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Re-evaluating “the Cross”

I work at a church where we read Jesus’ words on a regular basis. It is interesting to see where his teachings have inspired great generosity and courage among our Catholic people and where they can get hooked on our distresses.

This Sunday’s Gospel reading is a good example. In Luke, Chapter 9, Jesus said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

I grew up with this metaphor of “the cross.” Did any of you? Here’s how I heard about it: One of my aunts was commenting to my sister and me about how overweight my mother had become after giving birth to five children. In resignation about my mother’s appearance, my aunt said, “I guess this is her cross.”

There have been other incidents that have seemed to communicate, in the same tone, that the cross is a hardship in your life that you can’t do much about. It’s the price you have to pay. The cross can get hooked with resignation, defeat, and discouragement. At the same time, it can represent a desire and a willingness to persevere. And Jesus can help you carry your cross.

In the last few years I’ve listened to women who were in violent domestic relationships talk about that being their cross to bear, because they did not want to leave their children without a father. In that context, it can seem like an act of selfless generosity to endure a violent relationship for the sake of the children. There is perseverance, endurance, and resignation all jumbled together.

My mind tends to go to the metaphor of the cross when I am trying to persevere through something difficult. Yet the resignation that’s mixed in with my thinking gives me a clue that I need to keep discharging to figure out where I need to hang in1 and persevere and where I need to actually fight against something.

Since Jesus seemed to have accepted his cross, even to the point of death, and many of us raised Catholic have internalized that teaching, it can feel hard to us to take a stand against something. So this week, as I was meeting with our different faith sharing groups, I challenged people to rethink the cross metaphor. Is it possible that the cross could actually be the place where we need to take up2 our particular liberation struggle, knowing that it will be a struggle but that it will be meaningful because it is leading to liberation? After all, Jesus was fighting for the liberation of his people against a Roman imperialist structure. 

Could the cross for a woman in a violent domestic relationship be to figure out how to take up her liberation struggle against sexism? Could the cross for undocumented workers in the United States be to take up their liberation struggle and join the massive organizing efforts needed to pass immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship? Could the cross be the places where we are choosing to pour our love and best thinking into a difficult situation?

I am pleased to say that we parishioners had some interesting conversations this week about the meaning of the cross. It was good to challenge the places where Catholic generosity can get hooked with our distresses, and to keep finding ways to talk about re-evaluating the ideas we grew up with so that we are pointed more in the direction of liberation.

Ellie Hidalgo
Los Angeles, California, USA
Reprinted from the RC e-mail 
discussion list for leaders of Catholics 

1 “Hang in” means persist.
2 “Take up” means begin.

Last modified: 2020-07-02 14:27:35+00