!
Jesus chose to save us from sin and death by taking it all upon Himself on the cross.
Since He’s God, He could have saved us another way. Instead, He willingly accepted and embraced His cross for love of us.
Aren’t we called to do the same, to accept and embrace our cross for love of Him?
Way of the Cross
I’ve been reflecting on the Way of the Cross, aka the Stations of the Cross.
The Fifth Station, Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry His Cross, is one I think about often.
Each Gospel account of this scene is short. Luke’s account gives me the clearest visual:
“As they 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).
I’ve wondered about this station, specifically about the spiritual importance and how it’s meant to be applied to one’s life. I finally meditated on this and asked God what He wanted to reveal…
The soldiers were worried Jesus would not make it to Calvary. The torture they inflicted on Him would have killed any man before reaching the place of crucifixion. But Jesus is not just any man. He is Divine.
Jesus could have carried the cross by Himself; He is the Son of God and can accomplish anything. Instead, He accepted the help of another person — in this case, Simon of Cyrene.
Jesus did not create boundaries or shortcuts to protect Himself or make His journey easier. In His unfathomable humility, Christ allowed a mere man to help carry the cross 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 us to accept and apply!
Accepting Help with Our Cross
Jesus is always present to help us carry our cross. He is always with us, though sometimes in mysterious and hidden ways.
God often comes to us through other people — in our relationships and our 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 their two sons became Christians a short time after Jesus’ death.)
Simon’s encounter with Jesus shows us that we must not be proud. We must humble ourselves like Christ and allow others to help us.
By permitting others to witness our sufferings and walk with us, we create an opportunity for connection and spiritual growth.
When we show compassion and empathy toward others, our hearts become more like the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Some think that by allowing others to witness our cross, we will be seen as weak or inferior; however, in my own experience, this hasn’t been the case.
It takes strength and courage to humble oneself and accept help. It’s not easy to do, but it does more good for our souls and for those around us than we may realize.
Helping Others with Their Cross
The soldiers forced Simon to help, and it seems he didn’t have a choice. We can usually choose to help — or not to help — another person.
When we see someone suffering physically, emotionally, mentally, and/or spiritually, we must look for Christ in that person and realize it’s Him who’s suffering.
Sometimes we may want to help, but don’t know what to do! It’s important to remember that we’re not expected to rely on our own strength. God gives us the grace we need in those situations.
In many situations, all a person needs is for someone to be present and listen to them. Sometimes they just want to share their story and don’t expect anyone to “fix” or resolve their hardships.
Sometimes the best — and only — thing we can do for a person is to pray for them. (I mean really pray, not just say 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 the Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy or a Novena.
When we pray, especially from the heart, it’s meaningful and powerful beyond our comprehension.
As we continue on our Lenten journey, 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 Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee. Because by Thy holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world +