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.