Kathy Bernard - Publisher

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              Jesus said  'Should anyone come after me let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.'                       Matthew 16:24

"The cross is a reminder of God's love for all people. At the foot of the cross is where the best of God meets the worst of mankind."  This is a statement made by Keith Wheeler who began carrying a twelve-foot wooden cross on Good Friday 1985 throughout the world.   By the grace and mercy of God, he has now carried the cross nearly 15,000 miles, through more than 130 countries on all seven continents.  He is but one of many others including the now famous Arthur Blessitt (Guinness Book of Records) who has chosen to put his faith on view around the world.

Unfortunately the cross has not always been used the way God intended.  In past history and even today it has been utilized in many unspeakable acts of degradation.  It is on record that it is being used in witchcraft and years ago it was also used by slave traders.  The Ku Klux Klan uses it to represent hatred, and it played a big part in the inquisition between Jews and Catholics. Because of it Catholics and Protestants in other countries have fought many bloody battles throughout the years. The list is long with injustice perpetrated in the name of that one cross. Even today people remember and cringe from this past history. But there were also the brave martyrs who died for their belief in that cross and what it symbolizes.

In spite of its bloody trail through the ages it remains a steadfast symbol of religious importance and is still primarily considered a very Catholic thing to wear.  It continues to be a prominent fixture in churches of all denominations, but there are people who have pared it down in modern day society to merely an accessory to an outfit, a piece of jewelry or ornament that is worn.  Long gone are those who turned away from people who wore a cross because it reminded them of things they either ignored in their lives or was a reminder of unpleasant differences found in religious denominations. 

Marketing companies today stockpile stores with crosses throughout the country and the “in” fashion is to have one.  Sales to the younger set who have no affiliation with church or the bible have risen sharply in recent years because this sacred symbol has been meticulously “laundered” to generic proportions.   It carries no religious value for the many who wear it since it bears no resemblance to the crude and rugged cross Jesus Christ died upon.  It has no likeness to the agony of our Lord who hung in shame and agony.  There are no cries of long ago Christians ringing in our memories of that Good Friday when the sun refused to shine and the tortuous sun and oppressive heat, the waiting vultures, and the smell of blood are not depicted today.  Instead these crosses can be purchased in gold, silver or studded with diamonds devoid of all reality.  

Do we as Catholic Christians, apart from the admiration we get from others, genuinely reflect upon what that cross we wear really stands for?

We can wear a cross and look very stylish doing it but in our hearts have we taken up our crosses as Christ did?  If I am a true follower of Jesus, I must be ready to take a stand on what He taught.  With the cross of Jesus firmly fixed in our minds during this Lenten season I must also be willing to accept the hardships, the dangers and burdens associated with that cross.  I must be accepting of the work Jesus asks of me. I must surrender my life to all He wants me to do and must stand in total obedience to Him.  I know that difficulties await me on this earth for Jesus told me to expect this but I know He also told me He would be always there, that He would always be there for all who believe.

From the beginning of the earth the Heavenly Father had a plan for us.  He saw the sin that stained our souls and with this stain we are imperfect and cannot enter that perfect place called Heaven.  We have to have some way to be purified.  In His great wisdom, He came down from Heaven and allowed Himself to be hung from a cross, to shed the blood that would clean us up to make us worthy of His legacy. 

With the cross, God takes us out of the ordinary and makes us extraordinary people.  Instead of being the flesh that will rot with time, He puts the stamp of infinity upon our foreheads and hands us a ticket to glory. We no longer have to worry about the limit of time for He makes us timeless.  By that shed blood at a place called Calvary, Jesus made us part of His family.  Through it He lifts us out of the bondage of hell and claims us for His own.  He takes us from the clutches of Satan, cleans our souls with tender mercy and careful love, and calls us His brothers and sisters.

If I say I love Jesus and look forward to sharing His kingdom, I must carry His cross.  If I need His help in my life situations I must want to help others in the same way.  If I need to share in all His goodness I must share in His suffering.  If I know that He died on a cross for me, I must be willing to sacrifice myself for Him if He asks this of me.   

The cross should be an action word for us as Catholics for it is a word that sets us apart from unbelievers, not just on Sunday when we wear our Sunday faces but every day.    It is something that must reflect our attitudes, our thoughts and our worship.  Through that cross we are in motion for Christ, anchored securely in faith because of it.  We take every opportunity to witness for Him in gratitude for what He has done for us, becoming the light of truth for all the lives we touch.

We are all living in a world of opposition, many times for no other reason than our stance in believing in Jesus Christ.  We expect to be bruised and oppressed on our walk for Him, but what we need to keep foremost in our minds is that if we choose to suffer with him we will also reign with Him in Heaven forever and ever. Jesus opened the door to the kingdom by dying for me, and for YOU.  There is no other option to eternal life and no true inward peace than the way of the Holy Cross. 

The crosses we see worn everywhere still remains the cross of the crucified Christ whether it is recognized or not and for those who believe, it is the salvation and the basis of our faith.  In carrying my cross during this life, I share in carrying the cross of my Savior.  By the cross death was defeated forever.  By the cross we put on the mantle of Christ and become new creatures destined for glory.  If that cross becomes heavy on my shoulders, all I need to do is remember the treasures it holds for me.

Who will carry the cross?  Will you?

"Deny thyself, take up thy cross and follow Me,"

                            IS YOUR CROSS TOO HEAVY TO BEAR?                          

Author Unknown

This cross is too heavy to wear, I complained to myself.  I wondered discontentedly why God gave it to me to bear.   And I looked with envy at others whose crosses seemed lighter than mine and wished that I could change my cross for one of a lighter design.  And then in a dream, I beheld the cross I thought I wanted to wear.  It was beautiful and fashioned of pearls and diamonds and gems that were precious and rare.  But when I hung it around my neck the weight of the jewels and the gold was too much.  It was too heavy and cumbersome for my small slender neck to hold.   So I tossed it aside when I saw before my eyes a cross of rose red flowers. 

With delight I put it on and thought,  “This cross I can wear for hours.  For it was so dainty and fragile, so lovely and light and thin.  I had forgotten about the thorns until they started to pierce my skin.  And then in the dream I saw my cross, rugged and old and plain.  That clumsy old cross I looked upon with discontented disdain.  And at last I knew that God had made this special cross for me.  For God in His great wisdom knew what I could not see, that often the loveliest crosses are the heaviest crosses to bear, for only God is wise enough to choose the cross we can wear and bear.  So never complain about YOUR CROSS, for your cross has been blessed, God made it just for you to wear.

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