As we make our way through Lent, various themes are brought to our attention. These include: repentance, healing, forgiveness, obedience and listening to God.
As we approach Holy Week, however, the theme of the cross becomes ever more on our minds. We recall that Jesus is headed for Jerusalem where He will suffer and die before rising again. We are reminded, too, that we cannot be His disciples without taking up that same cross. All three synoptic gospels (Matt. 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9: 23) tell us this. Luke even includes the adjective daily. If we wish to follow Jesus, we must be united with Him in His cross.
While this can include offering our little day-to-day hardships in union with all that He suffered, there are also times when we feel the weight of the cross more acutely. We feel, at times, that we are truly under the heavy wooden beam with Jesus on the way to Calvary.
As hard as these times may be, I have really found them to be occasions for growth. In walking with Jesus through these dark valleys, we learn to trust Him, to lean on Him, to confide in Him, to cling to Him. If it were not for these times of carrying the cross with Jesus, where would I be?
These crosses, I have found, take various forms. They might include: teasing from peers in school…having to stand up for what is right…facing an illness or disability…struggling with persistent temptation… In various circumstances, the cross comes to us.
The wonderful news is that Jesus is with us! And, He has gone before us.
In facing each day, I like to borrow from the words of the disciples after their journey to Emmaus, praying “Please, stay with me, Lord.” This is a wonderful prayer to use regardless of what cross we may be facing, and especially fruitful in facing our own weakness.
A prayer of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, for use after Holy Communion, draws from this phrase in a beautiful way. May I share some poignant excerpts here?
“Stay with me, Lord, for it is necessary to have You present so that I do not forget You. You know how easily I abandon You. Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak and I need Your strength, that I may not fall so often. Stay with me, Lord, for You are my life, and without You, I am without fervor. Stay with me, Lord, for You are my light, and without You, I am in darkness…Stay with me, Lord, for I desire to love You very much, and always be in Your company. Stay with me, Lord, if You wish me to be faithful to You…Stay with me tonight, Jesus, in life with all its dangers. I need You.”