We are instructed to take up our cross and follow Jesus. That does not mean stare at the cross and feel the splinters in the wood. If we are following Jesus, we need to keep our eyes on Him so we know where to go.
Many of us spend an inordinate amount of time focusing our crosses. We ask why we have them and how we can get rid of them. We complain about them. Some of us even milk them for all the attention we can muster. That’s called false martyrdom. None of this can bear fruit of course, which is the point of a cross. The cross is for growing in virtue, which is the result of being closer to Christ.
Humility, courage, and perseverance are some of the virtues we can glean from our crosses. For example, seeking professional help for physical illness, family problems, or psychological issues is a humble and courageous way to face a cross. Doing what is necessary to heal even when it is uncomfortable is an act of perseverance that often feels like another cross on top of the first. Having chemotherapy comes to mind. Continuing to pray in the midst of our crosses when it seems like a futile endeavor is a statement of childlike trust in God, a virtue of excellence that tops them all.
The fruit of these virtues is peace, even if it is simply the peace of acceptance. It is certainly the peace of Christ. Perhaps this is why St. Catherine of Siena said, “Raise thy heart and thy love toward the sweet and most holy cross, which soothes every pain!”
Today is the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Lift it high and don’t be ashamed!
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