What does Jesus mean when He tells us to take up our cross? I’ve been contemplating that for a while.
As a catholic, I have the gift of the rosary to pray and meditate through the life of Jesus. The Joyful mysteries on the youth of Jesus, the Luminous mysteries on His public life, the Sorrowful mysteries on his being betrayed and then crucified, and then the Glorious mysteries of Jesus resurrection and sending the Holy Spirit.
I think we get a clue of what the “cross” isn’t when meditating on the youth of Jesus … there was the poverty and hardship of His birth away from the comforts of home or even adequate shelter but that wasn’t the cross. There was the flight into Egypt and living in a strange land as a refugee but that wasn’t the cross. There was the presentation in the temple to Simeon and the prophesy of the sorrows to come but that wasn’t the cross. There was the time Jesus stayed back in the temple and Mary and Joseph searched frantically for Him, but that wasn’t the cross.
The cross came after being betrayed by a friend and then God (Jesus) was judged by man (Pilate). The man at first aligned with God but then Pilate caved to threats of social unrest (the crowd was about to riot) and political correctness (you are no friend of Caesar if you let this man go).
So when we are told to take up our cross, I believe it is mostly about carrying the burden of the injustices the world sends us. To know, that as long as there is sin and temptations from the demons, and as long as people, even people we know and love, fall into sin and temptation, that we will unfairly be given a cross to carry. Any time we are betrayed by a friend or by a family member, the weight of the cross looms heavy.
I don’t think the cross is a bad job or being poor (people are happy and make a life in all types of situations) or having a tree fall on your house … those are all stressors to deal with for sure, but they aren’t the “cross.”
The cross comes from being unfairly accused, from being betrayed by others, and from someone in power caving into mob violence or political correctness vs. sticking up for what is really right. The cross is being persecuted from a lie or from an injustice when you are innocent and having nothing you can do about it but suffer the consequences. Wow. How unfair!
What did Jesus do in that unfairness? He forgave. That is so amazing. His life was being taken away and He said “Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.” And when Jesus tells us to take up our cross, I think He knows there will be injustice done to us and I think He knows we may be impotent to do anything about it, except for the fact that forgiveness is not impotence, it is power.
Is there someone you can forgive today? Someone who doesn’t deserve it? Someone you can pray for? Who knows, the power of God may just come into this world more and people may have the strength to say no to sin, and then there will be less injustice and more happiness for all. Ask God to come into your heart and help you forgive others and that cross may just seem a bit lighter.
This seemed like a good quote to end this blog: “This is an easy monkish practice for anyone to adopt, and I highly recommend it. At the end of the day, take an inventory of all the people who have angered you, and forgive them. Say it out loud. Then you can go to bed.” FR. AUGUSTINE WETTA, OSB excerpt from ‘Humility Rules’