The Way of the Cross: Reflection
"If anyone wishes to follow me, let him take up his own cross daily and follow me" (Lk 9:23).
It is not a matter of attaining perfection and following Christ. We all have our burdens and crossesand we may choose to bear them or succumb to them.
Rather than a prideful march after Him it is a slow procession. The addict, the liar, the angry, and the weak follow after Him. It is a royal procession of poor souls. Christ fell under the weight of sin and we do alsowe both are made painfully aware of the crippling effect of sin. Yet He rose, so we also must rise if we are to follow Him.
Some fall a few times, others fall often. As we journey, the vice itself (or vices) is the cross. The weight of that cross, that weight which, as time progresses, grinds us into the earth, is shame and fear. Christ conquered by carrying His cross and reaching his final destination. He did so despite the taunts and ridicule he endured"let him save himself" they said. One may liken it to others who say "why do you even care about that?" Those who say such things have their eyes focused on the earth like common animals who only live for their next meal. Those who focus on Christ look forward and up, both to their suffering and to their victory.
Why, then, is the 'burden light' (Mt 11:30)? Some burdens become lighter as we bear them for a great while: the poor are content to eat whereas those accustomed to eating fine things complain over lower quality. Some burdens persist and, indeed, they are cause for a great deal of griefyet they are also a cause for contemplation, a chance to learn, and a chance to grow. This is true because "it was good for me to be afflicted, in order to learn your ways" (Ps 119:72). We are broken, just as Peter, Paul, the Apostles, and many great saints were broken. But, whereas the earthen vessel that Jeremiah smashed could never be reconstructed by human hands, the Lord can turn even a desert into a fertile plain. Rather than fear or deny our weaknesses we should remember that "the Lord is patient with men and showers upon them His mercy. He sees them and understands that their death is grievous, and so He forgives them all the more" (Sir 18:9-10). We realize in life that when a burden is too great we seek help. We need His help and we need each other.
Once more, why and how is this burden light? HopeHis promise of mercy gives us cause to rise again and again. He reassures us that the proper sacrifice to God is a "broken spirit." Should we forget that the thief who hung on the cross, "justly accused for his crimes," asked the Lord remember him and it was granted to him? Like that thief and like the saints and martyrs who conquered it is not our fate to be broken forever. Those who lie on the ground by choice shall remain on the ground, festering in anger and malicethose who rise are rebuilt; those who rise once more know compassion. For with our sins the Lord "taught [His] people, by [His] deeds, that those who are just must be kind" (Wis 12:18). "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" in our dealings with one another, do not forsake justice, but forgive one another and be kind. You will be acting as the Father does for us. By lifting the cross of another, that is, forgiving and guiding them towards Christ, Christ too lifts our own cross.