Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Carry Your Cross and it will Carry You to Heaven

"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me."  Luke 9:23 NASB 

At prayer group earlier this summer we were discussing the value of our crosses.  Our crosses can be  experienced as difficult trials, ordeals, and disappointments: marriages or friendships that have failed; the death of loved ones, jobs that don’t work out, our own or a loved one's declining health, futures that are yet unknown, our struggle to overcome our own temptations, weakness, or addictions, etc.1 In the beautiful work, Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, we learn that each cross is lovingly given to us from our Lord to sanctify us (help us become holy - the saints He created us to become).  Our crosses also allow us to unite our suffering with Christ crucified for love of Him and souls (to intercede for souls), and to grow in the virtues of trust, love, patience, and hope.  There are a vast number of benefits our crosses provide - too many to count - these are a small sampling.

In the immortal words of St. John Vianney (The Cure of Ars), the patron saint of Parish Priests, and a personal favorite of mine (at least in the top 300),
"You must accept your cross; if you bear it courageously, it will carry you to heaven."

To carry our cross with joy, most of us can admit is not where we are in our faith journey - our crosses can be heavy and sometimes even hurt.  However, to accept our crosses (resign to them) and carry them with courage, asking for His assistance, in spite of the difficulty, this is what He desires.  He assures us that His yoke is easy and His burden light (MT 11:30).  The area where we struggle most is asking divine aid.

During our discussion at prayer group, a dear friend, Leah, explained that her daughter shared a wonderful illustration regarding our crosses that resonated, and think we can all benefit from (I suspect this pearl came from one of the joyful and beautiful sisters from Schoenstatt in Sleepy Eye, MN - thank you Schoenstatt sisters!):

A pilgrim was carrying his cross, and found it to be too heavy to bear for his journey.  His initial reaction was to find a way to lessen his burden.   He proceeded to shave a bit off of his cross, thereby making it lighter and easier to bear.  Each time the cross caused him discomfort, or struggle, he shaved off more, until the cross became very small and light.

He reached the end of his journey (the gates of heaven), and  found a tall and daunting wall.  Having no way to scale this wall, he observed other pilgrims as they reached the wall. Each pilgrim scaled the wall, employing the cross he had had carried on his own journey.
The pilgrim then asked another pilgrim, "How can I scale the wall, my cross is too small and is of little use?" 
The other pilgrim explained that because his cross is too small to be of any use, he must go back and help another pilgrim carry his cross and they can both use the cross to scale the wall.

The path to heaven is heaven, indeed.  But Jesus showed us what this looks like.  We must take up our cross (the crosses He has given us), daily, and follow Him.  This is our path to holiness - to Heaven.  If we try to avoid crosses, we will lose the opportunity He is providing to become more like Him, the saint He created us to be.

If we choose not to carry our cross, He gives us the opportunity to help our brothers and sisters carry theirs.  This too will help us grow in virtue and become more like Him.  The goal is not to avoid trials, but bear them courageously, with His grace.  This will carry us to Heaven.

 “You must accept your cross; if you bear it courageously, it will carry you to heaven.” St. John Vianney


He showed His love for us on the Cross - "while we were still sinners, Christ [suffered and] died for us" Romans 5:8.

1.  https://brewsterbaptistchurch.org/carrying-cross/
Image - The Catholic Gentleman - https://www.catholicgentleman.net/