Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day 20 of Lent :: Accepting the Cross

“A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, 

was passing by on his way in from the country, 

and they forced him to carry the cross.” 

(Mark 15:21)

We can only imagine the awful weight of the cross Jesus carried.  It was not just the weight of beams of wood that pressed down upon Him. It was also the weight of the burden He carried for those whom He loved.  He came to offer them life, and they returned death.

Jesus fell from the crushing weight of pain and grief; how many times He fell, we do not know.  We do know His physical strength was failing because the soldiers recognized it and forced a man from the crowd to help Him carry the cross to the place where He would be crucified.  Perhaps the soldiers were afraid that He would die before reaching the top of the hill.  Simon, the man of Cyrene who picked up Jesus’ cross, was just a bystander who paused on his way into town, but without hesitation, he took the weight of the cross to save Christ’s strength.

Reflection: I would like to think that had I been there, I would have rushed from the crowd and volunteered to carry that cross for You.  But, would I have had the courage to face the Roman soldiers and risk being forced to join You on a cross?   Would I have really been so eager to share Your cross if it meant that I might have to die on one as well?  

Would I have been willing to risk everything to ease Your suffering for a few moments, letting You know that You were not alone?  Or would I stayed away because “I have my own crosses already.  I have as much as I can bear without taking on the added burdens of others.”  Too, what would people think of me, if I were seen consorting with criminals and enemies of Rome in such a public spectacle? 
So instead of offering to help, would I have tried to become invisible in the crowd?  When the soldiers were looking around for someone to press into service, would I have looked away and pretended not to notice what was happening?

It is easy to pretend not to see the needs, the grief, and the suffering around me every day.  It is easy to pretend not to hear the cries for help that come in many forms from those among whom I walk every day.   It is easy to convince myself that I am too busy, too tired, or have too much on my plate already to get involved in the lives of others.  There are simply too many who need too much.

And yet I remember something You said, something about taking up my cross and following You.  You said something about becoming a servant of all and putting myself last and others first. 
Is this what it means to be a servant?  Jesus, are You showing me what it means to be that kind of servant?  Is this man from Cyrene modeling for me the path of discipleship?

Must Jesus bear the cross alone,

And all the world go free?

No, there's a cross for everyone,

And there's a cross for me.

(Sam Cooke)

Prayer: “Lord, forgive me for becoming so preoccupied with myself that I have become deaf and blind to the grief and suffering of those around me.  Forgive me for my indifference.  Forgive me for covering my eyes and looking away from the needs of others.  Heal my callousness that has caused me to become numb to others’ pain and hurts.

“Constantly remind me, Lord, that I cannot love You without loving others as well.  Help me always remember that to be a follower of Yours means that I share in the burdens of others.  Help me see these burdens and begin to extend my hands to help.  Lord, show me someone whose cross I can help carry.”

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