Jesus tells his disciples and the crowd gathered around him that following him would involve denial of self and carrying one’s cross. We wish to be counted among the followers of Jesus yet find it so difficult to renounce ourselves and we would prefer if we could do away with the cross. However, Jesus tells us that we can be truly alive only if we die to ourselves and live for others just as he did.
What does it mean to take up one’s cross?
We think of a cross as a kind of hardship we have to endure e.g. difficult people, physical infirmities etc, etc. Jesus himself had many difficulties, misunderstandings and trials etc, before he came to his Cross. The Cross for Jesus stood for shame and humiliation. It was a criminal’s cross on which he hung. It was a place of degradation, where he was demised and debased.
Does the cross then stand as a symbol of those circumstances and events in our experience that humble us, expose us, offend our pride, shame us and reveal our basic evil? – the evil Jesus described in Mark 7:22 “out of the heart comes evil thoughts, theft, murder, slander, pride…”
Apparently, to take up our Cross and accept it is good for us, it will reduce us to the place where we can be ready to receive the grace of God. That is why the Cross in our lives are so valuable. It is often the little things in life that hurt us the most e.g. criticism, even if it’s justified, losing at sport, missing out on a job, being overlooked, not appreciated, and the list could go on and on. All these are the Cross at work in our daily lives.
If we are to be a disciple of Jesus we should not get offended by these things and not get upset about them; we should welcome them. But that is difficult for me. How about you?
I know what I have reflected upon is a radical approach to life’s Crosses! The world tells us to act, avoid the situation, strike back, get angry, get upset or offend in return. For me, it is hard to act as Jesus would. With the approach of the Lenten Season, I could ponder more on what Jesus meant when he said; “Take up your Cross and follow me”.
Elizabeth Buchel has worked as an educator and psychologist for many years. She is formed in Passionist and Benedictine Spirituality. Elizabeth is a Passionist Companion and has been a active parishioner of St Brigids Marrickville since 1985.