Take up your cross and follow me. We may have heard these words many times, and we might easily say yes to this invitation. In reality, these words aren’t calling us to a walk in the park. They are a door to a path that leads ultimately to a death sentence. If it doesn’t, it’s not the cross that you’re carrying.
Many years ago, I took a preaching class with Bishop Kenneth Untener of the Diocese of Saginaw. He described the cross like this:
The cross is that thing to which you say to God, “Lord, I will do anything for you, anything at all…but this.” Your “anything but this” is the cross that you are called to carry.
In our ministry and family life, we can find many anything-but-these. Perhaps it’s the person we’ve never really forgiven all these years or the guilt we’ve carried around like baggage but haven’t had the courage to let go. Maybe it’s the unbearable relationship with a colleague that makes parish life a daily, painful struggle and you need to decide whether to stay or go.
The invitation to pick up our cross may leave us feeling duped and thinking this wasn’t what I signed up for. Yet our hope lives in Christ because for in him and his Resurrection we never carry this cross alone.