"Into your hands I commit my spirit; you will redeem me, O Lord, faithful God." - Psalm 31:5
Each of us has a cross to carry. There is no need to make one or look for one. Living every moment of our life and fully embracing our humanity inevitably brings us to our crosses. My brother and I often joke that following Jesus is easy, if only we can choose the cross – the suffering – we want. Yet, the cross is precisely the manner of suffering that we do not prefer. Jesus’ call to discipleship echoes: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."
Maybe we can't study; maybe we have been laid-off; maybe we are handicapped; maybe we suffer from depression, from poor self-image, from a serious disease; maybe we experience conflict in our families; maybe we are victims of violence or abuse. We didn't choose any of it, yet these things are our crosses. We can ignore them, reject them, refuse them or hate them. But we can also embrace these sufferings, and allow them to help us be united with Jesus on the cross. Even in darkness that suffering often brings, we can risk that God’s wisdom and love transform our crosses into greater life.
A few blocks near where my Jesuit brothers and I live, a young man was murdered in a gang-related shooting three days ago. Death has been knocking more frequently in our community. A woman in the parish held her in his arms, looked into his eyes, reassured him the Jesus is with him, and encouraged him to commit himself to God – that it is not late to trust God. He seemed to listen before he transpired. Her faith and compassionate love could not prevent his death. Yet, her trembling embrace of the young man may have eased his suffering and enlivened his hope. Like Jesus, we cannot choose our cross. Yet, embracing our cross while struggling to entrust ourselves to God can make room for greater life and meaning.
"Help us Lord Jesus, to trust that by your holy cross you have redeemed the world! Help us to embrace you though our crosses."
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