“Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led Him forth.” (John 19:16)
In former times the cross was a humiliating, painful way of executing criminals. Thus, the word “cross” meant the same as “shame,” just as the word “handcuffs” today make us think of prison, condemnation and rebellious prisoners. In those days the cross recalled the idea of a criminal so wicked and depraved that only through death by crucifixion could his crime be atoned for properly.
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The cross was thus a symbol of torment and disgrace. By nailing Our Lord Jesus Christ to the cross, the intention of those who condemned Him to death was not only to kill Him, but to kill Him in the most shameful and dishonorable manner possible, so as to completely ruin His reputation and glory.
What a contrast: He, the condemned, was in fact, the Judge of that most severe punishment. Though apparently defeated, Jesus was the only Victor. The cross is the wood of defeat, shame, and pain, but it is also the wood of glory. Whoever is crushed by the cross is the winner. Whoever wins without the cross is the loser.
“And bearing His own cross, He went forth to that place which is called Calvary, but in Hebrew Golgotha.” (John 19:17)
Each one of us has a cross to carry. Each one of us would like to be something he is not, to have something he has not, to be able to accomplish something he cannot. We need to let go of being what we are not, having what we have not, and accomplishing what we cannot; this is the way for all of us.
May Our Lord give us a love of our cross just as He had for His. Instead of bearing the Holy Wood with disgust, our Redeemer embraced and kissed it because He was fulfilling His mission on earth. Our cross consists in fulfilling our mission. Let us embrace it tearfully, but lovingly. And let us say, “I will never cease to ask for strength, and I will thus carry my cross to the height of my Calvary!”
Our Lord bore every pain as though He were a king going to his coronation. He did this with dignity, with serenity, steadfastly, and without hesitation. Nothing was spared Him, whether physically or spiritually. He entered into the depths of suffering with the resolution of a hero, thus appearing before the justice of the Eternal Father resplendent with pain. This is how He saved the human race: with each step, the worst happened to Him, yet He accepted everything, entirely, without asking for any delay. He never asked anyone to pity Him. The suffering was such, that, at times, His strength failed, but He immediately arose and went on.
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This thought helps me overcome my faint-heartedness! If I wish to meet Our Lord Jesus Christ in His sublime beauty and sanctity, I must embrace my own cross, too.