“To run from the cross is to run from Jesus.”
I once heard these words stressing the importance of the cross and our call to participate in it. Basically, this is a call to accept whatever difficulties, inconveniences, sicknesses, and setbacks that come our way. In today’s Gospel reading we read how Jesus calls Peter satan, that is, adversary, because Peter attempts to dissuade Jesus from undergoing his passion and allowing himself to be killed at the hands of ruthless men. It is the cross that opposes satan and defeats him, the cross is powerful because the cross is love. On the cross, Jesus freely gave himself up in love that we might be redeemed and reconciled to God. The cross is the instrument of love that allowed him to lay his life down for his friends, and even his enemies.
Peter, along with the majority of the apostles, recoiled from suffering. He betrayed Our Lord out of the fear of suffering consequences for being one of his disciples. But after the resurrection, Christ gave him the opportunity to prove his love by “going where he would rather not go.” St. Peter was martyred under the reign of the Emperor Nero, on an inverted cross. Most likely, most of us will not be called to this. But at the same time, all of us are commanded to pick up our cross and follow Jesus.
Going even further, we are called to love the cross. The cross unites us to Christ. The cross allows us to prove our love for Jesus. The cross was regarded with love by Jesus. Out of love for Jesus, then, it follows that we too should regard the cross with love. “When people love one another, they have the same taste – – and Jesus wants us to share with him his taste for the cross. When two love each other they desire to resemble each other.” These words are taken from French priest Father Jean of the Heart of Jesus, from the book “I Believe in Love,” a book that I cannot recommend enough.
It is not masochistic at all to love the cross, or at least to make an act of the will to love the cross. We don’t love suffering for it’s own sake, we love the unifying and life giving results of it. The example of embracing suffering in the footsteps of Christ is manifest in the lives of many saints. They were grateful for the chance to be with Jesus on the cross and to suffer with him. They were glorified with him, and will be glorified with him. By entering into the cross, they loved Jesus in his greatest moment of need. Jesus, never being outdone in generosity, promises to confer his kingdom to those who stayed and persevered with him through his trials.
“Hail most blessed cross of Jesus Christ that unites us to our Savior in love and transforms us into him!