Carrying Our Crosses Like Jesus and Paul
While meditating on the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary – Jesus carrying His cross – I was struck with a realization. It's nothing new, but it's something I hadn't really fleshed out in a long while, if ever: Jesus accepted aid when He needed it, but he never accepted pity. Aid and pity are not equal, and we can need – and accept – aid while still eschewing pity.
Pity is something we wallow in, and it inhibits us from moving forward. Pity is something we seek from others. There is nothing honorable about pity. We are told to pick up our crosses and carry them. We are called to Imitate the examples of Christ and Paul (1 Cor). Neither of them ever asked for pity. No! They boasted of their crosses, were, in fact, defined by their crosses and the way they carried them. They embraced the sorrows, pains, horrors, and bitterness of the crosses they carried. They did the Father's will.
And while Jesus suffered these bitter torments, he refused tow allow in pity. He stopped the women from crying about his plight, instead pointing out the sorrows they would soon face. He never said “poor me” or “I'm innocent and wrongly accused.” He never said anything that would sway people to thinking of Him in any manner other than what was presented. He never asked for retribution or asked people to come to His aid – verbal or otherwise.
But neither was too proud to accept aid either. Jesus accepted it from Simon and Veronica. He allowed others to help him as well, less directly. I am sure at least once, someone had to help Him up when he fell beneath the weight of the cross, weakened as he was by his agony in the garden, the flogging, and the crown of thorns. He was also aided by a knowledge that what He did, what He suffered, was for a purpose. As He walked that road to calvary, he was strengthened by those who were near: His Mother, John, the others who, time and time again have meditated upon his suffering. He was strengthened, even knowing that far worse than carrying the cross was coming, by the knowledge that he was doing His Father's will, that he was offering us the chance to enter Paradise with Him, His Father, and the Holy Spirit. He accepted help so that He could not only embrace and carry the cross but so that he could be crucified upon it.
Paul tells us to do likewise. He tells us to imitate him: humbly accepting all the trials and tribulations – shipwrecking, imprisonment, stoning, hate, ridicule, slander, and eventually beheading – but boasting all the while in Christ. He talks of realizing our weaknesses, not boasting in perceived strength. He talks of embracing persecutions, not running from them or keeping oneself from them. Never does he indulge in pity or mock those that do not believe and suffer as he does. Never does he do anything that would decrease his suffering.
But nor is he so stupid as to think that he could do everything on his own. He pressed on, always seeking closer communion with Christ, never letting his guard drop. Yet he also delegated to others when he needs to (ex: Timothy). He knew he could not do everything on his own, and he accepted the aid of those God placed in his life. He accepted help and encouragement when it was offered. He realized that sometimes, the one offering aid is just as much in need of being needed as the thing needs to be done. Sometimes, someone else is best helped by helping, best grown by helping grow.
Aid and pity are not the same. Pity keeps us where we are. Pity is tempting others and joining others in the mud they've fallen into. It's setting up camp and staying still, lingering on something in the past or present. It breeds resentment, envy, and it strokes our pride. Aid helps pull us out of the mud and onward to the next thing God has in store for us, even if that next thing is even harder than the current, even if it requires more support and aid to get through, even if it costs us our very lives – literally or figuratively.