Monday, September 15, 2014

Teach Me to Embrace the Cross

Right now, I carry a cross that seems so heavy. It's one I've carried for a while but today it is particularly burdensome. It's the cross of poverty - of financial need so deep that I can't afford to go home and am scrambling to meet even the most basic of needs where I am. I don't even know for sure that, if I do return home, there will be a home to return to. I have no home here. Work that has hovered on the horizon for weeks has remained there, a ray of hope that remains out of reach.

In the midst of this, though, I am reminded by a priest that I know who tells me not to push away or fight the cross, but to embrace it. It is my salvation. It is a gift from God, crafted for my good and His glory, and one that contains something precious and beautiful. That precious and beautiful thing is the ability to participate with God in His work of saving souls - my own included.

Once, my Lord and Savior carried a cross for me. Heavy was its burden, for it was the weight of my sins that He bore and the full punishment due for those sins. Nothing I do can ever repay that gift of his willingness to die in my place. His willingness to carry it to the end - not to seek to be free of it or to shrug it off or to fight against it - is the reason I have hope of becoming the great saint I always desired to be.

Out of love for me, he offers me a way to repay his generosity in some small measure: to carry my own cross.  He allows me to carry this smaller weight upon my shoulders as a sign of my love for him, my gratitude for his gift of salvation, a sign of my desire to be united with Him in this life and the next. I have too often fought and struggled against this cross, causing it to chaffe and to fill me with splinters of bitterness and self-pity.

I did not want this cross. I did not ask for it. I dreamed of the day when I would be free of it for good, even as I desired urgently to be a great saint. The two dreams were not compatible, for great saints are born in the midst of great suffering. Only the cross can lead me to heaven and so I must learn to stop fighting it and embrace it instead.

Carrying the cross is something over which I have no control. The cross belongs to me whether I choose to accept it or not. How I carry it is entirely my decision. I can fight it, struggle against it, complain about it, and succeed in making myself and everyone around me miserable with it. Or, and this is where I know that I must go, I can admit that I am unworthy of it. I can admit to God that I do not have the strength, the patience, the endurance required to carry it.  It is too much for me.

Admitting this, there is nothing left to do except to turn to Him for the grace and the strength needed to carry it in such a way that  it burdens only myself and blesses everyone else - just as Christ carried His.

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