Carrying Our Crosses
Understanding the 4th Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary
“Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me can not be my disciple.” Luke 14:27
I’m a new Catholic – Just four years into the faith. As you can imagine, I am still quite new to the praying of the Rosary.
When I first began praying the daily Rosary, I found that meditating on the sorrowful mysteries was particularly difficult. It was painful replaying the passion of Jesus in my mind. Nonetheless, I persevered. Soon, I grew fond of the forth sorrowful mystery – Jesus carrying the cross.
This fondness probably arose from an image I stumbled upon. It is an image very similar to the image shared above, except that the crosses are labeled.
Some of the people were carrying crosses with the label ‘addiction’ on them; others were carrying crosses with the labels ‘self-obsession’, ‘pride’, ‘debt’, ‘indifference’, ‘divorcee’, ‘bad parent’ etc.
Meditating on that image helped me to readjust my existing notions of cross carrying. I wish to share some of these insights with you.
What is Your Cross?
When most Christians reflect on Luke 14:27, they automatically arrive at notions of the cross (that Jesus commanded us to carry) being the cross of responsibilities (eg. Parenthood, marriage, job), diseases, old age and Christian persecution.
I agree that that was also my original understanding of the cross. Like most Christians, I believed that following Jesus meant that I had to lead a good and holy life and that that was going to be difficult.
This understanding is correct. Yet, it is somewhat wanting. In a way, my joy and understanding was not complete.
Let us now consider the image of a man carrying a cross with the word ‘addiction’ written on it.
Is he living a godly and holy life? In the eyes of the world, probably not. But it is true that even as the man struggles with his addiction, he is carrying his cross.
As with any addiction (eg. Alcohol, gambling, tobacco, drugs, pornography), once you are an addict, you will always have a proclivity for that sin.
You have developed a distortedly high desire for that particular means of gratification. Even when you are not actively using, you remain an addict. You carry the cross for the rest of your life.
Fortunately, from the moment you begin to identify your weakness and attempt to address it through the strength of Christ, that sin gets transformed into a cross; A cross for you to carry daily; A cross that converts your pain into light.
When you abstain from the addiction, you are carrying the cross. When you relapse, you are carrying the cross. When you break out in cold sweat resisting temptation, you are carrying the cross. When your loved ones leave you because of your struggles, you are carrying the cross. When society labels you as a loser and refuses you employment, you are carrying the cross. And that is the beauty of it.
If you are one of those struggling with this heavy cross, you may struggle with thoughts like – “What is the purpose of carrying this cross? It benefits no one.”
These thoughts are simply short-sighted and untrue. One day, God will lead you to a place where true compassion and empathy is needed, and you (refined by your pain) will be able to meet the call perfectly.
It is true that goodie Christians do carry crosses. But I firmly believe that it is those who carry the crosses of sin that carry them to the most heroic degree. And for that, they should be praised and supported.
Seeing Sin in a Different Light
I have often conversed with Christians who in spite of being good-willed and kind-hearted, find no space in their hearts for the disenfranchised – especially those they perceive to be in a sorry state due to their ‘own making’.
“I will not lend money to this man. He is a spendthrift. If I do so, he’ll just get worse. I am enabling him.”
“I will not offer this homeless woman some money. If I do so, she will just spend it on drugs.”
“Alright, perhaps I will take some of my precious time to pray for the poor in church. God will take care of them. I have enough of my own problems.”
The problem with this line of thought is that when you see a needy person, you do not see the enormous cross he carries.
What these people need are helping hands willing to see the best in them and lift them out of their misery.
Truth be told, if given a choice, everyone would choose to live a good and holy life. What can be more pleasurable than living in communion with our Lord?
Why then do people get addicted to sinful living? It could be because of life circumstances (eg. Poor parenting, sexual abuse). It could be because they were never given the opportunity to meet Jesus. On the surface, their problems may seem self-inflicted but that is definitely not the full truth.
Prayer is good. But sometimes we are called to do more. We are called to love our neighbours. We are called go out into the margins and love those most in need of it.
Consider Matthew 25:34–46. Jesus has called us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked and visit those in prison.
It is heartening to know that even Jesus needed someone (I.e. Simon of Cyrene) to help carry the cross with him during his passion. And he was so grateful to Simon for doing so.
Let us be Simons to all those out there who need our help. What they need is love and not more judgment.
I hope that this reflection has been helpful in helping you deepen your understanding of the fourth sorrowful mystery of the Rosary.
Finally, if you have not begun praying the rosary, today is a good day to start. There are plenty of resources on the internet and the church book shops that can get you started. Below is a simple chart for your reference. Have a blessed day ahead!