Does everyone have a cross to carry? In the Gospel today, we hear Jesus say, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Notice the phrase “his own cross.” That means that we have a cross that is individual to us. It is a cross that no one else but us can carry.
It may be very different and even seem heavier than other’s crosses, but it is your cross in a unique and a special way. This cross could be physical, emotional, relational, spiritual or it may be a combination of all of them.
When you were baptized, you were baptized into the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. St. Paul says this mysterious and perplexing phrase: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh, I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church.”
So, the Church is the Body of Christ and as individual members we continue in the pattern of Christ of suffering, of dying and rising. So, your cross, in a very special and beautiful way, is part of the mystical Body of Christ and a part of Christ carrying his cross with you.
I want you to think about that for a moment. What is your cross? Maybe it is something you were born with? Did it come later in your life? Maybe it is something you’ve carried your whole life? Maybe it is only for a time? You could have been born with some defect or syndrome, or maybe early in your life your mother or father died.
It could be something that has come with age, like a bad hip or knee. It could be an addiction, a crippling depression, anxiety or some other mental illness or mood disorder. Maybe it is spiritual. Maybe you are not experiencing God’s love right now in a way that you once did.
You could be going through the dark night of the senses or of the soul. Maybe it’s relational. Your children are estranged from you or away from the faith. Maybe you are in a difficult marriage, or you are going through a divorce.
So, try to think of it. What is your cross? What is the cross that you are invited to carry that is unique to you? Now that you have identified what your cross is, the next question is usually “Why? Why this cross? Why me? Why do I have to carry this cross? Can I have another cross? Why do we have to have a cross at all?”
We hear in the first reading from the Book of Wisdom, “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?” So, I think, first of all, we should just be realistic in admitting that the cross we carry is a mystery. On this side of Earth, you may never really know why you have the cross you have.
But then Wisdom goes on to say, “For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans.” So, our plans probably would not include the cross. We probably would not write that into our plan for life, but it is part of God’s plan. Just as we cannot conceive of what the Lord intends, we cannot understand sometimes why he gives us the cross he does. We hear at the end of the first reading, “And thus, were the paths of those on earth made straight.”
I think an answer may be to the “why” is to make our path straight. A cross is a straight shot to heaven. So, if you have a cross, and you know what your cross is, and you are willing to embrace it with and for Jesus as a member of the Body of Christ, your path is straight to heaven.
Our crosses in some mysterious way make that so. They make straight our paths. Your cross and the great mystery of His salvation is going to be part of YOUR salvation. Your cross is going to bring you to heaven. Your cross is probably going to be that thing that purges you of any sin in your life and molds you into the person you were called to be one day in eternal life.
Now you know what your cross is and, in some way, maybe you can understand the purpose for it.
Can you not only accept your cross but also take it up and carry it? Can you pick it up and follow after Jesus trusting that by following him and carrying the cross, he will direct you in the way to heaven? Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.