“They laid hold of a certain man, Simon, a Cyrenian . . . and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus.”
If you thought that what God, through the mouth of St. Luke, was showing you so far was heavy, just wait!
Who, as a Christian, cannot be moved by the scene of Simon of Cyrene carrying the Cross of Jesus Christ, not just in a figurative way, but literally carrying the heavy, wooden Cross of the bloodied and stumbling Jesus of Nazareth? It makes me think heroic thoughts of wanting to be first in line to carry the Cross of my fallen Lord.
And then an electrifying thought strikes me: I imagine in my mind that seeing my fallen Lord I would sacrifice all to carry His Cross, but in reality He has commanded me to carry my own cross – and I’m not always as thrilled as I am in my imagination about carrying His.
Imagine Simon of Cyrene as you will, but we really don’t know how he responded. Mark 15:20-21 does mention Simon’s sons by name, and so it seems as if Simon and his sons became Christians at some point. But one thing is certain: he didn’t choose to carry Jesus’ Cross but was compelled by the Romans.
And we are like Simon but also different. Like him, we are to carry a cross, but the difference is that for Simon it was the Romans who compelled him to carry Jesus’ Cross. We, on the other hand, are commanded, but not forced, to carry our cross by our Master. Here is the part that gets me: what makes me so sure that if I were there at the Passion I would volunteer to do this very difficult thing for my Lord when in real life I don’t do some of the easier things for my Lord, which He has commanded? The reason I think I would choose to carry the Cross in my imagined Passion is due to the fact that I want to be in charge of when I get to be heroic and when I don’t have to be.
But this is not the way of the Cross at all.
Our Lord commands you to take up your cross daily and follow Him. He is not asking you to pick up His 1st century wooden Cross but only the cross that He has given you to bear each day. If you want to be truly heroic, then quietly bear the cross of Jesus, the one He gives you, every day, each day without fail.
What is this daily cross? It is not, of course, the physical Cross of Jesus. Instead, our daily cross is each day that the Lord has given us. In each day He gives us not only the circumstances and events He has chosen for us but also the grace to carry this cross of the day. Our cross, therefore, is the cross of discipleship each day, in all that the Lord has given us for that particular day. Our daily cross is therefore our daily bread: it is what the Lord has given us to feed us that particular day. In this way, then, our cross is the Cross of Jesus because it is the one He has given to us.
Our daily cross, therefore, becomes united with Jesus’ Cross. Through our daily suffering and obedience of taking up the cross the Master has given us, we are made one with Him who learned obedience through His suffering and who obeyed and suffered for us. Our sufferings and obedience, therefore, are a very real participation in the sufferings and obedience of our Master.
The glorious but unobtrusive truth is that when we suffer with Him and obey Him, then just as He bore our cross for us, we also bear His Cross for and with Him!
We can go a step further. Rather than simply saying that we should pick up our cross or His Cross daily, I believe that we can more specifically identity that Cross as nothing other than Jesus Christ Himself. He is our Cross to bear daily. We are to put on Jesus Christ daily, and we are to take up our Cross daily. The two are one and the same.
When we undertake to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Jesus, we are, in fact, putting on Jesus Christ and taking Him on as our daily cross.
And now we know why He can place such all-encompassing and seemingly difficult demands on us, and yet at the same time incomprehensibly say: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me. . . . For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Our heavy burden, which is the burden of Jesus Himself, is light because it is not only He whom we are carrying but also He who is also carrying us! More than this, since we are all to carry each other’s burdens as His Body here on earth, then we can say that Jesus carries our burdens through the Church, which is His Body. We are not to think of ourselves as being the only Christian who is carrying Christ the Cross: we are to carry Him together.
This is the command, therefore, and the lesson from Simon of Cyrene: that we should be compelled to carry Christ the Cross by the force of His love and life in us, which is to say by the Holy Spirit. The command from our Master is to go out today and be Christophers – “Christ-bearers” This is what it means to be a “Christian” – to be a bearer of Jesus Christ. And He is your Cross to bear today.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, who willingly bore my cross for me, help me to hear Your command today to carry Your Cross for you. By Your grace, enable me to have the strength to accept and pick up whatever it is today that You have sovereignly prepared for me to bear. Remind me that in so doing I am bearing not only my cross but also Yours. May I see You and be with You through this daily cross, which I gladly pick up today for You.
Resolution: I resolve today to accept my daily cross today, which is Jesus Christ Himself in every circumstance of this day.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day