“If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)
Happy Feast Day ... I love that I get that now, the celebratory nature of Catholicism that is so beautifully underscored by a liturgical calendar that gives us reasons to party pretty much every week (excepting Lent, of course.)
What is the significance of this most unlikely celebration of the instrument of torture on which our God was put to death? What is it about Christianity that embraces and exalts that which should be most repulsive? Why the Cross? Suffering sucks, as a wise colleague of mine elucidated during a recent staff meeting. And he's right, it does. It sucks and it hurts, it breaks us and tears us down and leaves us battered and bruised and sometimes barely breathing... But as Catholics we glory in our suffering, a concept the world cannot comprehend. In an age marked by an absence of moral outrage, there is still one recognizable evil from which we recoil in horror, and that is suffering.
Ending suffering, or avoiding needless suffering is the rallying cry for the pro-abortion movement, the driving force behind the push for assisted suicide, and the motivation for genetic testing on the unborn. It's what we live for, this avoidance of pain at any cost. No greater sin exists today than to suffer, or to allow another to suffer. Compassion is synonymous with "putting someone out of their misery", bred from a misunderstanding of the fleeting delicacy of this life.
An honest and all-encompassing view of suffering sees what Mother Theresa saw in the face of her poor, what the world saw in the pain wracked, hunched and aging body of a man we called Papa, and ultimately in "the scandal of the cross", that incomprehensible moment when eternity collided with temporal reality, making all things new.
The redemptive power in suffering is truly released through free will, through a freely chosen and wholly offered gift of self. What an awesome power we've been endowed with; what a tragedy to discard the most powerful weapon in our arsenal. If suffering was the context for His victory, should we expect anything less? And remember, our own crosses are custom-fitted, designed with our particular strengths and weaknesses in mind. We don't choose them; we choose to take them up and follow after Him, and He's not going to give us more than we can handle. . .
No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it. 1 Cor 10:13