Take up your cross.
This phrase comes up whenever I meditate on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. As I contemplate the Mystery of Our Lord carrying his Cross for us I hear this reminder that I must carry my cross as well. We don’t do this “for Jesus” as if we could “pay him back”; nor do we do it “in solidarity” with him as if we could help him. We do this as the fullest manifestation of our “working out our salvation in fear and trembling”. This is our faith in action, at least in a first-person way.
What is your cross?
I’m not sure what is the most correct answer any more. St Paul said he is “Crucified with Christ”. St Mary of Egypt repeated threw her self on the ground to overcome the addictive urges she experienced. St Francis threw himself in the briers and in the snow. What is your cross? To parallel closely with Christ here is to fail: firstly, because none of us are called to save the world on our cross. Secondly, Christ’s Cross was an instrument of torture, of capital punishment. Again, I don’t think were called to that, yet; and even so that cannot be the only answer. For generations of Christians didn’t die.
For some, their cross is their marriage: the constant sacrifice of self will for the benefit of the spouse. For some it is their children: the constant sacrifice of self will for the care of their children. For some it may follow on the idea of vocation, or ministry woven with this sacrifice of self-will, for the monastic no less than the parish priest.
Today we live in a world where we dare not sacrifice our self will: in fact, we sacrifice ourselves and those around us to our self will. Driven self will is seen as the height of success. Our jobs, our relationships, our hobbies, etc. are all followed because they “complete us”, make us “more us”. Even our religious choices are imagined to be that way. We should go to a church that we find fulfilling. We look for a church where we might feel free and “accepted,” where were might “be ourselves”. The most common comment people have about my religious journey is “do you feel comfortable there?” I’m so used to such questions that I discuss my own path that way by matter of reflex. Going from ECUSA to Orthodoxy to Catholicism can’t be about “a quest for the real Truth” or even “more truth here than there”.
We are living out Babel: the division of the people at the tower by their languages. Imagine how scary that must have been, to hear someone clearly say they “Wanted a cow” when what they hear themselves say was “this brick is broken”; to hear “wow, look at that cricket” when what was said was “the wife wants to go to Vegas this year.” To say, “Bro, pass me that mortar” and hear, in response, “no, I can’t serve a wedding cake.” Did each person suddenly speak his own language? Did you have to run around looking for the other speakers of proto-Farsi? Or was it just you? Was it hundreds of individuals each speaking their own languages or did it only take five or six languages mixed up with each other to terrify the whole mob?
We are living in Babel now: you don’t understand what your friends are saying on Facebook or Twitter. You’ve known them for years, but suddenly they’re following the wrong “fake news” sites and you have no idea what they’re saying. Or their saying something all to obvious and hateful for you to care. Or maybe, sometimes you get it and it’s not hateful, but your mutual friends rip them apart for saying just a shade too blue, or too red. Babel. I begin to think we’re just re-experiencing the curse of Babel.
What if your cross is to put up with the fact that the Christian standing next to you at Church, or sitting in the pew in front of you, has an entirely different political construct in the world and yet is your brother in Christ? What if your cross is to hear that gobbledygook that she’s speaking, to have no understanding of it, to be afraid of what it might mean, but to love her anyway? What if your cross is to freely give up your political talking-points for the sake of your brother’s weaker faith, knowing full well he’s never going to give up his for you? Some people what me to imagine my cross is for me and me alone. But Jesus’ cross was for me. My cross can’t be more “self-fulfillment,” it’s got to be a sacrifice of self-will as salvific for our world as Jesus’ was, but in a different way.
What could be more self-willish than the assertion that one is correct politically and judging others for being wrong?