“Pick up your cross and follow me.”
It’s a heavy cross you’re carrying.
We all have crosses to bear.
Wow, that (illness, injury, job situation, marriage, loss, challenge) really must be a cross.
The concept of “carrying one’s cross” is a familiar one for Christians. We compare our struggles and burdens with the cross Jesus carried to Calvary, but sometimes our comparison ends with the fact that it’s heavy (at least to us) and is causing us pain.
Today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Crosses are to be born patiently, to be endured, but to be “exalted?” We’re not in the habit of that.
“Exalt.” To proclaim, extol, glorify, praise or honor.
Not words we normally equate with crosses.
Of course, today’s feast honors the Cross of Our Lord, not our crosses. In a real sense, the two cannot even be compared. But because we’ve been invited to share in the sufferings of Christ, to “fill up what is lacking” in His afflictions (Col. 1:24) we are able to align our sufferings with His.
Catholics are sometimes accused of morbidity because the crosses in our churches and homes are not bare; they include a figure of Jesus. Aren’t we supposed to focus on the fact that Jesus is alive, that He rose from the dead? Isn’t it wrong to think about the means of His suffering? Isn’t it morose, or even a sign of lack of faith, that we focus on his suffering rather than His glory?
Actually, if we turn away from the cross, we turn from His glory as well. And if we think about it, running from our own crosses will only lead to denying the glory that God has in store for us as well.
When the PIME Missionaries are sent out to their mission territory, they receive a very profound gift – the gift of a mission cross. To them, it is much more than a symbol. It is a real reminder that they are, like Jesus himself, setting out on a task that may require them to lay down their very lives.
This is a portion of the prayer recited on that day:
“Lord, Father most holy, who have made the cross of Your Son the source of every blessing and the font of every grace, bless this crucifix and grant that the one who carries it before men may be committed to renewing himself in the image of Your Son…”
And the missionary’s response?
“Blessed will be that day when I will be asked to suffer much for your Gospel, but how much more blessed the day when I shall be found worthy to shed my blood for it.”
Today, our mission center director, Fr. Sergio, will be setting out for a trip to the missions. For years he served as a missionary in the Philippines, and although he would have wished to remain there, he obediently came to the States to serve in our offices. (in fact, I believe that is one of his crosses – not being with the people he served in the missions!) His travels will take him back to the Philippines, and also to Hong Kong, China, Thailand and more. For the next six weeks, he’ll be in settings quite different from our American offices. He’ll certainly be challenged with the crosses that come with this type of travel. Please keep him in your prayers.
As for the rest of us, we will carry our own crosses in the weeks to come. Some will be heavier than others. Some of the most annoying ones will be mere toothpicks, but we’ll struggle with them nonetheless.
Perhaps if we remember that Christ’s cross was our victory, our hope, our salvation – and that He gives us our crosses to draw us closer to him – we might consider them worry of “exaltation.”
Or at least we might bear them with a bit more patience. Let’s pray for one another as we lift those crosses high – and thank Jesus for carrying the heaviest one of all in our place.