Hate our fathers and mothers, spouses and children, even our own lives. And take up our crosses. These lines are often called the cost of discipleship by many who reflect on the subject. They are not wrong, we are to put God first and foremost in our lives and at times that can come into conflict with the other relationships and plans in our lives. I’ll leave this subject to the countless other reflections on this theme.
What I want us to pause with though, is that idea of taking up our crosses and following Jesus. There is a danger here. There is a temptation to self-martyrdom and taking pride in how difficult things may be for us. There is a temptation to feel like we need to prove to God and other Christians how strong we are, how big of a cross we can carry. To rationalize this temptation as following the Gospel admonition. To believe it is only when we walk alone, in that suffering that we are walking as disciples.
As a culture obsessed with individualism, such a temptation is particularly strong. As women who are often trying to “do it all”, it can feel a necessary part of trying to do it all. If the Screwtape Letters have any accuracy at all, then this is a space where the little devils may very well be tugging at us.
Jesus did not carry his cross alone. God himself did not carry his cross alone. Take a minute. Read that again. Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, could not and did not carry his cross alone. You are not expected to nor able to do so.
Following Christ, even just life in general, will bring crosses for each of us to bear. We are not intended to do this alone. Today’s second reading has Paul praising Onesimus for the help he has offer to Paul, going so far as to call him his “own heart”. Even St. Paul needed help and support during his time of bearing crosses.
We can so easily fall into the temptation of self-martyrdom when we have our crosses to bear. That is a moment of the flesh speaking, as the first reading reminds us. Taking pride in the burdens is definitely going astray. The reading from Wisdom wraps up my thoughts, in reminding us that wisdom comes from the Holy Spirit on high. When you have your cross, that is a moment to take a deep breath and look around. For the Holy Spirit is within and around you. The Holy Spirit is in those around you who can and want to offer help but are waiting for the opportunity.
I know how hard it is to admit you need help, I’m particularly bad at this so I am preaching to myself here. I have to remind myself that Jesus needed help. Jesus needed those mornings in prayer by himself. He needed the anointing by the woman. He needed meals with friends. He needed rest and community. Jesus needed help carrying the cross. If being a disciple means following Jesus, then I need to remember and accept the community around me.
Jesus did not carry his cross alone. God himself did not carry his cross alone. Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, could not and did not carry his cross alone. You are not expected to nor able to do so.