Embracing the Cross

Embracing the Cross

“The bread I eat is ashes; my drink mingled with tears.” –Psalm 102

To our ears it sounds crazy but Saint Paul tells us to never boast of anything but the cross of Christ. All that matters is that we are created anew…and all true renewal comes through the cross. You can’t be a Christian without embracing the cross, just as there is no personal resurrection without a personal crucifixion.

Suffering is a part of life. Of course, we hate suffering, and do all in our power to prevent it. But suffering visits us all. More important than avoiding suffering is to find a way to redeem the suffering, to learn what it has to teach us about ourselves and life. Some of the greatest art ever created grew out of the suffering of painters and writers who transformed their anguish into something inspirational.

Within us we carry both original goodness and original sin. We are a mixture of lightness and darkness. Living well, in a spiritual sense, is living with the tension between those opposing realities within us, being able to balance them and understand their natures.

We are all broken, wounded, paralyzed or crushed in some way. Often our brokenness is self-inflicted. We cripple or imprison ourselves in countless small and large ways. Many of us, like the people in Haiti for example, are broken by the capriciousness of life, such as car accidents and natural disasters. Life isn’t fair, and we tend to clothe ourselves in that very unfairness. God seems absent. But Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff reminds us: “Where God seems not to be, where God seems to have withdrawn, there we shall find God most intensely present. This logic contradicts the logic of reason. This is the logic of the cross. The logic of the cross is a scandal to reason, and must be maintained as such. Only thus shall we have access to God. Otherwise we should never surmise it. Reason seeks the cause of suffering. Reason seeks reasons for evil. The cross seeks no causes. God is found to be in suffering, and most intensively of all. Where reason sees the absence of God, the logic of the cross sees God’s full revelation…. The cross must remain the cross: the blind spot in the eye of reasoning and the wisdom of the world.”

Following Jesus means dying with Him…and rising with Him also.

In acknowledging our brokenness and the unfairness of life, we become in touch with our vulnerability. Vulnerability is the place where we meet Jesus. When we honestly face our brokenness we can do one of two things. We can embrace it or reject it. If we reject it, we will devote ourselves to the pursuit of security, blocking out all that we fear, desperately trying to overcome every problem we encounter. In the process life becomes a goal to reach, a problem to be solved. If we embrace our brokenness, we begin to live honestly with the tension within us. Slowly we become liberated from the slavery of carrying unnecessary burdens and our spirits are free to embrace the childlike innocence and goodness planted in our souls by God. We can trust, we can play, we delight in the wonder of creation…and, in time, slowly see the Kingdom of God before us, a Kingdom of love, unity and peace.

Liberation is found in the stillness and silence of the Sabbath, where we are called to drop our burdens and rest in the Lord and be refreshed and renewed by God’s unmerited and unrelenting grace.

Oh my God, help me to stop picking away at the sore of my guilt over my past misdeeds, the many times I failed to love. Help me instead fix my gaze on Your endless love. Help me see how my sins are merely manifestations of my own inner emptiness and an indication of how far I am from You, the true source of love.

I give you, my God, everything that is within me. I also surrender all of my past. I hand it all to You and accept your total forgiveness, your overflowing mercy, and your boundless love. I also give You all the wounds life has inflicted on me. Give me, please, the grace to look at them honestly, to feel them fully, and then entrust them to your divine care. Help me also forgive all who have harmed me, and allow me to forget the painful memories that only allow the harm to live.

This day, I see my past, my faults, my wounds… and I let them go. I give them to You. I seek your Spirit in order to have the faith and strength to live fully in the present day, consciously aware of each precious, life-giving moment.

In my prayer, I told God that I let go of “my past, my faults, my wounds.” In truth, I did not let them go. I merely put them down…and not long afterward, I picked them up again. This spiritual stuff is not easy; I’m highly skeptical of any one who claims to have mastered it. I think “progress” along the spiritual road is a perpetual struggle. Whatever halting progress we make is made on our knees.

“The true saint is not one who has become convinced that he himself is holy, but one who is overwhelmed by the realization that God, and God alone is holy. He is so awestruck with the reality of the divine holiness that he begins to see it everywhere. Eventually, he may be able to see it in himself too: but surely he will see it there last of all, because in himself he will continue to experience the nothingness, the pseudo reality of egoism and sin. Yet even in the darkness of our disposition to evil shines the presence and mercy of the Divine Savior.”
– Thomas Merton
Life and Holiness

We do are best in trying to avoid facing our true selves, facing God.

Nobody really likes change. We like things to stay as they are. Even when things in our life are not exactly right, we are often slow to make the changes we know we need to make. Often, profound and needed changes in our life are thrust upon us as a result of a crisis and not because of a choice we make. There were things in my life that really needed changing. Yet, I was too busy or too tired to undertake the task of making necessary changes. In truth, life is a series of adjustments to unforeseen events in our lives which compel us to change our direction and goals. Humans are problem solvers. Every life is full of setbacks and frustrations, as well as unpredictable catastrophes, such as a serious illness or injury, or natural disasters. Big changes in our life are made a little easier when we are aware that God is walking with us, caring for us, at each twist and turn in our lives.

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