I remember turning up the driveway of Holy Cross College Mosgiel on the day I entered the seminary and seeing a marble statue of Jesus carrying his cross heading out the gate.
The statue became a significant touchstone for me over the next six years. Thanks to inspiring and challenging teachers and an environment of robust formation I grew to appreciate that a cross was not an obstacle to life, but instead a reminder that every choice in life brings a mix of joy and struggle, hope and anxiety.
It is not possible for a human who is seeking to live abundantly to avoid the cross. Those who seek to follow Christ into the eternal life of resurrection cannot avoid the path he walked to Calvary.
Today’s readings present both the cross and the option to make a choice between life and death in every moment.
It’s easily to slip into simply doing what we want to do and avoiding what we don’t want to do. Such an existence is nowhere near as satisfying as embracing life fully as an adventure, even when it means challenge, uncertainty, and cross-carrying.
A happy and rich life is not achieved by avoiding pain and suffering. An abundant life is found by the one who seeks to live fully, knowing that the life suffering and death of Jesus is the pathway to a more abundant life than humans had ever previously imagined both now and eternally.
Take a moment now to call to mind a burden you are carrying today, perhaps a worry about yourself or someone you love, maybe secret burden of suffering or sin that gets you down.
This is a cross.
Instead of ignoring the reality, now see this cross as your personal connection with the suffering of Jesus. When we are honest about our suffering our stress and our anxiety we are in touch with our vulnerability. We become humble and are able to ask Jesus for the strength we need. We also become more open to the full beauty of human friendship with much greater openness and honesty. We discover that every person, however strong and successful they appear, has a share of suffering.
Take a moment to remember this often over the day ahead, and remember to choose life especially while carrying your cross.
I have set before you life and death,
Choose life, then,
that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God,
heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.
Then he said to all,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
yet lose or forfeit himself?”