What does it mean to “Carry my Cross?”

As a Catholic, I have never spent a lot of time studying scripture, that’s not a big part of the practice of our faith. We attend weekly Mass where the ceremony consists of two parts: The liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist.

From the Liturgy of the Word, as Catholics, this is where we learn about scripture and the Priest or Deacon helps us think about the teachings contained in the readings through a homily. I enjoy this part and over the years have come to appreciate the repetition of teachings that come from the liturgical calendar.

The second part of the Mass, the liturgy of the Eucharist, is the cornerstone of our faith and where the mystery happens. It is here where Catholics diverge from other christian religions.

Catholics believe the Holy Spirit descends to change the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ so that by receiving this sacrament we may individually renew the covenant made between God and His people. Other christian religions see the bread and wine as a representation of Christ and this is a fundamental and powerful difference.

Lately, the Catholic Church has taken a beating and that’s not what I’m writing about nor commenting on in this post. The Church is made-up of men and women and because of this cannot be perfect. What has happened is horrible and I pray for those affected by the sins of others.

Back to the readings that always cause me to pause and think.

Matthew 16:21-27 was the gospel reading on Sunday, August 31. This is the one where Jesus calls his loyal disciple, Peter, “Satan” and tells the rest of his crew that if they want to follow him each must deny himself, pick up his cross and follow.

In a preceding, and relating, verse to this one, Matthew 11:28-30, we are told that when we are tired and need rest that we may turn to Jesus because His “Yoke is easy and his burden light.”

These two verses blow me away because when I think about all of the teachings of Jesus, I am terrified by the prospect that there is no way that I can live-up to the standards set by Him. And yet I take comfort in the reading about his yoke being easy and light because I learn that all I need to do is the next right thing. I cannot be perfect and I wonder if maybe it’s a lack of humility to consider the possibility that I could be?

Peter is faced with a faith dilemma that it seems to me only an Apostle may be prepared to bear. To hear Jesus one day tell him that he is the rock upon which I will build my church and then be called “Satan” feels like it may be an emotional whipsaw that only the pure of heart could withstand. Of course he did also deny Him three times, as Jesus predicted, so Peter is a person who gives me hope.

When I think about picking up my cross, I wonder what that means. Is my cross something in my mind that holds me back and keeps me from living according to His will for me? Is this an off-shoot of my usual struggle for humility? How do I know that I am carrying the “right” cross? After all, carrying a cross is hard work and how do I know that the one I think is carrying-worthy is the right one? What if I am wrong and how will I know?

In the end, for me, it comes down to keeping things simple. If I treat people the way that I want to be treated, pray for humility, take daily inventory and be grateful for each day all will be well.

It’s not always easy to know what to do and when. The verses above help me along my life-path and my hope is that something in them may resonate with you, too.

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