Like Peter we sometimes ask why the cross is necessary. Why did he allow his Son to experience the rejection and pain of the Cross? This was Peter’s question. He didn’t want Jesus to experience suffering. And sometimes we don’t want to experience it ourselves. Today our Lord asks us to accept the Cross; he says that new life for us will come from it. We also know that the Cross is God’s highest expression of his love for us. We can begin to understand this through an image of mother or father with their 1 year old.
Sometimes the 1 year old is not very nice to her. As she is holding her son or daughter in her arms, the child can rebel against her sign of affection; against her embrace. The child squirms, maybe she twists her mother’s nose, pulls her hair, or even gives her mother a slap. The mother is only trying to express her love for the child, and the child rejects it. No matter how slight, the child’s actions are causing the mother suffering. She is only loving the child, but the child has not yet learned to accept her mother’s love: has not yet learned to receive and to offer love in return. Remember what Jesus said as he hung from the Cross? Forgive them Lord for they know not what they do. God had come to embrace us; but we squirmed, we rebelled, and we placed him on a cross. God accepts this as a mother accepts the actions of her child against her. It is patience. If the mother accepts these slights, these sufferings; then the child may learn to receive and to offer love. As Christians, God asks us to accept the Cross that others give us (or that we give to ourselves) so that we and others might learn to receive and to offer love.
In order for humanity to learn, our Lord accepts our poor behavior toward himself. Even when we try to inflict pain on him, he accepts it. He accepts the Cross that we place on his back. When we see the pain it causes him, sometimes our hearts are moved. When the soldier thrust the spear into the side of Jesus, that’s when he was converted. Sometimes we have to see the result of our actions; the pain they cause. Eventually children will understand that they cause pain to their mother, and then they will be moved to behave differently; but until then, the best a mother may do for her children is to endure their actions.
Christians are called to be like Christ. Others will cause us to experience pain. Others will place a Cross on us, and like Christ we are called to pick it up and to journey with it. We are called to show that our momentary enjoyment of this world is not as important as demonstrating faith in the next, is not as important as demonstrating love for the conversion of the world.
Today we hear that this has been God’s way of salvation since the time of the fall. After Adam and Eve chose to offend God, there has been a Cross in the life of humanity. We heard in the first reading about the prophet Jeremiah. He suffered because he was proclaiming God’s word and living out God’s plan for him. He accepted the Cross knowing that these sufferings were helping to bring about salvation. The same with the New Testament, but now this plan and path is heightened and made more clear. God himself endured it for us, made it even more effective, and shed light on our experience of it. As Christians we walk in Christ’s steps; we accept our Cross as he accepts his.
And what happened while Christ was carrying his Cross? He fell. He fell 3 times. But what do we also find? Someone came to his aid. Each time he got up. Veronica wiped his face. People were helping him. We too, when we pickup up our Cross and follow him, will receive aid. There will be times when we fall, but God himself will help us back up. Through prayer, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, through only the spiritual helps of heaven itself, angels and saints, we will rise. Other times, we will need the help of others; physical persons in this world: anyone of good will, but especially our brothers and sisters in Christ, our deacons, nuns, priests, and bishops. We will rise again and continue on. Don’t we want this experience of Christ? Would we rather run away from the Cross or experience the help of humanity through the Holy Spirit and of heaven. Yes, it is better to take up our Cross and follow him. It is better to be like the mom who embraces those who are still struggling to become comfortable with and appreciative of love. Even if we are hit, even if our hair is pulled, even if we are rejected and mocked, continue carrying your Cross. This is the path of salvation, this is the path of a deepening faith in God, this is the path of true love for God, for ourselves and for others.