Catholic Hymns And Prayers

The Cross

Since that time when human sin stopped the rise of sap in the tree of life, the dry wood of the cross has stood at the crossroads of our existence. Thorns and thistles have quickly overrun the garden God planted for us.

Whatever name we call it, whether we want it or not, and no matter who we are, the Cross is in each of our lives as a mysterious reality both incomprehensible and obvious, personal to each one of us and universal for all. It touches the soul in our doubt, the heart in our suffering, the body in its groaning, and the spirit engulfed in perplexity.

It may be: the cross of solitude which we have not chosen and which locks us in loneliness; the cross of love which we hoped will bring communion but instead forces us to recognize the independence of the one we love; the cross of having work which tires us out and weighs us down; the cross of not finding work, which is depressing and degrading; the cross of obedience, for it is difficult to forget oneself; the cross of authority, for it is very difficult to govern; the cross of faith with all its demands, and that of doubt with its emptiness; the cross of moving forward without hope, and without recognizing even the name of the Savior; and the cross of hearing Jesus the Savior say one day to all of us: If anyone wants to come after me, let them take up this cross every day and follow me.

This cross which is universal for all and personal for each one of us is not something invented by God. It is not God who gives it to us. It is not Christ who willed it. But He did accept it; He carried it; and through the folly of love He chose to be raised up on it for us: No one takes my life from me, I lay it down of my own free will. Listen carefully to this: He loved me and delivered himself up for me.

There is at least one reproach which we can never make to the Lord: that of being indifferent to the weight of our pain. No, Christ died on a cross between two others who were also crucified. He carried the sin which He never knew. He himself underwent the death which God had never intended for us. In his meekness He suffered violence. In his humility He endured dishonor. On the cross where He died, the whole of humanity is represented and gathered together. Remember the good news about Jesus Christ. He himself had told us, When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.

But now, since that day when, in our madness, we crucified the Prince of Life, each of us knows that someone has gone before us on the road we all must travel--a road marked not just with our thousand-and-one small crosses, but which henceforth and of necessity passes through his Cross. In bearing it for you, Jesus has made it your road to glory. He has nailed there the debt of our sins. From his open side flows a spring of living water, and what was the dry tree of the cross on Golgotha has now become the Tree of Life. The whole earth is invited there, to find the way through the narrow door leading, as promised, to Paradise. Rather than carry your daily cross alone, will you now carry it after Him? If you take it up in love and accept it in freedom, you can be sure it will become for you and many others a path of hope and the passover from bondage to the freedom of True Life.

from World Youth Day 1993 Pilgrims Handbook