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  • Writer's pictureMonica Walton

The Cross We Carry

"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." (Mt 16:24)

As I was reflecting on the Gospel from two Sundays ago, (22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time), that passage really struck a chord and came alive in me.

 

Every person carries a cross of some kind.

 

There are physical crosses that are obvious to others. They leave no choice, but for those bearers to carry their cross openly. We know people who take up their cross daily, carrying it with true Grace and without bitterness or pity. We also know people who strap on their cross, wearing it like a badge of martyrdom and reminding everyone of the weight they carry throughout the day.


Crosses can come from within ourselves -- self-inflicted. Crosses can also come unbidden from sources beyond ourselves. We all carry a cross of some kind. Even the "untouchables" who seem to have no real burdens are carrying a cross. Perhaps they keep it contained and stuffed down into a mirage of nonexistence, or they keep it hidden and covered with a disguise.


Many quietly suffer the weight of their cross, keeping it cloistered in their hearts. But, the heavy burdens aren't meant to be carried alone. When we attempt to manage on our own in secret, it tortures us. Sin, guilt, shame, and hurt also add weight to our cross. We know the familiar Scripture ~ but often feel unworthy or forget to allow Jesus in to help us.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Mt 11:28-30)
 

The cross of Unforgiveness may be the heaviest cross of all.

 

Just like the crosses we carry, hurt can come in so many forms -- from outward physical bruises to internal scars brought on by inflicted words. It's such a paradox that the words we speak, to others and to ourselves, can be just as damaging as the words we withhold. Contributing one negative comment can fan a spark of ugliness into flames. On the flip side, one positive comment can turn around a situation, dampen the sparks, and put out a fire before it blazes.

 

Why would we want to weigh down each others' crosses?

It actually makes our own cross heavier, and it makes us weaker.

 

Today, we celebrate a very special Feast Day The Exaltation of the Holy Cross. On the surface, it seems unusual to celebrate a feast of the barbaric symbol of the torture that brought death to Our Lord.

But truthfully, the Holy Cross is a symbol of Divine Love

that brought Salvation to the world!


In some ways, we have become desensitized to the Holy Cross. We have crucifixes hanging on our walls, on our rearview mirrors, on our keychains, and our necks. But, why? Death by hanging on a cross was reserved for the worst of the worst criminals -- like death by firing squad or electric chair.


I'm reminded of a homily by the late Fr. Eddie Balser; may he rest in peace. He was a great man, a priest with such a compassionate heart. One Sunday, he invited us into a deeper reflection on the meaning of the crucifix as a depiction of the death of Jesus Christ. He was concerned that many people have let it become too familiar -- almost ordinary, to the point that we casually wear it as jewelry to adorn our outfits. Fr. Balser starkly pointed out, "Wearing a crucifix on a necklace is today's equivalent of wearing an electric chair on a necklace! Who would do that? -- unless you understand what it means in your life!"


The Readings for this Feast Day invite us to turn our crosses (both visible and hidden) into instruments of love, rather than instruments of torture. Sacred Scripture gives us a new perspective on the Cross and gives meaning to the pain.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." (John 3:16-17)

What might happen if we trust Jesus, and ask Him to show us how to turn our cross of pain into a meaningful cross of love? It will mean an honest examination of our words, actions, motives, and relationships -- digging into self-awareness and honesty -- removing the masks, drawing back the curtain, unwrapping the packaging, and revealing the layers of who we are which cannot lie.


At our truest selves, we are made in LOVE to be LOVE.

It means asking ourselves, What is my cross and how do I carry it?


Do I carry bitterness, anger, resentment, and self-pity about my circumstances?

Do I reflect the pain and sorrow in my life?

~ OR ~

Do I carry acceptance, understanding, forgiveness, and courage despite my circumstances? Do I pour out the love, grace, and joy in my life?

 

Why not try it out this Sunday?

  • Spend one day offering prayer & actions of love and praise, only.

  • Ask God for nothing. Instead, thank Him for everything.

  • Reject any words of lamentation, regret, sorrow, pity, or shame.

  • Extend forgiveness when memories and feelings of hurt arise.

  • Remember the deep meaning of the Holy Cross.

 

The Love of Christ is greater than the pain.

This is a photo of the crucifix at St. Paul Catholic Church in Flowood, MS during our annual Good Friday Passion Service. Each year, kneeling before this Cross in total silence reaches into my core and draws me deeply to Him. The curve of the framing around the window casts a meaningful shadow from the red lights below. Some say it looks like angels adoring Christ. Others say it looks like the two thieves crucified next to Jesus at Calvary.

ALL SAY IT LOOKS LIKE THE GREATEST LOVE.

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walterjr
Sep 14, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great post Monica, truly an invitation into reflection. In keeping with Fr. Balser's onservations, I recall being mortified way back in 70's, hearing an LP of Lenny Bruce commentaries, wherein he mused that today, there would be all of these children in Christian schools walking around with golden electric chairs, and worse hypodermic needles hanging from their necks. These extreme illustrations reveal the deep need to respond to your call for spiritual authenticity, your challenge for "-- digging into self-awareness and honesty --." Also really dig the iconic photo. Blessings!

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Monica Walton
Monica Walton
Sep 20, 2023
Replying to

Thanks, Walter Jr! The analogy is jarring, for sure! Takes an unashamed, honest look within. May we all work to keep each other aware and forever digging more deeply.

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