April 3, 2015: Good Friday (B)
How many times have you heard someone say, "I'm carrying a cross" or “it’s my cross to bear”? What do you think they mean? Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23) What did Jesus mean by a cross? Let's begin with what Jesus did not mean. Some people interpret “cross” as some burden they must carry in their lives: a strained relationship, a thankless job, a physical illness. With self-pity some say, “That’s my cross I have to carry.” Such an interpretation is not what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”
Is there a burden or suffering you are enduring right now? Is it someone else's burden or your own? Is it something you embraced with love or is it something you resent? We must remember that the cross that Jesus carried was not his, but ours. He embraced it with love and offered it back to the Heavenly Father. It’s been my experience that most folks do not embrace a burden or suffering from it’s beginning. Most often, they get angry about it, fight it, and wish it would go away.
If we wonder how we should carry the crosses of our lives, then we simply need to look at Simon of Cyrene. He was pulled from the crowd by the Roman soldiers to help Jesus carry the cross. Perhaps Simon resented being associated with a criminal and was angry that his own plan for the day was being ruined. Yet, he embraced the cross, already covered with Jesus’ blood, and carried it for Our Lord. As the movie "The Passion of Christ" showed, Simon gradually understood that it was his own cross that Jesus was carrying for him. At Calvary, Simon departs tearful and grateful for what Jesus has done for him.
As we gaze upon the cross we must ponder all that Jesus endured--the trials and sufferings of mankind. He emptied himself of his humanity for us; he poured out his life for us by dying on the cross. He endured suffering and death to show us how much we matter to him, how much he loves us, and how much he wants us to turn from sin and turn our love to him. The cross demands a personal response from us. His death becomes personal only when we recognize our desperate need for salvation, our own sinfulness, our powerlessness to be free from sin. His death becomes personal when we can place our hands around the crosses of everyday life and offer our pain and suffering for someone else's salvation. As we prepare to venerate the cross, let us look upon his death as an inspiration to extend our hands to assist someone in need, not to receive accolades, but because we have learned to love.