By Emily Cavins
“…and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” ~ Matthew 10:38
Don’t Look Within
My mother was a Methodist pastor and had an accumulation of large crosses that she wore. I hardly remember a day she didn’t have one around her neck. She is buried with one of the crosses, but I have several others of hers hanging on my office door that lightly clatter together when I close it. That sound reminds me of her devotion to Jesus, which went so much deeper than the external wearing of his cross.
She spent most of her life focused on Jesus and his Word and teaching others to do the same. She carried the cross of Christ with joy. It would be nice if her willingness to carry his cross were transferred to me at her passing, but that is one of many things that can’t be passed on to someone else.
Accept the Struggle
I have come to realize that to live is to struggle. Everything that has life must struggle every day to stay alive. If we can accept that, it is easier to bear the cross Jesus gives us. He is telling us that when we carry the cross, we are receiving life, his life, eternal life. If we are not carrying Christ’s cross, what are we doing? We are trying to be alive by our own power and desires. In today’s Gospel, Jesus lovingly reminds us that carrying his cross is the way to find life.
It is popular to say that we can find ourselves if we look inside. However, when looking inside ourselves to find truth and happiness, we can’t find it because it’s not there. We can’t be the source of life and truth. Only God can be. We can look inside ourselves to examine our conscience and know what else we need to surrender to Christ, but we won’t find the answer to life within. The elusive search for meaning and happiness doesn’t begin in ourselves. It starts with the sacrifice of Christ and our willingness to carry his cross.
That sacrifice is the symbol for which Catholics identify themselves by the crucifix. It’s important to wear that symbol publicly as a witness to Jesus. Still, even more so as a reminder that “it is not I who live, but Christ in me,” as St. Paul says in Galatians 2:20. Struggling to bring life to others, struggling to help our family and neighbors, struggling to do what is right – these struggles are how we carry Christ’s cross. Carrying the cross involves helping and uplifting others more than dwelling on ourselves.
One of my daughters’ middle name is Joy. When she was about six, I told her that her middle name held an important secret. Wide-eyed, she waited for me to tell her. I said, “J is for Jesus, O is for others, and Y is for you. We will find joy if we line up our priorities in that order.” That was not the secret she hoped to hear, but that acronym holds the path to happiness.
Dearest Jesus, Today I will carry your cross with joy, putting you first. Help me to see how joining myself to your suffering brings me life.
Call to Action
If you haven’t been wearing a crucifix lately, choose one to wear with the intent of reminding yourself that your life comes from the sacrifice of Christ. If you wear one already, consider its meaning to you and why it is that you wear it.
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