Accepting the Cross

From the Gospel reading for Friday, February 16:

Mark 8:34-38

Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the Gospel will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
What could one give in exchange for his life?
Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words
in this faithless and sinful generation,
the Son of Man will be ashamed of
when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

The life of the Christian is not intended to be easy. No special material or other worldly favors are granted those who are followers of Jesus. As the above Scriptural passage indicates Christians are expected to accept the cross of Jesus and and all the contradictions that go with it. “Lose life to save it…” and so on. Christ died on the Cross and saved us from damnation, we must “die on the cross” to free ourselves from our worldly orientation which says “Suffering is bad. Flee from it any way you can.”

We can see the parallels in our suffering from alcoholism. We turned away from the troubles of life, to ease our pain from them, by seeking medication in alcohol. This did not make our troubles any easier, or make them go away. It appeared so at first, because like normal drinkers who can use alcohol to “take the edge off”, we also found things soothing at first. But not for long.

To be a Christian means to accept suffering. One cannot avoid it, it is a natural part of human existence because of Original Sin. To avoid it only makes it worse. We need to recognize this and make a turnaround in our approach to suffering.

By accepting the cross, that is, to accept suffering as a part of our lives means to allow Jesus to assist us. By resisting suffering, we refuse Jesus’ help. We become one with Him, when we take up His cross. He becomes to us what Simon of Cyrene was to Him, a person pressed into service to bear the weight of suffering.

By turning into it, instead of fleeing, the trials and tribulations of life seem lesser. They aren’t, but by fleeing from them our perception of them makes them seem scarier. By turning into them and acccepting them, they are cut down to size.

This is not easy. We are like an ocean liner or oil tanker which takes miles of travel before turning. But eventually, and with persistence, it will work.

There will be backsliding. Times when things seem too much and we scream “ENOUGH!” But if we have the fortitude, we’ll recognize these for what they are and orient ourselves properly.

All this does not mean that we seek out suffering. We do not become masochists and take pleasure in it. We simply humbly accept whatever burdens come our way, acknowledge them and work through them. We roll up our sleeves and say “This pretty much sucks, but complaining about isn’t gonna help.”

In a way, we become martyrs, but without all the blood. That part of ourselves which yells “Run away! Run away!!” becomes quieter, and we become stronger, more able to overcome.

Face the monster of suffering. Make it shrink.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"