READY TO SUFFER
Jesus doesn’t want to see anyone suffer. Suffering is bad. Jesus never sought it either for himself or for others. On the contrary, his whole life consisted in fighting against the suffering and evil that causes so much damage to people.
The sources always present him combating suffering that is found in sickness, injustice, loneliness, hopelessness or guilt. That’s how Jesus was: a man dedicated to eliminating suffering, overcoming injustice and spreading the power to live.
But seeking the good and happiness for all carries with it many problems. Jesus knew it by experience. You can’t be with those who suffer and seek the good of those who are least without provoking the rejection and hostility of those who aren’t interested in any change whatsoever. It’s impossible to be with those who are crucified and not end up «crucified» oneself some day.
Jesus never hid it from his followers. On different occasions he used a disturbing metaphor that Matthew has summarized thus: «Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me». He couldn’t have chosen a more graphic language. All knew the terrible image of the condemned person who, naked and defenseless, was forced to carry the horizontal beam of wood all the way to the place of execution, where there awaited the vertical beam set into the ground.
«Carrying the cross» was part of the ritual of crucifixion. Its objective was to showcase the condemned person before society as someone guilty, a person unworthy to keep living among us. Everyone would go to bed that night having seen him dead.
The disciples tried to understand him. Jesus went on telling them more or less the following: «If you follow me, you have to be ready to be rejected. What happens to me will happen to you. In the eyes of many you will seem to be guilty. They will condemn you. They don’t want you to bother them. You will have to carry your cross. Then you will appear more like me. You will be worthy of being my followers. You will share the fortune of those who are crucified. With them you will enter God’s reign one day».
To carry the cross isn’t to seek «crosses», but to accept the «crucifixion» that comes to us if we follow Jesus’ steps. It’s that clear.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf