Try all you want: Nobody escapes the Cross.
“Walk where you will, seek whatever you have a mind to; Make all your plans and arrangements in accordance with your own notions and desires: Whether you like it or not, you will always find the Cross.”
But what fuels this fear of the Cross? What makes us want to run from the only thing that can and will bring us life, if only we submit to it and embrace it wholeheartedly?
I can think of at least a few reasons — though there are many more!
Maybe we are addicted to comfort and convenience? In so many ways, haven’t we come to expect everything in our life to be easy, fast, immediate, and personally gratifying? If it’s not, we get frustrated and resentful! We expect to be soothed by our screens, placated by well-worn habits bent on pleasure, distracted and numb. We insist on comfort and convenience as if we were entitled to it!
But this makes us allergic to the Cross!
Pope Benedict XVI famously said: The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness!
Look no further than the Cross of Jesus for true greatness!
A second reason we avoid the Cross is a deep fear of missing out! What a plague this truly is among so many poor, confused souls — especially with young people discerning their vocations! Each of us has been created out of Love in order for us to make a total, unreserved self-gift of ourselves! God has an incredible plan for each one of you — but that path requires deliberate choice. It demands saying “yes” to one thing, and “no” to everything else!
That means getting nailed to a particular beam of wood, at a particular time, in a particular place. But so often, we’re reluctant to be nailed down to anything specific out of the vague dread that something better might come along. We wonder — is there something I’m missing out on? Do I really want to be pinned to THIS Cross? Here and now? And so we find it almost impossible to ever really say “Yes” to God’s invitation.
Again, this makes us allergic to the Cross!
The Cross is God’s ultimate commitment to humanity. God Incarnate was willing to become stuck and literally pinned down FOR us. Hanging there on a particular hill, on a particular Friday afternoon, Jesus was not worried about “missing out.” He trusted that He was perfectly accomplishing the Father’s will — and what was that accomplishment, but loving you and me to the very bitter end? Jesus could freely give up His spirit, without regret or remorse, saying at last: “It is finished!”
A third reason we try very hard to escape from the Cross is doubt.
We tend to easily doubt God’s goodness and friendship. I know this is true of me sometimes — and I’m a priest! Despite EVERYTHING He has done to prove His absolute goodness and love — I still have trouble trusting that I will be ok if I submit to the Cross He has given to me. I still see my unique Cross as an obstacle to overcome rather than the vehicle that will help me reach my eternal homeland.
When it comes right down to it, somewhere in my soul, I’m allergic to the Cross, and I hesitate to let go and just say to the God:
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
Instead, I try to hold my soul close to myself! I grasp on to it saying:
“Lord, I don’t want to die! I don’t want to commend my spirit to You, because I don’t know if it will be safe with You! Will I lose it forever? Will I get hurt? Will I have anything left for myself? Or will you take everything from me, God?”
Perhaps you’ve experienced some of these same fears and doubts?
Perhaps you’ve felt that same urge to avoid the Cross — whether it’s through addiction to comfort, the fear of missing out, or maybe a deeply embedded doubt of God’s goodness?
Think for a moment: What are you afraid that God will take from you, if you truly commended your spirit into His Hands? If you really said “Yes” to His whole plan?
It’s enough to make us shudder.
But then…Then we lift our eyes to the Cross of Jesus Christ. And there we see — Hope. There, we are filled with — fresh courage.
Because as the Letter to the Hebrews put it so well this evening: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.”
Jesus became weak for us. And in so doing, showed us how to be weak.
His words to each one of us are NOT optional: “Take up your cross and follow me.” We are to follow Him into death! Into the beating heart of suffering!
We hear that and we flinch. We think — Nahhhh. That’s not for me! That sort of sacrifice is for the serious, super religious people… The martyrs! The heroes! The saints!
St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s words come to mind here: “You cannot be a half-Saint; you must be a whole saint or no saint at all.”
To say the same thing, differently:
You cannot die half-way on your cross! You must either die the whole death, or not die at all.
So why do we hesitate? What’s holding us back? What are we afraid of?
We cannot let Jesus go to die on the Cross alone!