One of the most crystal clear teachings that Jesus gave to his disciples is to pick up your cross and carry it. We see the old rugged cross planted on a hill not very far away. Our very own personal calvary. The Pontius Pilate in our lives plucks it out of the ground and hands this Truth of life to us. We then haul it on our shoulders and meander down the straight and narrow path of existence. Questions arise as we pick up our cross. These questions come waltzing into our souls with complaints, grumbles, and snarky sarcastic remarks as dance partners. We question our particular lot in life and bemoan it at the same time.
Why do we have to carry our cross?
It’s heavy. It hurts. Its annoying.
There is more then one answer to this question I will explore.
ANSWER # 1
Well for one thing carrying our cross is just a reality of living in this world. Regardless of the answer to the question of why, you will still have to carry your cross. Everybody has a cross to carry. Young, Old, Rich, Poor, Popular, Unpopular, White, Black, Asian, Man, Woman, Fat, Skinny, Short, Tall, Nerd, Geek, Catholic, Rad Trad, Rad Liberal, Moderite, Modernist, Faithful, Orthodox, Fundamentalist, Evangelical, Atheist, Agnostic, Muslim, Buddhist, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Cats, Dogs,
You can either carry it willingly or unwillingly.
You can’t control the fact of your cross’s existence, but there is one thing you can control about it.
Dr. Victor Frankel was a psychiatrist in Austria, and when the Nazi’s took over Austria during World War 2, they arrested Dr. Frankel because of his Jewish faith and Jewish heritage. And they tossed him in the concentration camp at Auschwitz. And so Dr. Frankel had survived his horrible experiences in the death camps. He lived until 1997.On his release from having to carry this very heavy cross he wrote a book and the book has really become a classic. The title of the book is ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’.
While Dr. Frankel was in prison he noticed that some of the weaker prisoners that might not be expected to survive the physical and emotional hardships of the camp were able to survive while some of the stronger ones did not. And Dr. Frankel made a conclusion about his observations which he put in his book. He said the Nazi’s were able to take everything away from the prisoners, except for one thing.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
They could take away their freedom, their food, their loved ones, their clothes, all those things the Nazi’s could take away. But one thing the Nazi’s could not take away was a person’s inner attitude to choice how to respond to a situation. And he found that those who choose to find meaning in their suffering were more apt to survive the horrors of the camp. And we might take that image of that inner freedom and choose our attitude towards a situation, towards whatever cross is given to us.
What type of attitude do we need to have?
St. Paul in the letter to the Philippians says ‘Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus’.
What was the attitude of Jesus Christ?
Jesus always had that attitude of Love. Self emptying love. Even embracing that horrible death on a cross. So on our journey of life we are to have that attitude of Christ. We may not be able to control the external circumstances of our lives, the things that befall us, the crosses given to us. But no matter what those external circumstances are, we have that inner freedom to choice our attitude to that situation. Because of our faith in the risen Jesus we can choose that attitude of Love.
ANSWER # 2
“The rich exist for the sake of the poor. The poor exist for the salvation of the rich.”— St. John Chrysostom
Another reason that we are given crosses is so that others may help us carry it. Were supposed to be poor in spirit and so when others give us a cup of cold water because we’re thirsty or clothes because we’re naked, they are doing it unto Christ. The hands and feet of Christ are supposed to help us when we are in need. Our crosses represent an opportunity for others to love Christ by loving us. Christ commands his followers not to break our bruised reeds or put out our smoldering wicks, which seems to be a prevalent thing amongst a lot of followers of Christ. Instead of asking Zacchaeus to come out of the tree and come dine with us, we want to call down lighting from heaven and fry the tree and tax collector in it. People have heavy enough crosses already and instead of helping them to carry that cross we load people down with more heavy burdens when they can hardly carry what they already have.
The crosses we have to carry, are an opportunity for other Christs to help us carry our cross. That naturally leads to the conclusion for those that are the light and salt of God’s vineyard.
We are supposed to help others carry their cross.
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”― St.
It helps if we look on others with the eyes of the blessed mother.
She looked on her son after he fell the first time.
She saw her battered bruised and beaten up son, like the Good Samaritan saw the wounded traveler on the roadside.
When we see our weary and hurting neighbor we need to see Christ on the road to Golgotha and be the Good Samaritan and help them.
We can do this willingly or unwillingly.
This is a command. Not a polite favor God is asking of us.
St. Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry his cross at first unwillingly. He was pulled out of the crowd and forced to help Jesus carry his cross. If God needs us to help someone, he may not wait till we give an enthusiastic Yes before he uses our services. If we help to carry another’s cross willingly, we will have the image of Jesus imprinted on our soul like his face was imprinted on St. Veronica’s cloth after she wiped his bloody face.
By helping others carrying their cross, we are helping Christ carry his cross, which in turn is our cross as well.
It’s a real circle of love.
By helping others carry their cross, we offer others what Christ offers us on the cross.
The Offer of Paradise,
His Blessed Mother to Care for Us,
And the person who helps another person carry their cross, they get the gift of saturate Jesus thirst.
They help others know God had not forsaken them and they are loved.
We help them on their their journey of faith so they can successfully finish it.
And we help them to commend their spirits into the Father’s Hand in the virtue of Hope.
We can carry the cross of others and sometimes we can help them lay their crosses down and place that person in the secure tomb of Jesus where they will eventually rise from the dead.
As we end Holy week, may we be reminded that our attitude must be that of Christ and may we help others carry their crosses and give them an opportunity to help us carry ours.