Facing the Cross with Courage and Love

As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the Twelve disciples aside by
themselves, and said to them on the way, “Behold, we are going up to
Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and
the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the
Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on
the third day.” Matthew 20:17–19

What a conversation that must have been! As Jesus was traveling to
Jerusalem with the Twelve just prior to the first Holy Week, Jesus spoke
openly and clearly about what would be waiting for Him in Jerusalem.
Imagine what the disciples would have thought. In many ways, it would
have been too much for them to comprehend at the time. In many ways, the
disciples probably preferred not to hear what Jesus had to say. But Jesus
knew they needed to hear this difficult truth, especially as the moment of
the Crucifixion drew near.

Oftentimes the full message of the Gospel is difficult for us to accept. This is
because the full message of the Gospel will always centrally point us to the
sacrifice of the Cross. Sacrificial love and the full embrace of the Cross
needs to be seen, understood, loved, fully embraced and confidently
proclaimed. But how is this done? Let’s start with our Lord Himself.

Jesus was not afraid of the truth. He knew that His suffering and death was
imminent, and He was ready and willing to accept this truth without
hesitation. He didn’t see His Cross in a negative light. He did not look at it
as a tragedy to be avoided. He didn’t allow fear to deter Him. Instead, Jesus
looked at His imminent sufferings in the light of truth. He saw His suffering
and death as a glorious act of love that He was soon to offer, and, therefore,
He was not afraid to not only embrace these sufferings but also to speak of
them with confidence and courage.

In our own lives, we are given the invitation to imitate Jesus’ courage and
love every time we must face something difficult in life. When this happens,
some of the most common temptations are to be angry about the difficulty,
or to look for ways to avoid it, or to blame others, or to give into despair and
the like. There are numerous coping mechanisms that kick in by which we
tend to try and avoid the crosses that await us.
But what if we followed the example of our Lord instead? What if we faced
any and every pending cross with love, courage and a willing embrace?
What if instead of looking for a way out, we looked for a way in, so to
speak? That is, we looked for a way to embrace our suffering in a sacrificial
way, without hesitancy, in imitation of Jesus’ embrace of His cross. Every
cross in life has the potential of becoming an instrument of much grace in
our own lives and in the lives of others. Therefore, from the perspective of
grace and eternity, crosses must be embraced, not avoided or cursed.

Reflect, today, upon any difficulty you are facing. Do you see it in the same
way that Jesus sees it? Can you see every cross you are given as an
opportunity for sacrificial love? Are you able to embrace it with hope and
confidence, knowing that God can bring good out of it? Seek to imitate our
Lord by joyfully embracing the difficulties you face and those crosses will
ultimately share in the Resurrection with our Lord.

My suffering Lord, You freely embraced the injustice of the Cross with love
and courage. You saw beyond the apparent scandal and suffering and
transformed the evil done to You into the greatest act of love ever known.
Give me the grace to imitate Your perfect love and to do so with the
strength and confidence that You had. Jesus, I trust in You.

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