In being disciples of God we are being called to walk in the way of Jesus. As is said in our Gospel reading, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”. The cross is such a powerful image for us as Christians because it represents the human pain and suffering that Jesus went through for us and that experience is something that we go through in life as we carry our own crosses. The cross is not only a symbol of pain and suffering though. We know what happened after Jesus suffered on the cross. The resurrection showed how hope and joy arose from the most terrible suffering and hardship. As disciples, we are encouraged to take up our crosses when they arise and approach any suffering we endure with the hope that good things will bloom and we become stronger people.
Some people become disciples by accident or unintentionally. Simon of Cyrene was not a follower of Jesus, he didn’t even know who He was. He was just a stranger walking through town when the Romans pulled him out of the crowd and forced him to help Jesus carry His cross. He became a disciple of Jesus from that experience of sharing Jesus’ burden. It is up to us to live a life that sets an example for others so that they too might join us in our discipleship.
Discipleship is not always easy. Often challenges that we encounter, or crosses we have to bear seem too difficult to deal with. We often become overwhelmed and stressed, restless, and confused. We might have feelings of grief and loss, unsettledness, anxiety, and at times we might feel as down as we ever have. These times are no doubt difficult and our faith can be tested, but with Jesus’ call to discipleship we need to have faith and remember that God is with us and that we have people around us who love and care for us and are there to support us. Importantly also, we should try and take comfort from the resurrection and know that we can work through the burden of carrying whatever cross we are carrying in the hope that we will come out stronger people and that great things can come from it. They often say that the best things in life take the hardest work to achieve. We often feel like we don’t have it in us, or we’re not capable of overcoming a challenge. But when we do overcome an obstacle we should be proud of ourselves and have confidence in our capabilities. One quote from Pope John II that resonates with me is: “If you find in life that God asks a lot of you, it’s because He knows that you have so much to give”.
Sometimes a cross may appear to be optional for us to take up. We can easily avoid any discomfort by taking the easy option. At times, it may be appropriate to do this but at other times we may be able to see an opportunity to help another person in need. Or it may be an opportunity to achieve a goal for ourselves that once seemed out of reach. None of us know when our time here will come to an end. We need to try and live in the present and take opportunities when they arise. I know I personally find this a very difficult concept to deal with sometimes. Pope John Paul II also once said “Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
Aside from the struggles and pain that we might go through in carrying our crosses, discipleship also allows us to experience the happiness and joy that life brings. Sometimes we don’t stop to celebrate our achievements that we’ve worked hard for and when life is rosy we sometimes take happiness for granted. I think God wants us to enjoy the good moments in life and as disciples, to help others to experience the best life has to offer. We are called to be our own Simon of Cyrene, and to help those less fortunate and our friends and family who are finding their crosses a burden. That’s what it means to be a community of disciples.
Andrew is an old boy of Marist College Eastwood and regularly attends young Marist events in Sydney. He is currently working as a primary school teacher and is passionate about helping children to foster a love of learning. Andrew loves sport, music and spending time with friends.