"Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven."
–St. Rose of Lima
One of the most difficult tasks we, as Catholic Christians, can undertake is picking up the cross of Jesus and carrying it. Consider the utter and excruciating pain Jesus experienced on His way to Calvary. Remember, he had already been ridiculed, mocked, assailed, beaten, whipped and a crown of thorns slammed on to His head. What human could endure that today? He’s probably tied (not written in scripture but a custom of the Romans) to the cross, His weapon, and expected to carry it to His place of death.
In an essay I wrote about Christ’s Passion (not yet published), I imagined His courage in this manner:
The cross is heavy. It digs into His clavicle. Can the pain get any more excruciating? The road is made of stones. With every step, the bottom of the cross will bump, bump, bump. With every single bump the cross will dig deeper into his shoulder. All He asks of us, by carrying our crosses, is to obey God’s commandments and follow His Way. He knows that very few will be able to pick up their crosses and follow in His footsteps, but it has to be this way. He falls three times. Again, He falls because He is physically weak (but spiritually strong) and probably tied to the cross. He falls face first.
Jesus doesn’t expect us to carry the cross the way He did. No human could endure what He suffered. What He does expect us to do is pick up His cross (metaphorically) and walk in His footsteps. Many believe but do not follow.
JESUS has always had many who love His heavenly kingdom, but few who bear His cross.
He has many who desire consolation, but few who care for trial. He finds many to share His table, but few to take part in His fasting. Many love Him as long as they encounter no hardship; many praise and bless Him as long as they receive some comfort from Him.
Those, on the contrary, who love Him for His own sake and not for any comfort of their own, bless Him in all trial and anguish of heart as well as in the bliss of consolation. What power there is in pure love for Jesus--love that is free from all self-interest and self-love! Rarely indeed is a man so spiritual as to strip himself of all things. And who shall find a man so truly poor in spirit as to be free from every creature?
That leaving all, he forsake himself, completely renounce himself, and give up all private affections. When he has done all that he knows ought to be done, let him consider it as nothing.
No one, however, is more wealthy than such a man; no one is more powerful, no one freer than he who knows how to leave all things and think of himself as the least of all. (my emphasis)
In the Passion essay, referenced above, I ask the following three questions:
How often do we fall?
When we fall, do we get back up and thank God for second and third and fourth chances?
Do we complain and gripe, or do we "offer it up" in His name... like He did for us?
In my case, I fall many times. And when I get back up I do thank God for more opportunities to atone… doing this by going to Confession, repenting my sins and doing penance.
Jesus told His apostles in Matthew 5:48, "So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect." That seems awfully overwhelming considering I'm a sinner. But what I really think He meant is what James wrote in James 1:4, And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Thus, pick up our crosses and proceed, endure, trudge along, fall but get back up and hang tough... all in the name of Jesus Christ. If you you are open, adopt my mantra:
"We must not mind insulting men, if by respecting them we offend God."
-Saint John Chrysostom
God comes before any man, woman or child. That's just the way it is. I can’t explain why people refuse to carry the cross. Each person has his/her own reason. When I failed to carry it, I lacked faith, I was lazy and apathetic, but most of all I was prideful.
The false cross:
The upcoming Synod on Synodality this fall mystifies me. I can’t comprehend why the Vatican has taken such action nor do I wish to expound. The fact that the objective to change the Deposit of Faith (the body of saving truth entrusted by Christ to the Apostles and handed on by them to be preserved and proclaimed), seems warped, definitely misguided. It is contrary with what Christ’s Church teaches. (In fact Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ stated that the synod will not be about Church teachings. You can draw your own conclusions.) Their actions do not seem in harmony with The Cross. I don't know what cross they think they are carrying, but it's not our Lord's.
If I were ordained, I may have found myself sidelined by now, while applying to the Coalition for Canceled Priests.
For those who fail to pick up their crosses, St. Vincent de Paul had something to say about that.
“You must ask God to give you power to fight against the sin of pride which is your greatest enemy – the root of all that is evil, and the failure of all that is good. For God resists the proud." (my emphasis)
Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.”
Jesus couldn’t be any more clear!
God Bless you.