Christianity today is struggling; arguing not to carry the cross. People are asking, why do I have to carry my cross? why do I have to suffer? Do I have to suffer to be a Christian? Is this really necessary?
When we hear the Lord asking us to carry the cross and to share the Cross with Him, it is a call to share the Lord in His grief. Him who said, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful unto death.” We cannot ignore that suffering is important; we feel pain in this suffering. This is the bitter side of the cross.
But on the other side, it is very sweet. When the Lord calls us to carry the cross, He asks us to carry the sweetness of the cross.
When Isaiah the prophet looked to the cross, it seemed to him that the crucified one is despised from God and from men. He had no shape, not beautiful, no one was eager to see the crucified one, especially the Lord who suffered too much. Then he saw the Lord bowing his head, and all of creation putting their hand to the Lord, to ask him to lift all my suffering, pain, trouble, sickness, transgressions, disobedience, all our faults, death, etc. This is why St. John the Baptist said, “Behold, this is the Lamb of God who carries the sin of the world.”
On the other hand, the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross sees the hand of the Fr., and my hand, and puts the hands together. This is the completion of Reconciliation; the pleasure of the Lord; the Holy Spirit, all the heavenly hosts, all the believers that they see this reconciliation between God and man is fulfilled.
You did not say today I am troubled; I am thinking of Hades; I am thinking of my sins…but only you put my hand to His and paid the price; so that the Holy Spirit could come within me. This is the sweetness of the cross to reconcile us to the Fr. through the merit of the blood of Jesus Christ.
Open the eyes of the world in this age to see the amazing of the Cross. We hope and pray and work so that the Holy Spirit enlightens the hearts of men to see and taste how sweet the Lord is. The Psalmist says, “Taste and see how sweet the Lord is.”
Our problem is that we have HEARD much about God, but we have not TASTED Him. We need not just to know about God, but to be united with Him.
St. Augustine said in His prayers, “O my God, I searched too much for you. I looked for You in nature, through books, through friends, through arguments, and in fact, You were in my inmost parts, in my depth, much more deep than me, and higher than my eye could see. I was looking in my foolishness for You outside of me, but I found You within me. When you pray “Our Fr….” don’t look to the heaven, but look to your inner man, and say the prayer for He is dwelling within you and the heaven is within you.”
These are God’s words, who said that the Kingdom of heaven is within you. Why are you looking for God outside of you, while He truly is inside of you!
Perhaps you will say how is the Cross sweet for you? When I share the crucifixion of my Lord, I share in suffering, but I look to my Lord who is suffering with me. Instead of being absorbed in suffering, I am absorbed in vision of the Lord, the Crucified One. This is the sweetness of the cross. You cannot attain this revelation of God unless you accept to share the Lord in His crucifixion.
Do not think that the carrying of the Cross is only bitter suffering. When we hear the voice of the Lord telling us, “I am carrying the cross with you,” I forget all pain, all tiring, all temptation, suffering, sadness. It is only enough to see you on my right carrying the Cross. I will think of nothing else…
The Lord calls us to carry His Cross not to be in grief, but to see Him and have fellowship with Him. We ask “O Lord, can I carry the cross with You? Can I be with you on Your right? Lord, I am not worthy to carry the Cross with you.” This is too great a blessing. How many people, in fact, while they were carrying the cross discovered the open gates of heaven and all their hearts and minds, all their feelings and senses were absorbed in heaven, itself?. They loved the heaven and rejected the world. The Cross is the royal way to heaven itself–to enjoy unity with the Fr., in the Lord Jesus Christ, by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Do not say, “Thank God I don’t have a cross to carry.” No, we must search for a cross to carry. It is a gift from God to share with Him in His crucifixion. When you are tied, don’t say “Oh, I’m tired I will postpone my cross until tomorrow. No, I say I will pray and carry my cross to be united with Him. I will fulfill Your commandments even though I will lose my own desire, or comfort.”
The Cross allows us to accept everything. And I consider everything as rubbish to accept the world. Through the cross we will discover that the world is nothing to me to be compared with God and Heaven. I will sell everything to buy the precious pearl, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
Think every day, can I carry my cross with joy? Do I search for the Cross in my life. One of the pious wealthy ladies in Alexandria went to St. Athanasius, and said, “Fr., I am in need of someone to help me. Can you find me one of the poor widows to help me?” then he chose a very modest and kind worker. After a week he met her and asked about the widow, she said, “O my father, I am in grief.” You sent to me a person who is not the person I am searching for, for she will not help me.” So he sent someone else, someone who is very severe and every time she insulted her and was strict with her. You sent the person to help me to have a place in the kingdom of God. I don’t want someone praise me or help in material things; but to help me in my salvation. When someone insults me and I accept it joyfully.
If someone working with you insult you and curse you, then you complain and report him or talk to Abouna. But when someone like this was sent to St. Athanasius, she said, “this person won’t work.” Send to me a person who is not perfect, so that I may be perfect. We are always looking for the easy way out. We do not want to walk in the royal way of the cross, the narrow way.
Accept this way for this is the way of your salvation. Find something to be thankful for, without complaining. I look to fulfill the divine commandments, not at the expense of the worldly way. St. John Chrysostom says forget the world, stay committed to the Lord for this is the way of your salvation. We hope to carry the cross with you and convert the sadness to joy and become Your holy children surrounding Your throne in the kingdom of heaven.
And Glory be to God forever Amen.