You’ve accepted your cross, you’ve welcomed to carry it with all your heart, you believed that the difficulties that loom in calvary is nothing compared to the glory that awaits you. Still my friend, you have to carry it, you chose to, and the burden you will carry is a reality you will go through, not an illusion you can skip or vanquish with the best and purest of your intentions. How do you carry your cross? How do you remain steadfast to the very end?
I believe that if there is anyone who can show us how, it is Jesus himself. It wasn’t until recently though that I truly believed in the reality of his suffering, in the turmoil he felt within as a man to give him the full credit due for his sacrifice. I guess I’ve always seen him in my mind as a God more than I’ve seen him as man. In my mind I’d say, “I can’t do it, I’m not God. I’m not as strong, I’m not as good, I’m not as holy.”
Surely I was familiar of what he went through; I thought I was. It was something I’ve always been familiar of, being in a predominantly Catholic country, and having performed church practices such as praying the rosary and the stations of the cross during holy week, not to mention the PASYON, a holy week practice in the Philippines where people gather and recite the passion of Jesus through singing that goes on for days.
Yet not even Mel Gibson’s THE PASSION OF CHRIST, which enabled me to vividly see the severe physical tortures Jesus went through was able to convince me of following his last footsteps as a model which a mere person like me can take. He was still a God, someone who though experiencing all those pains he had should have had more holiness in him than all of us combined to carry him over his ordeal.
It was only at a latter time when I’ve experienced some rather difficult times that enabled me to really understand. It was a time when I felt so alone. It was a time when I felt that even God had abandoned me.
And then I remembered. I remembered one of the few words Jesus said at the cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” And then I realized, that what Jesus went through was real, what turmoil he felt was real as to make him say those words. He who knew his mission so clearly, He who believed He would rise again, He who performed great miracles in the presence of many was able to utter those words. How could he utter it had he not been a man, as real and as born of the flesh as you and me?
He struggled, he really did. It had not been any easier for him. It had not been any less painful. He knew the weight of his cross, he took it, he cried out in pain, and he struggled to carry it to the very end. How did he carry it? Let’s try to walk the path of the cross where he tread.
1. Jesus falls but he perseveres
Feeling all wonderful inside for our God-given mission and deciding to carry our cross that comes along with it doesn’t mean we’ll never encounter any difficulties anymore in carrying it. Along the way our faith may be challenged, along the way this world may wear us down and we waver in our stance. In our weakness we may stumble and fall. At times we fall slightly, at times we fall real hard we don’t know if we could ever get up again. But let not such times discourage us. Let it not imprint in our minds that the cross we carry is heavier than we can bear. Accept that such things happen. And that what matters really is not how hard or how many times you fall, but how you get up and carry on.
2. Jesus gets hurt but he forgives
Jesus was mocked, scourged, spat upon, even nailed! Add to that how he was abandoned by his friends, how he was betrayed, how Peter denied he even knew him. Jesus had all the right to be angry, to be furious at all those people who hurt him, especially with those he called his friends. He had every right to, and I believe he struggled with such feelings that naturally comes upon every man. Yet he didn’t. He decided to forgive.
When I was younger I thought this was only because he was a God, that it was all a sign of his goodness and righteousness. Now I know such an act is not necessarily reserved for him alone. Now I know that this is something I’m being called upon to do not merely to be good, but moreso because this is what’s good for me to do.
The burden of the cross is already enough for you to bear. You cannot carry additional loads with you. Not your grudges, not your anger, not your bitterness. If you are to carry your cross, you must learn to forgive, and unload that burden from your heart.
3. Jesus was in pain yet he encouraged another
All of us carry a cross of our own, but that doesn’t mean we are already excused from showing concern for one another, and from sharing our hopes to those who have none. When the thief asked Jesus to remember him, Jesus never said, “Hey, can’t you see I’m also crucified over here? Can’t you see I’m dying too? Why don’t you mind your own nails and let’s talk about that paradise later when I’m no longer in pain?”
None of those words many of us might have said in disgust. But rather, in the midst of all his pain, thirsty and wounded, drenched with his own blood, Jesus uttered, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”
4. Jesus struggles to the point of feeling forsaken, but he rises above his feelings and rests his trust upon the Father
In your despair, in times when the diffulties around you seem greater than the flame of hope that remains burning within you, in moments when you can’t even feel God’s presence anymore, believe it or not my friend, but even in such a time, we still have a choice.
We can choose to be angry, we can choose to give up all hope, we can choose to have a soul far darker than the darkness surrounding us. We can choose to go spiralling downwards and sink forever in our misery.
But we can also choose to protect what little hope we have left. Though we cannot change the darkness outside of us, we can choose to have a little light burning deep within our soul. We can choose to cling on to that remaining sign of life in our hearts. We can choose to surrender when we know we’ve done our best and we can no longer carry on. Jesus did. For how can someone who cried out, “My God, why have you abandoned me?” say later on, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”? How could he have said that to the same God he felt had forsaken him if he had not been convinced God had been there for him all along?
It was a very close call. But Jesus chose life in the midst of darkness. He conquered even death. He was victorious. He rises again and lives!
The cross is real, as real as Jesus himself experienced it. He showed us the way to carry it, thus making the rough symbol of shame and death a true emblem of trials overcome, of light in the midst of darkness and of faith that triumphs no matter what kind of burden we bear upon our shoulders.
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