Take up your Cross
(24th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Isaiah 50:5-9; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35)
I have often wondered how the crowd took Jesus’ saying that his disciples must ‘take up their cross.’ After long searches for this expression outside its five occurrences in the Gospels, I must conclude it does not exist elsewhere.
Christians understand those words in the light of the crucifixion of Christ. Suffering is part of every life; that is our share in his cross.
At La Salette Mary says, “How long a time I have suffered for you.” In the context of the Apparition, this means the trouble she has taken to protect us from the consequences of sin. But in the Memorareto Our Lady of La Salette, we look farther back: “Remember the tears you shed for me on Calvary.”
The sufferings of the Blessed Virgin were uniquely hers. We may say the same for all of us. Jesus is specific. Each disciple must take up his or her own cross.
Looking at the lives of saints, we find many examples. A few have literally shared the sufferings of the crucified Christ, through physical wounds in the hands and feet, or around their head. Besides the pain, they endured sometimes humiliation from those who considered them imposters.
Some were ridiculed or persecuted or killed for their faith. Others experienced periods of excruciating spiritual dryness. Or they deprived themselves of even the simplest pleasures in order to have some share in the Cross of Christ.
Still others, like Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus to carry his cross, gave themselves completely to the service of the sick, the homeless, the “brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day,” as we read in the Letter of James.
Sometimes another person can be a cross. I am reminded of what Dorothy Day wrote about a troublesome resident at a Catholic Worker house: “He is our cross, specially sent by God, and so we cherish him.”
The saying of Jesus about taking up our cross is so familiar that we may forget that is really is a hard saying. The Beautiful Lady, bearing the crucifix on her breast—on her heart—invites us to accept lovingly whatever uniquely personal cross we are called to take up as disciples of her Son.