Living the Joy of the Cross

How can any mother endure witnessing the torture of her own flesh and blood? How did she walk the Via Dolorosa watching her son bleeding, torn and struggling to carry the almost unbearable weight of the cross? As a mother and parent my heart sickens at the thought and then I am comforted with Mary as she stood amidst the disciples glorying in the joy of the Resurrection of her Son.

How many times as a parent have we wished that we could alleviate our child’s suffering? Our
God-given nature to love and protect our child kicks in to high gear when he or she faces trials.  It is easy to forget that the cross brings opportunities, gifts and yes, even joy. This is the joy I want my children to know.

In Luke 9:23 we read, Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  It is clear. We will all experience crosses both large and small, some hidden some plain to see, some short lived some long term. But the important question remains:  How do I carry the cross? Do I look at the cross as something to be feared; to be avoided at all costs; to save my children or spouse from; to run from or to face? Do I drag the cross kicking and screaming and complaining? Do I carry it with a scowl and resignation? OR do I heed our Holy Father Pope Frances in his Palm Sunday message who tells us we must “Find Joy in the Cross”. “Christ’s Cross embraced with love does not lead to sadness, but to joy!” This reminder spurs me on to be a “better cross bearer” so that my children understand the cross as a means to draw closer to God and the Kingdom of Heaven. Amidst the small crosses and the very heavy crosses, joy can always be experienced.

Trusting in God for our strength is the only way we can shoulder the cross with peace and joy.
When we or our children are struggling with bearing a cross, little or big our first step is to ask for the Lord’s help. Praying aloud for help for ourselves or our children at the moment we need it is a wonderful way to instill the habit of asking God for all that we need. For example: When we have to wait a long time and we are feeling impatient we can ask God (aloud) for peace and patience as we wait. When our child is sick, praying for them aloud asking for healing and strength and peace as they suffer; or perhaps they have difficulty with math we can pray with them acknowledging the difficulty and asking for the grace to understand and persevere. Consistently living this and modeling this for our children will in turn become second nature to them so that their immediate response to a cross will be to turn to God. What a comforting and powerful gift to pass on to our children. They will know they are always taken care of and you will have the assurance that they know that especially when we are not with them.

“The LORD is my strength and my shield, in whom my heart trusts.” Psalm 28:7

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

Live attitudes of gratitude.  There is always something to be grateful for even in the midst of the
most painful situations.  Cultivating thankful hearts each day for the little things will help us to recognize the gifts bestowed by God even in the midst of heavy trials. Model gratitude. Thank God (aloud) and often! When someone is ill, we can thank God for the doctors we have available. When a teenager is lonely, we can thank God ahead of time for the friend He is going to provide. Perhaps keep a simple gratitude notebook that serves as a good reminder that there is something to be grateful for everyday. We began this practice in our house in the darkness of serious illness and hospitalizations with one of our children. Asking each family member to express what they were thankful for each day and recording it in our notebook helped us to remember that there is always something to be grateful for – even if it was just the grace of getting through a difficult day. We could be thankful for the doctors and nurses, we could be thankful for family members and friends who prayed or provided meals.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5

 “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.”
                                                                                                                               1 Corinthians 10:13

Acknowledge and recognize that we all suffer and that it is not easy. At times we can bring crosses and suffering upon ourselves through our own sin but many times we are subject to trials through situations or circumstances beyond our control. It is important to recognize when we need the Sacrament of Reconciliation for healing and the grace. It is also important to accept the crosses beyond our control. In either case, our Lord will turn our suffering into opportunities for growth and deeper intimacy with Him if we allow Him to.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

“In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” John 16:33

We are never alone and neither are our children. We know can be assured of our Lord’s help. Do we also rely on the aid of our Holy Mother and the Saints through their prayers and intercession? Praying to our Holy Mother and the Saints is inviting our family in Heaven to be with us on earth in a special way. God also allows us to assist one another here on earth.  What joy we have when we are able to serve a friend or family member in need.   Do we allow others to help us as Simon of Cyrene was called upon to assist Jesus in carrying the cross on the Via Dolorosa? Helping to carry one another’s crosses is a gift God gives to both the giver and receiver. It is important that we model for our children both giving and receiving of support and comfort. Crosses become bearable when we share them.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement,  who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.” 2 Cor. 3-4

We return to Pope Frances’ Palm Sunday message, “Find Joy in the Cross.” Our Holy Father’s message is revealing for it tells us we need to make an effort, we need to look for joy in the midst of our trials. The joy is indeed there if we seek it. What delight as a parent we will experience when our children find this beautiful gift of joy in their crosses.

Copyright © 2013 Karen Hettrick. All rights reserved