Carrying our cross

FJ April

Have you heard the expression, “to carry one’s cross”? Its original meaning relates to Jesus carrying his cross – the cross on which he died.[1] It’s a familiar saying among Catholics and it means to shoulder a burden – be it grief, illness, loss of a loved one, and so on. But more particularly it means to carry the burden with acceptance, without hatred of the oppressor, indeed, to let it go. And, can I say, it can be a really hard thing to do.

As we watch the news, we see numerous people in Australia and across the world having to carry a cross of some kind. The scenes of lives being shattered can leave us feeling overwhelmed and helpless. We grieve at the death and destruction. We wonder: how can these people carry such a heavy cross? Is it possible to bear these crosses without hatred for those who cause the suffering? Can hope be found in such dire situations?

As Catholics, we believe hope can be found by reflecting on the life of Jesus. He was persecuted, tortured, mocked and killed. We can ask, why did these bad things happen to a good person? Hadn’t he fed the poor, cured the lame, reached out to those on the margins? Why didn’t he retaliate and throw his hands up in the air, and shout “This isn’t fair!”?

But Jesus – who is God – graciously took these burdens upon himself and even forgave his persecutors. Our God understands suffering. He is not aloof from us, and his example offers us hope in our own times of trial.

As Catholics, we also believe hope can be found by reflecting on the example of people who stood by Jesus in his suffering. Simon of Cyrene probably wasn’t expecting to be called on to help Jesus carry his cross, but he did. And, as Jesus hung on the cross, his closest friends stood by him. They did not leave him alone in his distress.  

These stories from Scripture about Jesus’ life are ones Catholics are hearing during this season of Lent. Such stories can shape our lives. They can and do inspire us to be the heroic people we see on our televisions – the people who are sheltering the homeless, feeding the poor or putting their lives at risk to save others.  

As we journey to Easter, a time of hope when we celebrate Jesus’ power over death, let us continue to take the blessed opportunities to carry our own crosses and help others to carry theirs.


[1] There are several accounts of Jesus’ suffering, including him carrying his cross in the Bible. You can read them here: Matthew 27:32-56; Mark 15:1-47; Luke 23:13-46; John 18:1-40, 19:1-37. These references can by typed into your search engine and easily found on the Internet.

Further reading

Jesus Christ’s Suffering, Death and Resurrection

What is Holy Week?


Words: Sharon Brewer

Image: Lightstock

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