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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Embrace Your Cross

Jesus embraced His cross. He told us to "take up your cross and follow me."

I was looking at an image today with the caption "embrace your cross" and it showed a person hugging a cross standing upright in a field somewhere. In viewing this photograph, I had the impression that the artist had missed the point. The person in this photo was hugging the cross as he would hug a tree, or a sign, or some other inanimate object. He was not a PART of the cross, and it was costing him nothing to give this piece of upright wood an embrace.

When Jesus embraced his cross, he was bent over, bloody, taking the entire weight of this cross and dragging it forward. He was giving it everything he had, and in the end, he gave ALL.

When Jesus tells us to take up our crosses and follow Him, he is not suggesting that we hug an uncut treetrunk; rather, He is asking us to carry and drag something which is going to be severely uncomfortable, and likely not very photogenic. This is not an easy message for us to follow, and yet, this is the basis for the Catholic understanding of "offer it up!". It could just as easily be said, "Embrace your Cross!"

Now let's take this a step further; when Jesus carried that heavy cross, he looked out upon the people who had set it upon Him. And when He embraced it, he was not just embracing the wood that would be his death; he was embracing US, as human beings, as the souls He was working to ransome. And when Jesus died, his arms were outstretched in order to emcompass and embrace everyone, not just a splinter. His act had a double meaning, and perhaps even more.

He told us that we all, as Christians, must embrace our crosses and follow Him; and if we look at that cross as being "people", then we also must recognize that we are also called to embrace others, and that means embracing their crosses as well.

And in order to plumb the depths of this, it means we must die to ourselves and not only be willing to carry our own crosses but assist others with theirs. This is not the same as enablement, but legitimate assistance to fellow souls in need.

When Jesus carried his cross, he carried us, the weight of our sin, the salvation of the world. When he asks us to carry our crosses, he asks only that we carry what is ours and help others with theirs. And even as we reach out and assist others with this task, whether temporal or spiritual, we have to realize that even as we labor, Jesus is there and he is still carying us all and all of our crosses.

I think this is too profound for words.


Russ Rentler, M.D. said...

I have heard it said, "There is no padding on the Cross"

This is not a popular message for today's christians yet I have only started to scratch the surface of what it means in my own life.
Catholicism brings the cross, both His and ours, to the forefront of our lives, and as a evangelical, we often avoided the cross at all costs. (God wants me healed, thin, good looking and rich) I got only one of those!
God is so merciful

Unknown said...

Thank you, Adoro!

A wonderful prelude to Lent.

Unknown said...

From St Faustina's Diary for February 8:

True love is measured by the thermometer of suffering, Jesus. I thank You for the little daily crosses, for opposition to my endeavors, for the hardships of communal life, for the misinterpretations of my intentions, for humiliations at the hands of others, for the harsh way in which we are treated, for false suspicions, for poor health and loss of strength, for self-denial, for dying to myself, for lack of recognition in everything, for the upsetting of all my plans.

Thank You, Jesus, for interior sufferings, for dryness of spirit, for terrors, fears, and incertitudes, for the darkness and the deep interior night, for temptations and various ordeals, for torments too difficult to describe, especially for those which no one will understand, for the hour of death with its fierce struggle and all its bitterness.

I thank You, Jesus, You who first drank the cup of bitterness before You gave it to me, in a much milder form. I put my lips to this cup of Your holy will. Let all be done according to Your good pleasure; let that which Your wisdom ordained before the ages be done to me. I want to drink the cup to its last drop, and seek not to know the reason why. In bitterness is my joy, in hopelessness is my trust. In You, O Lord, all is good, all is a gift of Your paternal Heart. I do not prefer consolations over bitterness or bitterness over consolations, but thank You, O Jesus, for everything! It is my delight to fix my gaze upon You, O incomprehensible God. . . .

O Uncreated Beauty, whoever comes to know You once cannot love anything else. I can feel the bottomless abyss of my soul, and nothing will fill it but God Himself. I feel that I am drowned in Him like a single grain of sand in a bottomless ocean.

This from a professed nun in a convent.

This from a woman with a second grade education.

St Faustina, through the intercession of Our Lord, gave the world the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

Sanctus Belle said...

Two thoughts:

First, our Lord is closest to us when we suffer.

Second, in the dregs of suffering, when we accept suffering, offering it to God in accordance with His will, there is a joy that surpasses all understanding that comes to the soul. This joy does not in the least diminish the suffering, but in God's mercy, the suffering does not diminish the joy!

When I've suffered more than I thought possible, yet accepting it to the best of my small ability, that joy comes. What a mysterious and merciful God we serve!

Jocelyne said...

Sadly, many people are only interested in the warm, fuzzy Jesus who supposedly "didn't judge anybody". They like to ask "What would Jesus do?" but not so much "What did Jesus actually tell us to do?"

Bloody, suffering Jesus, telling us to take up our own individual crosses every day, makes comfortable people very uncomfortable.

Adoro said...

Thanks, everyone, for the comments.

Good observation, Tiber. "Healed, good-looking, thin, and rich.". For myself...well, when I was a child, God healed me, and I think there were others since then. Good looking...well, I don't think so, but I'm not a troll, so, thank God for that!. Thin...I was for awhile, but I had to suffer greatly for it through anaerobic workouts, and didn't even realize I was THIN! Rich...I've given up on that one.

I think the Catholic understanding of the meaning of the cross to us and of course, the gifts you mentioned is far different. I have always been poor financially, yet I also realize that to many in the world, I am fabulously wealthy. And God has made me rich in spirit, and he has given me (and you) the wealth of Catholic teachings. Isn't God great!

Adoro said...

Ray ~ Ah, that's right, St. Faustina is your patroness! I loved her Diary, and I love the Divine Mercy chaplet. She's very close to my heart as well. Thanks for posting that.

Sanctus belle - So true! I don't think I've really experienced the "joy" of embracing the cross, but I have experienced God's mercy when I've cried out to him that the weight is too much...and the blessed relief when He sent assistance...then the peace of accepting the rest of it. Then again...maybe that WAS the joy you are referring to! Hmm...will need to pray about this to understand it.

jocelyne - I think you nailed it right there. Jesus was gentle, he was a healer, he was forgiving. But he also cracked the whip at the moneychangers, he wasn't afraid to call out to the Pharisees, he wasn't afraid to stand up for what was right. Jesus is not "warm and fuzzy" and his path is a hard road up to the crucifixion. In our relativisting world, that's a hard message to get out to people who are accustomed to seeking their own comfort.

(This, from a woman in a warm house, in fuzzy slippers, wrapped in a blanket, typing at a new computer with food warming in the oven and a glass of wine at the ready. My words are directed at me, too. I really need to work on mortification!)