What does it mean to take up one’s cross? Does it mean carrying something through life which feels like it has been forced upon you? Does it mean that all of us have hardships and we shouldn’t complain about them? And if we don’t feel like we have a heavy cross in life, does it mean that we should seek one out? While we may be very familiar with this Gospel text from Matthew, reading it a little deeper reveals the invitation to embrace the paradox of losing our life in order to find it. Moreover, trying to find our place in a world that has over 7 ¾ billion people can seem like a daunting task. Yet this is a rite of passage all of us struggle with.
As Passionists, taking our inspiration from the life and preaching of St. Paul of the Cross, we strive to prayerfully keep the cross before us. The result is a deep familiarity with the Gospels and the ability to see the many facets of the passion narratives portrayed in the dynamics and activities of the circles of our lives. When we do this then we are capable of taking the next step, which includes helping people connect with the redemptive power of the cross rather than a burdensome cross. This step frequently means a dying and rising as we live out the Paschal Mystery. It is a tangible way we live out this teaching given to us in today’s Gospel.
As the COVID pandemic has affected everyone, I’ve been keenly aware of the struggle of younger people trying to find their place in the world. Some have completed college and are searching for their first career. Others have worked for several years and are disillusioned by the path their life is taking and are searching for something with more meaning and purpose. It may take decades for a person to find that place where they feel they truly discovered their real purpose in life. In church language it is growing in a deeper understanding of the vocation to which we have been called. For our vocation is a gift which we are invited to cultivate, live and embrace. Our specific vocations are unique to each of us. And when we find them, a sense of understanding and peace may come over us as we realize this is the reason I am here; this is my purpose for being in the world.
We will never find this if we haven’t first denied our own self interests attempting to live from a place other than our own self-centeredness. Then we can ask ourselves some deeper questions of faith. Does the Cross of Christ have a power in my life to humble my attitude, allowing me to prayerfully embrace the greater paradoxes of faith?
Fr. David Colhour, C.P. is the local superior of St. Vincent Strambi Community in Chicago, Illinois.